Airmen represent U.S. military at airshow 'down under'

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About 100 Airmen from across the Air Force recently flew "down under" to represent the U.S. military and demonstrate aircraft capabilities at the 2009 Australian International Airshow March 13 through 15 at Avalon Airport.

Airmen from Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Reserve Command and Pacific Air Forces showed off their aircraft and thrilled more than 165,000 spectators over the three-day airshow open to the public.

A cross section of aircraft was on display in the southern hemisphere's largest airshow, demonstrating the U.S. commitment to the security of the Asia-Pacific region. Participating Air Force aircraft included the B-1B Lancer, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-5 Galaxy, F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Navy's F/A-18E/F Hornet was showcased through static displays and aerial demonstrations.

"Knowing that (the crowd) feels the excitement and is in awe in watching (the pilot) do his maneuvers makes me proud of what I do for the Air Force," said Staff Sgt. Michael Botti, an F-16 crew chief from the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan. "Being able to fix these aircraft every day and watching him do what he can do is amazing."

Airmen also assisted the Australian government fight catastrophic bushfires that killed more than 200 people in February as a C-5 crew from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., transported tons of fire retardants to the Victorian Department of Sustainability March 7. The C-5 then stayed in Australia and was on display at the airshow.

"We were tasked to fly 52 tons of fire retardants to support efforts against the Australian bushfires," said Maj. Ben Buller, a  C-5 aircraft commander. "Not only is this a great opportunity to support the Australians in their firefighting efforts, but also it's a great time to show off and promote Air Force capabilities." 

"(Coming out to the airshow) is a great opportunity to not only demonstrate the capabilities of our aircraft but also to interact with the people of a foreign country," said Capt. Tim Ryan, a C-17 pilot from Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

This was the fifth time the United States participated in the airshow in Australia, enhancing U.S. security and commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.

"(Our) relationship w/Australia is so strong. We are not only interoperable, we're interdependent and integrated," said Bruce Lemkin, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs. "I think this partnership is a model. We've been partners for many years."

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