Air Force Heritage Week wraps up in Columbus

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Conrad
  • 121st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Approximately 250,000 spectators gathered at Rickenbacker International Airport Sept. 29 and 30 as the Columbus airport hosted the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends Air Show in conjunction with Air Force Heritage Week.

Visitors saw aircraft ranging from vintage P-51 Mustangs to state-of-the-art F-22 Raptors take to the sky, as well as performances by the Air Force Thunderbirds, the Air Force's aerial demonstration team.

As part of the weekend festivities, about 72 recruits gave their oath of enlistment to the Air Force Sept. 29 prior to one Thunderbirds show. The enlistment was one of the largest this year.

"I'm excited, but as his mother I'm really nervous too," said Liz Blackstone. Her 17-year-old son, Jacob, was part of the group enlisting into the Air Force.

Jacob said he hopes to get a position within security after completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is a senior in high school.

"He's just so young," Ms. Blackstone said. "But it feels like the right thing, and I am beyond proud of him. He's been saying for years that he wanted to join though, so I can't say I'm surprised."

Six recruits also joined Rickenbacker's 121st Air Refueling Wing. The 121st ARW commander met with the enlistees' families and was pleased that their oath could correspond with the air show.

"This has been an amazing opportunity to see the P-51s alongside their contemporary counterparts and to meet the men and women who served our country so courageously for the last several decades," said Brig. Gen. Thomas M. Botchie.

"It is so important for people to hear their stories," the general said. "These legends are heroes and we are lucky to have so many of them at Rickenbacker. The legend continues."

The air show concluded Sept. 30 when more than 20 P-51s soared through the Columbus sky.

Air Force Heritage Week festivities concluded that same day in nearby Crew Stadium, home of the Columbus Crew, the city's professional soccer team.

The Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing, based in Toledo, Ohio, supplied a pre-game F-16 Fighting Falcon flyover. The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Honor Guard presented the colors. A representative from Wright-Patterson AFB, Col. Mona Vollmer, presented Crew officials with an American flag that had been flown over Afghanistan.

During the soccer game between the Crew and L.A. Galaxy, the scoreboard featured "shout-outs," pre-recorded messages from a number of Ohio Airmen currently deployed in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Air Force Heritage Week provided the citizens of Columbus and nearby areas the opportunity to pause and remember the talented, dedicated, professional Airmen serving around the world, day and night, to keep America safe.

Approximately 2,000 people attended a free Air Force Band of Flight concert Sept. 25 in the Franklin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus. Among those in attendance were Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and Lt. Gen. John L. "Jack" Hudson, the commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB.

Air Force Heritage Week kicked off Sept. 24 with a proclamation from the Ohio governor's office at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher attended the ceremony and read the proclamation, adding that he admired "the men and women in uniform who protect this country." Also attending and providing remarks were Lt. Gen. Terry L. Gabreski, the vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command, and Maj. Gen Harry W. Feucht, Jr., assistant adjutant general for air serving as commander of the Ohio Air National Guard.

Of the more than 500,000 men and women who serve in the Air Force as either uniformed members or civilian employees, more than 25,000 are assigned to Ohio's Air Force installations, including Guard and Reserve bases. About 65 percent of these employees are assigned in the Miami Valley-Dayton area, home to Wright-Patterson AFB, the largest single-site employer in Ohio.

(Senior Airman Kristin Crain of the 121st ARW Public Affairs and Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs contributed to this story.)
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