U.S. Troops, Aircraft a Hit at Moscow Air Show
By Master Sgt. Kenneth Fidler, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
MOSCOW, Aug. 28, 2003 Air Force Staff Sgt. Nancy Primm now knows what it's like to be famous.
The KC-135 boom operator from the Royal Air Force base at Mildenhall, England, was part of a team of about 100 people representing the U.S. military at the 6th Moscow Aviation and Space Show here Aug. 19-24. The show marked the first time American aircraft have been on public display on Russian soil.
"People are coming up to us (asking), 'Can we take your picture? Autograph? Autograph?' It's been quite an experience," Primm said.
At a once-secret air base just south of Moscow, five U.S. planes -- the KC-135; a B-52 Stratofortress from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; a C-130 Hercules from Ramstein Air Base, Germany; an F-15E Strike Eagle from Lakenheath, England; and an F-16CJ Fighting Falcon from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany -- sat among the Russian cargo and fighter aircraft. An F-15C performed a daily aerial demonstration, including a show at opening ceremonies Aug. 19 for Russian President Vladimir Putin. That made Capt. Lendy Renegar from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the first U.S. military pilot to perform for a Russian president.
"Words can't express the honor and excitement displayed by our troops here in Moscow," said Col. Stephen Mueller, commander of the Air Force's 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem and of the U.S. military mission at the air show. "This has strengthened our military relationship with Russia in ways that were incomprehensible just 14 years ago (when the Berlin Wall fell). This event has set an encouraging tone for an even stronger partnership between our two militaries."
The show was open Aug. 19-21 to aviation industry representatives, VIPs and media. It opened to the public Aug.22-24 and attracted an estimated 700,000 visitors. Children and adults alike clamored to have their pictures taken with the U.S. troops and aircraft, as well as to get the Americans' autographs on posters, flags and hats.
Senior Airman Greg Ciasnocha, an F-16 crew chief based at Spangdahlem with the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said he signed T-shirts, hats and even Russian ruble bills.
"Everyone wanted a picture or an autograph," he said. "It was a big thing for them. But I understand how important this is; bringing our fighters and bombers here was a big step toward stronger relations with Russia."
The B-52, the most famous Cold War icon, was parked a football field length away from its Russian equivalent, the Tu-95 "Bear" bomber. Visitors packed 10 lines deep for the entire length of the viewing area to see it. The bomber's crew shook hands, signed thousands of autographs and posed for thousands more photos with Russian children and war veterans.
"I don't even know how to describe it," said Capt. Gary Berger, a B-52 electronic warfare officer. "Who would think a B-52 would fly into Moscow, of all places? People come up and tell me they were in the Strategic Rocket Forces and studied the B-52 for years to shoot me down, and now we're here together. It's amazing, and I'm glad the world evolved this way."
(Master Sgt. Kenneth Fidler is assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs Office.)