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Joint Service Open House Showcases Military Technology, Talent

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., May 18, 2007 – The best that the military has to offer -- from the latest aircraft, weaponry and other equipment to the men and women in uniform who operate them -- was on full display here today as the annual Joint Service Open House kicked off.

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A harnessed child flips in the air May 18 while bungee jumping with a trampoline beneath her. The display was one of many which stretched across the airfield during the annual Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess, USN

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The three-day event opened today with the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard showcasing their capabilities through aerial demonstrations and static displays that dotted the tarmac.

Today’s attendees were all servicemembers, their families and other Defense Department security badge holders, but the event will be open to the general public through the weekend. It wraps up May 20.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Smolen, commander of Air Force District Washington, urged those at today’s opening ceremony to take advantage of the opportunity to see “some of the hardware you hear about but don’t always get to see.”

Among aircraft systems featured were the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the MV-22 Osprey, the AV-8B Harrier II, F-15C Eagle, F-22 Raptor, F-117 Nighthawk and F/A-18F Hornet. The Air Force Thunderbirds and Army Golden Knights were also slated to wow the crowd with their capabilities.

As the crowd set up lawn chairs to watch the aircraft scream overhead, others climbed aboard other aircraft and vehicles on the ground and swarmed around static displays featuring equipment ranging from air defense systems to small-arms displays.

“You will see a lot of flying and a lot of hardware,” Smolen said during the ceremony. “But an important part of what you will see today are the people beside the hardware.”

Smolen called these soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen “the real jewels of our empire” who play important roles in the nation’s defense. “It is very much a joint effort,” he said. “Nothing we do worldwide can we do alone.”

He praised these servicemembers who stand ready around the clock to defend the United States and its interests around the world, and encouraged those at the open house to thank them personally. “Take time to shake their hand,” he said.

Troops manning the displays called the open house a great opportunity to teach people about what they do.

Army Sgt. Robert Clark, an artilleryman from Fort Hood, Texas, said he was pleasantly surprised by the interest his Multiple Launch Rocket System generated at the show.

“People always see it on TV or in video games, but it really excites them when they get to see it in person, touch it, climb inside and put the helmet on,” he said. “It helps give them a better feel for what we do, what we work with.”

Marine Staff Sgt. Kalvin Smith from Quantico got the same reaction as visitors stopped by his small-arms display. “This is really a big thing for kids,” he said. “It lets them see what we do and the kind of equipment we have. They love it.”

“It’s a chance for us to show off what we do,” agreed Army Sgt. Leandre Wilson, who was running an exhibit showing some of the robots used for explosive ordnance disposal. “People have a lot of interest.”

Plus, added Air Force Capt. William Cooper, meeting troops in person gives the American public better insight into how hard-working and dedicated they are.

“It gives them a chance to see the positive side of the military, something a lot of them just don’t get from the media,” said Cooper, a chaplain with the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Some at today’s event called it a walk down memory lane. Retired Air Force Col. James Warner said he was excited about seeing the B-17 Flying Fortress, an aircraft he flew during World War II, as well as the state-of-the-art F-22A, the Air Force’s new, fifth-generation fighter.

As he walked through the displays, Marine Lance Cpl. Corwin Sample couldn’t help but think back to the impression the Andrews air show made on him during his boyhood days. Sample, who is assigned to the 4th Supply Battalion at Washington’s Anacostia Naval Station, grew up right down the road from the base.

“I remember sitting in the F-16s and watching the pilots and thinking that I wanted to be just like them when I grew up,” he said. “Now here I am, back again. It brings back a lot of memories.”

Air Force Capt. Scott Kramer, assigned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va., and his wife, Chris, both remember local air shows as highlights while they were growing up.

Today, the Kramers crammed against a makeshift fence line along the tarmac so their two children could get as close as possible to aircraft flying overhead. Three-year-old Thomas sat in a stroller wearing his own tiny Air Force flight suit and cheering as the planes flew by.

“You could say we’re carrying on our childhood traditions,” Kramer said. “We’re creating memories like the ones we have.”

As she toted her two daughters around a hangar looking at displays, Contessa Rey hoped they’d take home memories and a better understanding of the work their father, Air Force Staff. Sgt. Ronaldo Rey, does every day. Four-year-old Angel had been so excited about coming that she woke up at 4 a.m., ready to go, her mother explained.

“This is a really big deal for them, and a family day for us,” she said.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Gervaise Williams, assigned to Naval Criminal Investigation Service, brought his three sons to the show so they could climb aboard the aircraft, touch the equipment and even meet the aircrews. “This is great because it gives our families and the general public an appreciation for what we do and how we do it,” he said.

Staff Sgt. David Butcher, who was manning a booth commemorating the Air Force’s 60th anniversary, said he planned to return to the open house tomorrow with his 4-year-old son. “I’m in the Air Force, so I want him to see the planes and jets and get a chance to climb around things,” he said.

Air Force Senior Airman Kandice Salinas made the open house a family event. As she pushed 1-year-old Lilliana around in a stroller, Salinas accompanied her father, brother and grandfather around the exhibits. Among the displays that lingered over was the fully restored Vietnam-era Jeep that her grandfather, former Army Pfc. Frank Snell, had brought to the open house.

Salinas said he welcomed the chance to help educate visitors to the open house. “The military isn’t all about guns and war,” she said. “There’s a lot of history that we’re all a part of.”

Today’s events included a ceremony unveiling new postage stamps commemorating Air Force One and Marine One. The stamps, valued at $4.60 and $16.25, respectively, will go on sale June 13.

Another ceremony marked the contributions of Barnes and Noble in donating $3.4 million in books, toys and games to home-front nonprofit groups and military support organizations around the world. The initiative is part of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program that showcases ways American individuals, churches, schools, companies and other groups are showing support for the troops.

Contact Author

Maj. Gen. Robert L. Smolen, USAF

Related Sites:
2007 Joint Service Open House
Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
America Supports You

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Andrews Open House Previews New Flight-Themed Stamps
America Supports You: Bookseller Announces Large Donation

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA child looks out of the window of a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter May 18 while attending the Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The U.S. Marine Corps display was one of many armed forces displays across the airfield. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess, USN  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn interactive Navy display in which participants are able to experience the feel of an F-18 in flight was one of many military displays May 18 at the Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess, USN  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Petty Officer 1st Class Josh Husband simulates firing a GAU-21 machine gun mounted inside an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter May 18 during the Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess, USN  
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