Air Force wows crowd at South African Air Show

  • Published
  • By Capt. Demetrius Smith
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The people of South Africa opened their arms and embraced the 445th Airlift Wing and the United States Air Force during the Oct. 1, 2011 South African Air Show held at Waterkloof Air Force Base, Pretoria, South Africa.

United States African Command, in an effort to promote strong ties to South Africa, enlisted the help of the 445th AW through Air Mobility Command to participate at this year's air show that featured all of the U. S. Air Force components: Reserve, Air National Guard, and the active duty.

The wing's C-17 Globemaster III garnered much of the attention at the air show. Thousands of spectators waited patiently to tour the aircraft. The crowds were so large that some waited more than two hours in line. Judging by the reaction of many of those who toured the plane, "it was well worth the wait!"

On board the C-17, air show attendees were treated to a demonstration by the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. AES members provided information on how the aerovac mission is accomplished. They also displayed all of the equipment they use during aeromedical missions. Members answered question from those on the tour and showed how different pieces of equipment are used for patient care.

"The patrons were surprised that we can provide medical treatment on a plane for a large number of patients for long flights," Capt. Ernest Debrah, 445th AES, said.

The two hour wait that many endured was so they could take a seat on the flight deck.

"Childhood dreams of being behind the controls of a huge bird like this are why the two hour wait was worth the price of admission to the air show," stated an air show patron.

Members of the 89th Airlift Squadron were on the flight deck to answer questions as well as on the ground at the exit taking pictures with attendees and signing autographs. Load masters from the unit explained how cargo is loaded on the plane as well as how much cargo could be carried under various scenarios.

Senior Airman Mikhail Berlin, 445th AW public affairs, and Master Sgt. Mark Sanders, 445th Operations Support Squadron, found themselves serving as living props for some of the picture takers. Air show patrons sought out Air Force members to be a part of their take away from this year's event. Those who had an Air Force uniform on were bound to be in at least five family photos.

The rock star treatment being shown to the C-17 was appropriate because along with a KC-135 Stratotanker from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., the two planes provided an amphitheater setting for Touch and Go, a rock and roll component of the U. S. Air Force Band of Europe, to perform. The band covered hits from today and some classic rock favorites like "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. Touch and Go had the South African crowd singing, dancing, and waving their arms from side to side.

Another aircraft seen rolling down the strip during the air show was a C-130 Hercules. On board was the Air Force's very own Special Forces Unit, the Pararescuemen or the PJs as they are more commonly known as, from the 103rd Rescue Squadron, Gabreski Field West Hampton Beach, N. Y.. They were also joined by a member of the 212th Rescue Squadron, Anchorage, Alaska.

The 106th Security Forces Squadron from Gabreski Field and the 107th Security Forces Squadron from Niagara Falls, N.Y., provided security for all of the Air Force assests before, during and after the air show.

Not only did the C-17 serve as the star of the air show, it provided the transportation to and from Africa for not only the AES, 445th support staff, 445th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, PJs, security forces from Gabreski Field, and the band, but also for members from the American Forces Network out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

All involved in the trip agree it's a mission they'll never forget. Lt. Col. William Gorczynski, 445th OSS and C-17 pilot, said it's one of his most memorable missions he's ever been part of. He said 445th members had an opportunity to participate in a safari during some down time; petting lions and tiger cubs.

"The South African Air Show was a great 'once in a lifetime' experience. I found out that the South Africans loved having us in their country visiting and participating in their air show. They are a very proud people and love it when you tell them what you like about their country," Gorczynski said.