By Jason B. Cutshaw (Fort Drum Public Affairs)July 20, 2009
Mountainfest grew wings as Fort Drum hosted its second annual Air Show on Saturday and Sunday at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.
The Air Show was held to show appreciation for the North Country community's support for Fort Drum Soldiers, civilians and their Family Members.
"Once a year, we take time to celebrate our freedom, the birth of the United States, recognize all 50 states and honor those who have lost their lives in defense of our country," said Maj. Gen. Mike Oates, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander. "Mountainfest also seeks to provide an opportunity for the Soldiers, Families and our community friends to enjoy the start of the summer with some great fun events like the concert and fireworks.
"I think it was very successful, because we accomplished our goals of honoring the country and our fallen heroes - in addition to having a really great time," Oates added. "The Air Show was my favorite part; almost 50,000 people came to see it. I would like to see the air show continue as well as big-name artists to come for the concert. Hopefully, more of our North Country neighbors will attend as well."
During the two-day event, 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers spoke to guests about vehicles, equipment and what it means to be Army Strong, members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division's All-American Parachute Team executed parachute demonstrations, jet fighters went through their paces; and aircraft performed close-formation flying and aerial acrobatics.
Staff Sgt. Jimmy Hackett, Sgt. Rich Snow and Sgt. Christopher Clark, members of 82nd Airborne's Advanced Airborne School Parachute Team, performed three jumps - including a twilight jump - during the show. They said they enjoyed the crowd's excitement.
"The jumps were absolutely spectacular," Clark said. "Fort Drum was wonderful, we couldn't ask for anything better. The people were great, and everyone we talked to was very enthusiastic and made us feel right at home.
"I would love to come back next year and do it all over again," he added.
Other acts included the Trojan Horsemen six-ship T-28 team, Lima Lima flight team, Aerostars, The MCMD Stearman, Iron Eagle Aerobatics, and Rob Holland and his MX2 Aerobatic aircraft.
"This is the greatest thing I have ever seen," said 10-year-old Shannon Jenkins, daughter of Sean and Mindy Jenkins from Black River. "The way the planes fly away and then the next thing, they are right above us doing loops is awesome. I don't know how they do it.
"When I get older, I am going to learn how to fly. I will be like a bird," she added. "One day, that is going to be me."
There were also World War II and vintage aircraft such as the C-47, P-40, P-51 and a B-17, which was flown in the 1990 movie "The Memphis Belle." Modern aircraft on display included C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 transports, KC-10 Extender and KC-135 air refueling tankers, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Warthog attack aircraft, Canadian CF-18 Hornet, Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
In addition, enthusiasts got a chance to get up close and personal with helicopters, aircraft, tactical vehicles and military equipment on display and talk to their crews.
On both days, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation featured food and beverage tents, a Children's Fun Zone, midway games and numerous local vendors.
New York State Department of Transportation officials estimated more than 50,000 spectators attended the two-day air show.
Pilots who flew during the show talked about how well Fort Drum treated them, adding they hope to be able to come back in the future.
"This has been the most professional air show I have ever been to," said Chief Warrant Officer Mark A. Vahey, an instructor pilot with 249th Medical Company, New York National Guard. "The organization was superb. We haven't had to ask for anything. Everything has been ready for us ... and I am proud to be here this weekend and help Fort Drum give an outstanding air show.
"It is always a pleasure to show what we do to the public," he added. "It is an honor to serve and give back to those who come to see us."
Those who have been on the flying circuit for a while remarked at how smoothly the weekend went.
"This air show has been amazing," said Air Force Capt. Johnnie "Dusty" Green, A-10 pilot from 23rd Fighter Group in Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. "Fort Drum has been great. We get constant compliments coming from a lot of the Soldiers who we have served alongside in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I am honored to be able to shake their hands.
"A homecoming for the 10th Mountain Division is just a thrill in itself," he continued. "Because we do work a lot with the Army in a lot of our operations, to be able to be here and support them is an opportunity of a lifetime. I am so proud to be here and want to thank these Soldiers and their Families for all they do.
"It is an honor for me to have served alongside 10th Mountain Division Soldiers, and I consider it a privilege to be here this weekend," he added.