By Sgt. Brandon Anderson, 1st AD Combat Aviation Bde.October 28, 2011
FORT BLISS, Texas, Oct. 28, 2011 -- "You are now cleared for takeoff" never sounded so good as aerial performers from all five armed forces, and plenty of flying acts from government agencies and the civilian world, filled the skies above roughly 100,000 spectators from Fort Bliss, the El Paso community and abroad at the post's Biggs Army Airfield here Friday and Saturday for the 30th Annual Amigo Airsho.
Included in the lineup were the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Air Force's A-10 West Demonstration Team, and, for the first time here since 1997, the Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. Their arrival to Fort Bliss was fitting as 2011 marked 100 years of naval aviation and 65 years of Blue Angels performances.
Fort Bliss also showed off static displays at ground level, including the Patriot and Avenger systems, the M997 Field Litter Ambulance, Humvees, and the C-12 and DASH-7 aircraft. The 1st Armored Division also displayed their M1A2 Abrams tank, M2A3 Bradley, M109 Paladin and Stryker vehicle. Also present was equipment from 1st AD's Combat Aviation Brigade, including the AH-64D Apache, CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk.
It wasn't only a military presence, however, as acts, including Tim Weber's GEICO Extra 300S and Bob Carlton in his Jet Powered Sailplane, graced the weekend's clear skies.
"I enjoyed seeing the jet-powered glider," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel T. May, brigade standardization officer for 1st AD's Combat Aviation Bde. "The highlight of the show for me was the Customs and Border Patrol demonstration. It's not something that you see at every air show, and I've been to quite a few."
Department of Defense civilian Gabriel Acosta said the Blue Angels were the highlight of the show for him, as he is prior-service Navy. Acosta was one of many fans of the Angel's performance.
"Besides the $3 bottles of water the show was awesome," said Joanna M. Carter, civilian spectator. "When the Blue Angels were flying over in formation, I was in awe."
While the Blue Angels might have been the headliner for many, at least one pilot credited those with less glamorous jobs for their success.
"The real stars of the show are the men and women in the dark uniforms; the enlisted men and women, the ones who fix the airplanes and make the show happen," said Marine Capt. Benjamin Blanton, one of a team of officers who pilots the Blue Angels' C-130 Hercules, also known as "Fat Albert."
And of course, no air show at an Army post would be complete without the Golden Knights, who jumped several times during the show and were, once again, mistaken by El Paso citizens for UFOs during their Friday night pre-show jump. The team has been entertaining crowds for 50 years.
"I'm just here to show them what the Army Soldier is capable of, and airfield seizures are what we're trying to demonstrate right now and how awesome the United States Army is," said Spc. Matthew Navarro, a member of the Golden Knights, referring to paratroopers who jump in and take over battlefields. "Everyone has their own (act). The Air Force has the T-birds, the Navy has the Blues, the Army has the Soldiers, so we're jumping out of an airplane."
Also making the Amigo Airsho possible were the hundreds of volunteers, hired hands, sponsors and contributors, including Paul Foster of Western Refining who purchased the tickets for all of the Soldiers so they could attend for free.
"The Amigo Airsho has outdone itself again this year," said Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, commanding general of 1st AD and Fort Bliss. "Here at Fort Bliss we are very grateful for all they have given to our Soldiers, their families and the El Paso community. The demonstrations and activities created a family environment for all attendees to enjoy the beautiful outside weather. Thank you to all of the volunteers who work so hard to ensure the Amigo Airsho continues to be an outstanding family event for El Paso and Fort Bliss."