NEWS | May 1, 2018

Air expo gives attendees firsthand look at military

By Airman 1st Class Megan Munoz Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The Joint Base Charleston 2018 Air and Space Expo, the first in seven years, took over the flightline and skies above JB Charleston, April 28, 2018.

The expo gave audiences a chance to see and experience aerial and ground demonstrations and meet and interact with performers at JB Charleston to help maintain close ties with the greater Charleston Community.

“This is my first time on the base and it’s been a super cool experience,” said Lindsay Burgess, Charleston community member. “There’s so much going on. I had no idea about the base’s mission or capabilities before, but now we got to see a little of what the military does. So far it’s been a really great experience I think everyone should be able to get. ”

Some of the performances at the expo included an F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstration, the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team, a C-17 Globemaster III demonstration and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Detachment performing multiple jumps from 8,000 feet.

“I absolutely love meeting new people and teaching them about the mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sean O’Toole, U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Detachment demonstrator. “Almost every weekend we’re on the road, in a different community interacting with the people. Depending on the weather, we don’t always get to jump. But, we do always meet the crowd and say thanks to them.”

More than 80,000 community members attended the expo, including family members of the “Charleston 9”. The Charleston 9 are nine firefighters from the Charleston Fire Department who passed away in June 2007 while combating a fire at a furniture store. Also in attendance were some of JB Charleston’s Honorary Commanders.

“I only joined the Honorary Commanders Program a few months ago, but it’s been phenomenal,” said Chris Naughton, 14th Airlift Squadron honorary commander and Palmetto Military Support Group member. “We’ve really been trying to learn from each other to help bridge the gap between the military and civilian community. Most of the civilian community doesn’t completely understand what the military does, or how diverse and dynamic the base is.”

The Honorary Commanders Program was developed to encourage an exchange of ideas, experiences and friendship between key members of the local community and the Charleston military community. The goal of the program is to increase public awareness and understanding of JB Charleston’s mission, policies and programs while fostering goodwill, understanding, support and acceptance from Lowcountry leaders and community members.

“It’s extremely important for us to educate community members on what we do because they support us,” said Lt. Col. Karen Rupp, 437th Ariel Port Squadron commander. “The air expo was a great opportunity for them to come on base and see what we do and all the different aircraft while interacting with our service members.”

Team Charleston interacts with the community in a number of ways in addition to the Honorary Commanders Program and the occasional air expo. The JB Charleston Public Affairs Office regularly hosts base tours, an annual Career Day for Junior ROTC cadets and provides guest speakers to events in the Charleston area.

Members of the 16th Airlift Squadron and 1st Combat Camera Squadron visited R.B. Stall High School to educate them on the unique missions and capabilities of JB Charleston in preparation for the air expo.

“We have a lot of military families who attend our school,” said Jeremy Carrick, R.B. Stall High School principal. “Our students are a part of the community, and they have friends, neighbors and family members right here in Charleston who are in the military. A lot of students pursue military careers, but what we sometimes lack is getting the exposure to the military to know what jobs are available.”

For more information on JB Charleston participation of community events or tours, call the Public Affairs Office at (843) 963-5608.