JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST – It was a weekend of high flying jets, skydivers, family fun, military history and a variety of food and mementos as thousands of people flocked to the grounds of Joint Base McGuire Air Force Base.
The free open house and air show, which takes place every other year, kicked off on May 4 and got into full throttle on May 5-6. The event, called “The Power in the Pines” showcased the talents of aviators performing daredevil maneuvers in military jets and allowed for attendees to tour some of the equipment the military uses to protect the nation.
Friday, May 4, was a special access day for Department of Defense identification card holders only. The main show started on May 5, and continued into Sunday, May 6, and featured the Air Force ACC F-22 Raptor Demo Team, Canadian Forces CF18 Demo Team, and the U.S. Army Golden Knights.
The 78th Army Band performed prior to the aerial performances on Saturday.
The group BMX Bikers “Hell On Wheels” performed aerial acrobatics of their own, although their stunts did not require a plane. They used bicycles and some ramps as crowds watched in awe.
Thousands of families walked a grassy field, entering the airfield that included various helicopters, planes, jets, booths, vendors and service personnel. The Mabie family was among those present on May 5.
Patrick Mabie, Manahawkin, was busy assisting his 3-year-old son Mason and stepsons Cole Woska, 9, Dylan Woska, 7, in and out of the cockpit of a military helicopter. Patrick’s wife Annmarie was busy showing their son, Hunter Mabie, at another display.
“This is Mason’s first time here but we all came out six years ago. Mason was thrilled to see a stealth plane that just flew by. We came out to show them what the military has and it is a fun outing.”
The air show smelled of smoked sausage and hot dogs with other vendors featuring lemonade, snowballs and smoothies.
Arjan Bajwa, 9, of Bensalem Pa. did his best imitation of Tom Cruise’s character Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the film “Top Gun” as he sat in a miniature jet display while his mother took a photograph. This marked the first time the family attended the show. Arjan’s 6-year-old brother, Praveer, said he loves planes and helicopters and wants to be a pilot when he grows up.
The mini-jet was among many static displays found in the large hanger that was open to the public. Various organizations ranging from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars to the Civil Air Patrol were present to bring awareness of their services.
Don Adams, a tour director at the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, was enjoying talking to wide-eyed children looking at the toy planes and vehicles on their table for sale about their real-life functions in military service.
“We are having a nice turnout today. We have a dozen members of our group here and we’ll be here both days,” Adams said.
Carl Jablonski, president of the society, added that their organization would be observing the 81st anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster at the memorial site of Lakehurst Navy Base a few days after the actual May 6 anniversary, because of the air show.
Mindy Rosewitz, the museum curator of U.S. Army Mobilization Museum of Fort Dix, was manning a table promoting the museum. She said half of the museum’s displays were present at the air show.
“We have group tours and schedule visits. Due to most not having military access to the base we arrange the visits,” Rosewitz said. The displays present at the air show included various mannequins wearing uniforms from World War I, World War II and present day including the attire of a civilian in the middle east.
Next to the Fort Dix museum booth, US Army Master Sgt. Juan Duque was demonstrating the Miles rifle, a military version of “what children use to play laser tag. We use this for training purposes.” Duque was also demonstrating a laser version of a 9-millimeter hand gun.
Military history was also displayed in another section of the hangar devoted entirely to service personnel, uniforms and equipment used during World War II. Protective gear used on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was seen along with a simulation of what an airman on a bomber would see during a bombing run.
Retired Air Force veteran Pat Ragosta felt a bit of nostalgia beyond talking to visitors about military history. He once worked in the very hangar where he was providing information as part of the Mid Atlantic Air Museum. “I once worked here in this hanger. When the Air Force was looking for a wing man to serve as a historian, everyone present that day turned around and looked at me because they knew I was always reading military history books.
“This is strictly for World War II history. We have a dozen members here this weekend. Usually we would have more but there is a number of shows taking place back to back and as volunteers we pay our own way for transportation. Most of those here today are from north Jersey. It is important to preserve the past.”
The Civil Air Patrol, stationed near the Mid Atlantic Air Museum was focused on the future as they allowed young people and adults to try their hand at flying a plane on one of their six computers that provided a realistic flight simulation.
Lt. Col. Michael Castania serves as director of Aerospace Education for the Civil Air Patrol, which featured close to 20 cadets at the air show.
Castania said that the computer simulation was just one of many items including 15 STEM kits, focusing on educating young people in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as various text books. “For a $35 fee these can become available for use to any agency or organization involved in educating young people.”
“The flight simulator program shows you everything on a flight screen that would show you the actual conditions in 40 to 50 different aircraft. It emulates all airfields in New Jersey so you could see what it would be like to fly into a runway on McGuire AFB or Lakewood Airport. You may not be able to feel it but you can see what it is like to fly it,” Castania said.