Air Force

January 10, 2014

March Airmen volunteer at 150th Rose Parade

Tags:
Senior Airman Russell S. McMillan
452 AMW public affairs

Senior Airman Paige McCann, a member of the 452d Communications Squadron, March ARB, polishes the right wing of a miniature P-51 Mustang aircraft on Dec. 31, 2013. McCann and other March airmen volunteered to educate the public about the WWII Tuskegee airmen and the P-51 Mustang aircraft during the 125th Pasadena Tournament of Roses Rose Parade Expo Village.

The early-morning sunlight shimmers off the recently polished wings of the red, white and blue colored aircraft as it taxis into place. An airman, clad in his Airman Battle Uniform, places chocks beneath the plane to lock the wheels in place while another airman assists the pilot from the cockpit.

The pilot, Finley Banks, a native of Los Angeles, wears a white long-sleeved shirt, purple head band and a beaming smile as she exits the aircraft. Standing at a height and age of approximately four feet and eight years old, respectively, Banks passes the line of other eager children and explains to her parents how she is now an Air Force pilot of a mini, F-16 Thunderbird.

The next in line is signaled to come forward by Staff Sgt. Villa Vargas, 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron and Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard, March Air Reserve Base, Calif.

Vargas is one of approximately nine other reservists from March ARB who volunteer their time each year at Expo Village, a free venue that houses food, activities and entertainment as part of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Rose Parade.

He and other reservists from March ARB, and volunteers from Los Angeles and Edwards Air Force Bases, are known as the Mini Jet Team, which travels around California entertaining and educating the public with six miniature, F-16 Thunderbird aircraft and one P-51 Mustang aircraft.

“This is my first year doing this but the Honor Guard does this every year,” said Vargas. “It’s a lot of fun and we get to interact with people and put smiles on their faces.”

Vargas and his co-volunteer, Senior Airman Steven Hernandez, 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron and Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard, typically work an eight-hour shift one or more days during the five-day Expo Village event.

Primary duties include crowd control, upkeep of the aircraft throughout the day and assisting the public with riding the mini jet, said Hernandez.

“We fly the model; it goes up to 40 to 42 mph,’ said Hernandez, as he placed the chocks from the mini jet’s wheels for staging the next ride.

“It was just like flying!” said Zack Holden, a 10-year-old native of Fullerton, Calif.

The mini jets are not the only attraction the group offers. Across the cordoned section, marked for the mini jets and beneath camouflage tenting, sits the Ace Maker, a miniature P-51 Mustang dedicated to retelling the Tuskegee Airmen story.

“I’m here to help tell the legacy because we know the Tuskegee Airmen are passing away a lot faster, and we know there are some survivors and we’re getting all the information to hear their story,” said Tech Sgt. Daniel Stephens, 163rd Reconnaissance Wing Chaplain Corps., former Security Forces and six-year Honor Guardsman. “It’s a wonderful legacy.”

Stephens and Tech. Sgt. Paul Barone, 163rd Security Forces Squadron and Honor Guardsman with nearly 1,000 hours of community service, invite the public to take photos with the aircraft, explained the mechanics of the aircraft and answered questions regarding the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

“A lot of people may have seen movies, but they don’t know the Air Force culture and the Air Force legacy,” said Stephens. “Just to be a part of teaching people of the great history of the Tuskegee Airmen, and being a part of the World War II generation gives me a sense of pride, and I’m just overwhelmed that these people have paved the way for us.”

The miniature P-51 Mustang and F-16 Thunderbird aircraft displays celebrate their 11th appearance at the Rose Parade’s Expo Village, said retired Air Force Master Sgt. Peter Gutierrez, a 33-year veteran and founder of the Mini Jet Team.

“Well, I started this 15 years ago originally for children with disabilities and illnesses,” Gutierrez said. “We go to Children’s Hospital, City of Hope, Make a Wish Foundation, Special Olympics and other places in California.”

Gutierrez explained that all of his current aircraft were found in disrepair from various bases and he refurbished them in exchange for their use in parades and special events for children with disabilities.

He uses only volunteers and donations to keep the program running. It is not uncommon for airmen from March to use his or her own vehicle to tow the trailers housing the mini jets, make repairs on personal time or assist with any other task needed.

“It’s truly in their heart; they bleed Air Force blue,” said Gutierrez when describing the airmen volunteers. “They do it; they’re not getting paid for it.”

And since the Mini Jet Team is not an official non-profit organization, all of the donations individuals or companies make, such as the $10,000 worth of batteries or aircraft-grade tires are truly a form of generosity, said Gutierrez.

“Everyone should be thankful for where they’re at, in life and their career, and have that attitude of ‘what can I do to make the Air Force even better’?” said Gutierrez while he glanced toward the airmen operating the mini jet.

Gutierrez puts on his sunglasses and walks towards the P-51 Mustang while an airman buffs one of the wings with a yellow microfiber cloth.

He invites people behind the barricades around the P-51 Mustang to take pictures, encouraging others to follow and learn about the Tuskegee Airmen and Air Force.

“Let them know how proud you are to be in the service, especially the Air Force,” said Gutierrez. “It means a lot when you actually speak to a person, shake their hand, and [he] hears what you say. “Payment is seeing the smile on people’s faces.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Untitled-1

Seven little known facts about Memorial Day

As Americans get ready to observe Memorial Day with travel, family get-togethers and celebrations, let us not forget—it’s not about the BBQ. Memorial Day is observed specifically to remember those who gave the ultimate sacr...
 
 

Increased mission requirements open doors for continued military service

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force is introducing several personnel and manpower initiatives to meet increased mission requirements outlined in the fiscal year 2016 President’s Budget. In order to enhance operational and mission capacity in support of combatant commanders, and to maintain readiness, the Air Force is setting a minimum active-duty force level of 317,000...
 
 
Natl-Better-Hearing-and-Speech-Month

Knowing signs of hearing loss, speech disorder are vital to well-being

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, where we seek to raise awareness about communication disorders and learning how to recognize their signs. Below are things you should know, from the American Speech and Language Hearing A...
 

 

Quarterly Awards: best of the best highlighted

Airman of the Quarter: Senior Airman Dominique Acuna, integrated flight control specialist, 452nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.   NCO of the Quarter: Tech. Sgt. Ruben Davis, mental health craftsman, 752nd Medical Squadron.   SNCO of the Quarter: Master Sgt. Christopher Jugas, non-commissioned officer in charge of training, 452nd Security Forces Squadron.
 
 
DoD
AFN photo/Charlie Gill

Robert Sekula, man of many hats

AFN photo/Charlie Gill Robert Sekula, a broadcast journalist/producer working at the American Forces Network Broadcast Center, one of March Air Reserve Base’s mission partners, wears many hats. Robert Sekula’s ever-present ...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kevin Mitterholzer

Recruits swear in at Military Appreciation Night

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kevin Mitterholzer Lt. Col. Erin Meinders, commander, 362nd Recruiting Squadron, swears in 13 new recruits to the Air Force Reserve, during the Inland Empire 66ers Military Appreciation Night ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin