I love the sound, the sight, the feel of military air power as much as anyone. I even love being outside on an Air Force base on a hot day and catching a whiff of the jet fumes – I call it the smell of freedom.
The 2014 Selfridge Open House will be Sept. 6-7 at the Macomb County air base. Gates open at 8 a.m. both days. Admission and parking are free. While there, you too can enjoy the sounds and sights – possibly even the smells – of freedom as all manner of military aircraft, armored vehicles and other equipment are on display. Among the highlights will be aerial performances by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels on both days.
As much as I love to feel the rumble of an American fighter jet pass overhead during the air show at the Selfridge Open House, it won’t be a Blue Angel F/A-18 that is my favorite part of the weekend. It won’t be an Air Force fighter either.
Rather, the highlight of the entire weekend for me will take place just before noon on Saturday. In fact, my favorite part will take place before the first jet roars over the crowd at Selfridge. That’s when roughly 20 young men and women will take the oath of enlistment and be sworn in as a new member of the Michigan Air National Guard.
They’ll swear in, then we’ll play the “Star Spangled Banner” and then we’ll see some amazing aircraft. And then 20 young people will begin a journey that might literally take them to the ends of the Earth.
Col. Philip Sheridan, the 127th Wing commander, who will be administering the enlistment oath to these future airmen, has been clear in the reason for and the focus of the 2014 Selfridge Open House & Air Show. The event allows the military commands at Selfridge Air National Guard Base a way to say “thank you” to the local community for the community’s continued support of the base’s airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, coastguardsmen and Department of Homeland Security personnel. Selfridge is the home station for more than 1,500 full-time personnel and more than 3,100 National Guard and Reserve personnel.
“As a military installation with a variety of assigned missions, it is not always possible for us to welcome in our neighbors and fellow citizens to see our local operations,” said Sheridan, who is also an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot. “The Open House provides us that opportunity. It is, quite simply, our way of saying ‘thank you’ to one of the most supportive local communities of any military base in the country.”
Another highlight for me at the Open House – and I have seen this at every single Open House I have been to – will be passing by when a dad or mom, maybe a grandpa or a grandma, will walk up to one of the old “war birds” on display this weekend, point to it, and turn to tell the kids that was the kind of aircraft he/she worked on when he/she was in the military. There will be several World War II and Korean War vintage aircraft on display in the main area of the Open House. About three dozen more aircraft, representing the dawn of flight to today’s era, are on permanent display at the Selfridge Military Air Museum on the base. During the Open House, a shuttle will be running back and forth from the main Open House area to the Museum. The Museum is also open on weekends or by appointment. Call 586-239-5035 for details on that hidden gem.
While I’m partial to military aircraft myself – the “fast movers” as my infantry colleagues describe them – there will be plenty to see at the show on the ground. The Army and Marine Corps are bringing in all manner of armored vehicles – many of which the kids, and maybe a few adults, will be allowed to climb on, sit in and have their picture taken.
The Blue Angels. Selfridge aircraft. Historic war birds. Tanks and armored personnel carriers. And about 20 young people taking an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. (They’ll all be wearing grey Air National Guard t-shirts on Saturday, in case you are in a hand-shaking mood).
Sounds like a pretty good weekend to me. See you at Selfridge Saturday and Sunday for the sights and sounds of freedom.
The Open House is active on both Facebook and Twitter. You can follow both at www.facebook.com/Selfridgeopenhouseandairshow and @SANGBOpenHouse During the days of the Open House, Michigan Airmen will be actively posting to both sources.
The 127th Wing at Selfridge is also active in social media. The Wing’s popular YouTube page is www.youtube.com/user/127WG. The Wing can be found at www.facebook.com/127thWing and on Twitter @127Wing. The Michigan National Guard is also active at www.facebook.com/michguard.
Technical Sgt. Dan Heaton is a Macomb County native and a member of the 127th Wing Public Affairs office at Selfridge. He’s written three books on the topic of military history, include “Forts & Fields: A History of Michigan’s Military Places.”