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Saluting the troops - Airshow marks return home for 3rd ID
061308 AIR SHOW 4
AT-6 pilot Gene McNeely, lower left, stays in tight formation just a few feet from his Aeroshell Aerobatic Teammates during a flight demonstration for Saturday's Satute to the Troops Air Show at MidCoast Regional Airport. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    The 3rd ID troops who recently returned from deployments got a thunderous welcome Saturday from the ground and the sky during the 2008 Salute the Troops Air Show at MidCoast Regional Airport and Wright Army Airfield.
    The show was the inaugural public event for Midcoast, a joint venture between the Army and a civilian board made up of local governments. The airport opened to traffic in the winter.
    The show, however, was mostly to honor the returning soldiers. It opened with the presentation of colors and the National Anthem, after which the audience thanked 3rd ID service members with cheers and applause while two members of the Screaming Eagles Parachute team out of Fort Campbell, Ky., floated toward the ground, the American flag fluttering between them.
    “It’s neat. It’s our first air show,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Moore, who is stationed at Fort Stewart and recently returned from his third deployment in Iraq. Moore, his wife Heather and his son Trey sought shade under an Air Force tent while they waited for the show to begin. The family was looking forward to seeing the planes, but didn’t think they’d stay out the entire day, given the heat and Trey’s rest requirements.
    “We’re going to be here for a few hours, but it’s all up to him,” Heather Moore said, indicating her son.
    “Nap time’s at 1 p.m.,” her husband added.
    Other children and families enjoyed the various activities, vendors, booths and military equipment exhibits.
    Trevionne Jackson, 4, of Hinesville climbed into the cockpit of an AH64D Apache attack helicopter while his brother Lee, 7, waved to him from the ground.
    “I loved getting up there!” Trevionne said as he rejoined his mother and brother.
    “I like helicopters the best,” Lee said.
    The Apache, which is capable of firing missiles and rockets, and is equipped with a 30 millimeter gun, will travel to Iraq in a few weeks, said 1st Lt. Eddie Langford, who will be flying the helicopter on missions overseas.
    Other aircraft and transport equipment on display included armored Humvee vehicles and an unmanned MQ-5B Hunter plane that conducts battlefield surveillance and provides ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with real-time reconnaissance.
    Charles Granade of Northrop Grumman, the company that manufactures the MQ-5B Hunter, said the planes are equipped with a day camera, an infrared camera and a laser camera.
    “We work in coordination with ground troops — that’s the biggest thing we do,” Granade said. “If we see something, we can tell the battlefield commander what we see and what he needs to do.”
    Two Humvees were set up for air show attendees to examine and look into. The vehicles, which are operated by Wright Army Airfield’s Air Force unit, are used to provide air support for deployed 3rd ID troops, explained Master Sgt. Craig Janke. One of the Humvees had been decommissioned, but the other currently still is used in missions.
    Despite temperatures well into the 90s, audience members, volunteers and military personnel managed to stay cool by standing in the shade and drinking plenty of water.
    “Things are going pretty smoothly so far,” said one specialist, who didn’t want to give his name and who, along with a private and Hinesville Police officer, served as crowd control agents.
    “They’ve set up cooling tents with water and food. A lot of people brought umbrellas to stay cool,” the specialist said.
    All military personnel manning the event were dressed in full Army fatigues, but appeared to be tolerating the heat all right — as long as it came in small doses.
    “They’re rotating us every two hours,” said Janke as he stood in the shadow of one of the Humvees. “That’s good, because it is hot.”
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