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Posted: 5/6/2002 9:59:26 AM EDT
Los Angeles Times: Air Show Is Infused With Newfound Spirit [url]http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-000031969may05.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dnation[/url] RESPONSE TO TERROR Air Show Is Infused With Newfound Spirit Military: The crowds at the massive event in Florida feel a special connection with the nation's defenders after the turbulent events of the last eight months. By JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG TIMES STAFF WRITER May 5 2002 FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It bills itself as the nation's biggest thank you note to the military, and this year, Americans clearly had reasons to be grateful. This weekend, the skies and seas off this South Florida resort city are filled with some of the latest in U.S. military hardware, including the Navy's most recently commissioned aircraft carrier, the Harry S. Truman, and the bat-winged B-2 Stealth bomber. On Saturday afternoon, Marines in full combat gear rode on P7 amphibious assault vehicles and crashed onto the sandy beach in a mock landing, and the Navy's Blue Angels performed high-speed aerobatics. The spectacle brought tears to the eyes of Carol Kilroy, a 54-year-old sales representative from Windermere, Fla. "It's totally awesome and I'm totally proud of all of them," the Huntington Beach native said. "It gives you a clear eye as to what's really going on and what they have to go through, being on the front lines and all that." In the 1990s, Fort Lauderdale was casting around for an event to prolong its tourist season and replace spring break, the student bacchanalia that had given the city the unwelcome nickname of "Fort Liquordale," said Elaine Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the Air & Sea Show. In 1995, an impresario from Chicago named Mickey Markoff organized the first display of American military might here, with corporate sponsors helping underwrite expenses. An estimated 800,000 people turned out that first year. This weekend, if organizers' estimates are correct, as many as 3 million people could attend what's considered the biggest air show in the world and the most lavish display of the contemporary equipment and talents of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, according to Gordon Bowman-Jones, a professional air show announcer. For the military, the show even has become a prime occasion to troll for new talent. On Saturday, Army recruiters set up an artificial rock-climbing wall near the A1A beachfront highway and encouraged visitors to try to scale it. "This show is the biggest event as far as recruiting goes for the U.S. Army," said Staff Sgt. Phillip Woolsey, 24. "People can see us, and see what the Army has to offer." -- continued --
Link Posted: 5/6/2002 10:03:37 AM EDT
Recruiters were taking the names and phone numbers of climbers, Woolsey said, and will call to see whether they're interested in enlisting. This is the third year that Staff Sgt. Allen Murphy, 31, has pulled duty at the Air & Sea Show, and the veteran said he detected a distinct change in visitors' attitudes toward the military this year. "It's been more positive," Murphy said. "People paying us compliments, wanting to take their pictures with us. We've been getting noticed." Saturday's crowds, which gathered in sweltering sunshine along a four-mile stretch of oceanfront, clapped and cheered especially loudly for the hardware that has been used during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, including the B-52 bomber, the F/A-18 Hornet fighter/attack aircraft and the F-14 Tomcat fighter. Streaking by at an ear-splitting 500 mph, six Blue Angels in their F-18s dedicated one maneuver to all American forces deployed to track down those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. "In my 10 years with the Navy, I've always felt we had a strong relationship with the community, but since Sept. 11, it's grown stronger," said Lt. Chris Loundermon, a Navy spokesman. "We were attacked in our own backyard and have been fighting for our very freedom." Split-second coordination is required at the event, which also features civilian stunt fliers and vintage aircraft, including a PBY flying boat, B-25 bomber and F-86F Sabre fighter. Military aircraft converge on Fort Lauderdale from numerous bases, with the B-2 flying from its home field at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. "The pilots have to be within six seconds of the schedule," Fitzgerald said. Some participants sounded as enthusiastic as the crowd. Two miles above the crowd, Staff Sgt. Calvin Fredlake, a member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, jumped out of an aircraft and rocketed earthward at up to 170 mph. Trailing an American flag, the 31-year-old from Guttenberg, Iowa, landed precisely on a small X placed on the sand. Fred- lake said he had felt that millions of eyes were upon him. "It's so great to jump by the ocean with a crowd that you can see forever, up and down the beach," he said. "I feel like a movie star right now--that's what's going through my mind." If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights.
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