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August 26, 2014

Selfridge air show fulfills the need for speed

Blue Angels making comeback after 9-year hiatus

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
St. Clair Shores native Angelo Warnock will be part of the Blue Angels maintenance crew when the demonstration team comes to Selfridge Air National Guard Base Open House and Air Show Sept. 6-7.

MACOMB COUNTY — Not only is the Selfridge Open House and Air Show returning after a two-year absence, the Blue Angels are coming back, which means all hands on deck because things are about to get fast and loud in Harrison Township.

Selfridge Open House Director Maj. Bartley Ward said what sets the two-day Selfridge event apart from other air shows across the Midwest is its location.

“The Selfridge air show takes place on a military base, and that’s why we actually call it the Selfridge Open House,” Ward said. “It’s not just an air show; it’s an invite for the public to come to the base and see what’s going on and get up close to and touch the aircraft in the show. In other air shows, the public can’t do that. We’re opening our gates to the public.”

The Selfridge Open House and Air Show, which started in 1922, will be held Sept. 6-7.

The event will feature dozens of military aircraft, armored vehicles, watercraft and related equipment, as well as an opportunity to meet many of the men and women who utilize that equipment in service to their state and nation.

“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 Col. Philip Sheridan, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot who serves as the commander of the 127th Wing, the host unit at Selfridge. “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.”

As many as 75,000 people per day are expected to attend the Open House on the base. Thousands of additional spectators typically observe the Air Show portion from backyard parties in the surrounding community and from boats on Lake St. Clair.

Among the new features at the 2014 Open House will be a Women in Aviation booth, at which many of the pilots, maintainers and other female personnel who will be active in the Air Show portion of the Open House will make short presentations on their careers and answer questions from guests.

In addition to the many civilian pilots who will be on hand, those making appearances at the booth will be members of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team — Blue Angels — maintenance team; and maintenance airmen, aircraft crew chiefs and pilots from the various squadrons of the Selfridge-based 127th Wing.

Among those will be St. Clair Shores native U.S. Navy AE1 Angelo Warnock.

Warnock, who still has family living in both the Shores and in Harrison Township, is an Aviation Electrician 1st Class and member of the aircraft maintenance crew for the Blue Angels Demonstration Team.

Now in his second year of a three-year tour with the team, Warnock, 31, is excited to come back home and take part in a show he used to regularly and enjoy as a boy.

“We’re in Chicago now, then Duluth, Minnesota, then Cleveland and then Selfridge,” he said last week. “My dad lives right there by Selfridge; you can see the base from his house.”

Warnock graduated from Lake Shore High School in 2001 and joined the Navy in 2002. After boot camp, he started training in avionics and, after eight years, at the encouragement of his peers, applied to be a member of the Blue Angels maintenance team.

“It was a very lengthy process of sending in a résumé, waiting for a call, and then going in for a series of lengthy interviews where they learn more about you, your technical expertise, what you can do and your speaking ability, because that is a very important part of representing what the Blue Angels do,” he said, referring to the fact that members do many speaking engagements and visits at hospitals, schools and at air shows like at Selfridge Air International Guard Base. “They check your background, going back about five years, and then you just wait again for that call.

“It was a pretty cool moment in my career,” Warnock said. “And the training process starts immediately. There’s a lot of history of the team that you have to learn, including all the aspects of the show. Everything moves really fast. It’s been pretty interesting, to say the least.”

The Blue Angels are composed of 130 personnel, including 16 officers and a little more than 100 maintenance personnel.

“In addition to keeping the jets in the air, my mission as a Blue Angel team member is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach,” Warnock said.

The Blue Angels are the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron of pilots that fly in a trademark tight diamond formation going at speeds of just shy of 700 mph (just under Mach 1), while maintaining a wing tip to canopy separation. The tradition they follow has been around since 1946, and each year they are requested to do more than 38 locations throughout the U.S. annually. Warnock traditionally works 20 of those shows.

His wife, Krystle, also a Lake Shore graduate, and 2-year-old daughter, Juliana, will also be in town for the show — traveling in from the Warnock home in Pensacola, Florida.

“It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure. You can expect the very best; this is the best of the best,” Warnock said. “What I really like about this show is that I can talk to the people in attendance and answer questions, talk to the kids. I want to influence people in a positive way; maybe I will influence someone into wanting to do this as a career. What I usually say is if you had told me just five years ago I would have this job, I would have said you’re nuts. But if you’re motivated, go for it and don’t quit, the possibilities are endless as long as you stay focused.”

The Blue Angels will be flying on both days of the Open House. The team is led by Commander Tom Frosch, a Macomb County native and 1988 graduate of Fraser High School. A veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Frosch will be flying the F/A-18 Hornet designated as “Blue Angel 1” during the Air Show portion of the Open House. The visit by the Blue Angels will mark their first appearance at Selfridge since the 2005 Open House.

Military aircraft currently scheduled to appear at the Open House, with more expected to be added later this summer, include Selfridge-based A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, KC-135 Stratotankers, CH-47 Chinooks and MH-65 Dolphins, along with B-52 Stratofortress, F-16 Fighting Falcons, T-6 Texans and T-38 Talons. Heritage military aircraft planned include the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell and C-47 Skytrain, along with a MiG-17, a fighter aircraft used by the Soviet Union during the Vietnam War era. Ground displays will include U.S. Army and Marine Corps armored vehicles, Army robotics and various small arms weaponry.

Demonstrations during the Open House will include two performances each day by the USAF Drill Team. The 127th Maintenance Group will also demonstrate the loading process for weapons and munitions on an A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog.”

The gates will open to the public on both days at 8 a.m. and will close once on-base parking reaches capacity, likely in the early afternoon. The Open House and Air Show will conclude at about 4 p.m. both days.

In the immediate vicinity of the base, traffic and related Open House information, including the narration of the flying demonstrations, will be available via radio broadcast at 87.9 FM.

Food concessions will be available on the base during the Open House, and will be operated on a cash-only basis. Coolers, glass bottles, backpacks and cooking equipment are not allowed into the Open House area. Lawn chairs (chair bags should be left in car), strollers, fanny packs and small wagons are allowed. Visitors are encouraged to bring cameras, and all items will be subject to search.

Additionally, tours to the Selfridge Military Air Museum will be accessible by a short bus ride during the Open House, with more than 30 heritage aircraft and hundreds of other artifacts on display; and the STARBASE center at the base, which offers science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to area elementary school students.

While general admission and parking is free, premium seating options are being introduced for the 2014 event. Premium seating is available for $20 in advance or $25 at the Open House. Luxury Chalet seating, which includes a catered lunch, is available for $95 for adults, and $50 for children in advance, or $100 and $55 the day of. Information on the seating options is available at www.selfridge openhouse.com.

The Open House is active on both Facebook and Twitter. You can follow both at www.facebook.com/Selfridgeopenhouseandair show and @SANGBOpenHouse.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1039.