One Air Show, One Community

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Courtney Rorick
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

As storms threatened the region, nearly 80,000 visitors flowed through the gates of Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington, New Hampshire, to experience a different kind of thunder.

The gates of New Hampshire’s only Air National Guard Base were open to the public for the Thunder Over New Hampshire Air Show and Open House, Sept. 9-10.

During the event, the community had the opportunity to engage with members of the New Hampshire National Guard while being immersed in an international military experience. The show featured world-class aerial performers, military equipment static displays from as far away as Australia, and virtual reality military simulations.

The show also gave the 157th Air Refueling Wing the opportunity to put its next-generation aerial refueler, the KC-46A Pegasus, on display for the public. Each day featured a flying demonstration and six jets were open for guests to walk through with aircrews.

“We watch you guys over our house doing refueling on a weekly basis,” said Patrick Leonard, who drove two-hours from Woodstock, Vermont, to see the 157th Air Refueling Wing’s mission. “It was a great experience to see everything up close.”

Also featured during the air show and open house were two hangars filled with STEM exhibits for people of all ages to enjoy.

“Look how fast it goes,” said 6-year-old, Isaiah Xiong, while he followed a robotic car across colored titles in one STEM exhibit. “We got to see the airplanes flying in loops and the robots.”

While sunshine radiated the flightline on opening day, the U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demo Team, U.S. Special Operations Team Para Commandos, Rob Holland, and several others dazzled spectators from the air.

The airshow also featured two key ceremonies. On Saturday, the wing dedicated the KC-46 Spirit of Portsmouth, which features one-of-a-kind tail art, to the men and women of the NHNG as well as the towns of Portsmouth and Newington.

On Sunday, a second ceremony was held in front of a 307th Bomb Wing B-52 to commemorate Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Harl Pease Jr. for heroic actions during World War II, which cost him his life and earned him the Medal of Honor. Pease was assigned to the 93rd Bomb Squadron, which is now assigned to the 307th BW, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

The two-day event, which took nearly a year to plan and develop, was led by Maj. Michelle Mastrobatista, airshow director and a medical administrations officer with the Medical Group, 157th Air Refueling Wing Medical Group.

"Our Airmen worked diligently to ensure the show was ready, enjoyable and successful for those in attendance," said Mastrobatista. “I’m also grateful for our community partners who assisted us along the way.”

The commander of the 157th ARW echoed Mastrobatista’s sentiments.

“This event would not be possible without the support from the community,” said Col. Nelson Perron. “We hope to utilize that support to inspire future generations.”

Despite the rain and clouds putting an early end to flying on Sunday, Patrick Leonard and his family left Pease exhilarated.

“It made my son’s day—he absolutely loved it,” said Leonard. “He turns 14 on Monday and this event was a great start to his birthday. Man, what a good time, you guys absolutely killed it.”