Recently, thousands of Fort Wayne area residents were treated to an amazing and exciting air show hosted by the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard and Fort Wayne International Airport. It was the first local air show in 13 years.
Bringing the air show to Fort Wayne required hundreds of hours of work by members of the 122nd and many volunteers as well as the generous financial support of many local businesses and foundations. We are in their debt. It was a wonderful show.
The driving force behind bringing an air show to Fort Wayne was the 122nd Wing Commander, Col. David Augustine. In the relatively short time that Col. Augustine has been in Fort Wayne as Wing Commander he has not only brought us an air show but several other significant programs as well.
He helped establish the Fort Wayne Base Community Council that, among other activities, holds quarterly luncheons to afford Base Community Council members and their guests the opportunity to hear high-ranking military speakers discuss such interesting and varied topics as background information on finding bin Laden and how the military is teaching Afghanistan peasants to grow vegetables. Members of the Base Community Council support our local Air Guard, Army Guard and Army Reserve service men and women and their families. It provides an important opportunity for civilians to support our neighbors in the military who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, many for several tours.
Col. Augustine has also established a STARBASE program, which introduces area fifth-graders to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The 122nd has provided a building, equipment and staff with the Department of Defense funding. During five all-day sessions, the area fifth-graders attend the STARBASE program where they get to do such exciting things as program a simulated lunar module and shoot off rockets in the parking lot. As you might imagine, the activities offered to the fifth-graders are exceptionally engaging and knowledge-building. As the first STARBASE program in Indiana, over 800 area students have already attended the program since its start in January.
Visitors to the air show may have also noticed yet another 122nd community project, the construction in progress of an air park at the entrance to the base. When completed, this park will feature permanent displays of several aircraft and provide picnic areas and educational displays for visitors.
While initiating and overseeing these projects and many others, Col. Augustine also has to tend to his day job, ensuring that the 122nd stays well-trained and combat ready. In fact, many members of the 122nd are currently deployed in Afghanistan and other parts of the world where they are needed. We as a community, can be enormously proud of the men and women of the 122nd Fighter Wing who are serving our country.
The best way we can thank Col. Augustine and the men and women of the 122nd is to give them our total support as they face the threat of losing their A-10 fighters and their fighter wing designation as part of the defense cuts currently being discussed in Washington. This would be a tragic loss to our community and would also mean the loss of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in payroll.
So let your representatives in Washington know how much we value and depend on the 122nd Fighter Wing. They are our neighbors and a source of enormous pride.
Save the A-10s!