USAF and USCG participate in Dominican Republic air show
By Capt. Sarah Schwennesen , 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)
/ Published February 20, 2008
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- U.S. Airmen and Coast Guardsmen came together here Saturday to join with their Dominican counterparts in commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Dominican Air Force with an impressive airshow.
This small island nation welcomed the U.S. Air Force aircraft and personnel, from the active duty, reserve and Air National Guard, who participated with the Dominican Air Force, many dignitaries and civilian performers in the show.
"The U.S. Air Force is here to demonstrate our friendship and strong relationship with the Dominican Air Force," said Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, commander, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern). "Both of our histories go back 60 years and our relationship is founded on trust and friendship and this air show is an expression of our great mil-to-mil relationship."
Under the watch of Dr. Leonel Fernandez, the Dominican president, the F-16 Viper West demonstration team awed the crowd with a great performance and the first-ever visit of the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the island.
"I feel terrific about the airshow, this is the first time that we have such an amount of fighters from the U.S. here and I think that the general public is enjoying it very much," said Maj. Gen. Pedro Peña, the Chief of Staff of the Dominican Air Force. "This is a special way to bring our country's bonds closer and to work together."
Units from as far north as Michigan joined with personnel from Florida to Arizona in the Dominican Republic air show. Static displays consisted of a C-130 Hercules from the 179th Air Wing out of Mansfield, Ohio; four F-16's from the 127th Wing of Selfridge, Michigan; four F-16's from the 149th Wing of San Antonio, Texas, a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 161st Air Refueling Wing at Phoenix, Arizona; and two Viper West demonstration F-16's from the 388th Wing at Hill AFB, Salt Lake, Utah. Active duty and reserve personnel from U.S. Air Forces Southern and U.S. Southern Command also participated in the air show.
U.S. Air Force personnel teamed up with U.S. Coast Guard members from Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico and Air Station Clearwater, Florida; who brought an HH-65C Dauphin and an HH-60 Jayhawk to serve as static displays and perform for the crowd. This was not the first time for the units to visit the Dominican Republic as they have supported search and rescue missions here, as well as humanitarian relief missions after Tropical Storm Noel.
Starting the show with a record-breaking jump, 60 parachutists from Brazil to Taiwan, descended from the skies at San Isidro Air Base. This performance was followed up with flybys of Dominican Air Force Casa-212's, UH-1 Huey II's, T-35 Pillan's, OH-58A Kiowa's, and the S-333 Enstrom helicopters. Brazil joined the airshow with a demonstration of the Super Tucano aircraft and a static display of the same.
"It is an honor to be here and to have our two nations united in the celebration of airpower," said Capt. Russ Piggott, the Viper West demonstration pilot. Dominican Second Lieutenant Jean Paul Pion agreed, "It's great to get together with other countries." Lieutenant Pion and six of his classmates received their wings today from the president, as they officially graduated from pilot training.
For many Airmen, this was their first time in the Dominican Republic and they were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome that they received. "It's beautiful here and it's a pleasure that they considered us to be a part of their program. We feel honored to share in this," said Aviation Electrical Technician Dion Purcell, USCG.
Many big-name civilian performers also wowed the crowds with fancy aerobatics and formation flying. The Pitts S2C and P-51D Mustang flown by Fred Cabanas pleased the crowd, as well as Curt Arnspinger's SAETA German aircraft. The Aerostars performed with three Yak-52's, the Firebirds spun around in their Extra-300's and Rob Holland's MX-2 show impressed the crowd.