JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- While an F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstration engages communities across the world through its gravity-defying tricks, the team behind the machine also engages with the community across the Indo-Pacific region but in a more... green way.
Arctic Thunder, a biennial air show, allowed the Pacific Air Forces’ F-16 Demonstration Team to hone their community relation skills by not only participating in the beautification of local Alaskan parks, but also in a meet-and-greet session with the Anchorage, Alaska, locals, June 29.
“By seeing professional Airmen in action, we hope to bolster our nation’s confidence in our ability to execute the mission,” said Col. Chris Niemi, the 3rd Wing commander. “Community engagement events reassure them of that confidence in their service members.”
The team partnered with the Youth Employment in Parks program, which is a nonprofit organization that tends to Alaskan local and national parks. They perform duties such as restoring river bank restorations, planting native vegetation and revitalizing outdoor trails.
“The demo team members were not only open to playing a role in one of Alaska’s most treasured programs but also showed genuine interest in learning how the YEP program deeply impacts our community,” said Brenna Kruger, a YEP team leader.
During their time with the YEP members, the demo team took their hands off the F-16 Fighting Falcon and put their green thumb to the test by planting various tree saplings, such as black and white spruces and willows along the native trail.
“This opportunity allowed me to understand what’s important to the Alaskan people and to help them accomplish their goals,” said Senior Airman Christopher Welch, a PACAF F-16 demo team crew chief. “I also had the opportunity to share my dreams and how the Air Force enables me to achieve them.”
The team ended their day with a meet-and-greet session at a downtown concert, allowing locals to interact with the Airmen who make the F-16 demonstration possible.
“I enjoy inspiring people,” Welch said. “When we can get out and show the community that we are just normal people like them, it can motivate others to join the Air Force and be a part of something greater themselves.”