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Thunderbirds airshow

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron ‘Thunderbirds’ conduct a practice performance last month at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

For much of 2020, an air show at Rosecrans Memorial Airport seemed about as likely as an Army tank doing barrel rolls in the sky.

But here we are with a Chamber of Commerce forecast for the first weekend of May and two days of high-flying performances on the calendar. All eyes will be on the skies for the Sound of Speed Airshow, and indeed they should be.

Those who look up will enjoy the power and precession of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the featured performer at the two-day event that begins Saturday. Those who attend should take a moment, however, not only to appreciate the acrobatics in the sky but also to contemplate all that it took to make this event possible.

Start with the city, the county, the Missouri Air National Guard and the 139th Airlift Wing for the planning that was necessary to get this event off the ground when a pandemic is still among us. It won’t be quite the same as the air show two years ago, which drew about 70,000 over two days, but it’s happening and that’s an accomplishment.

Also, those Air Force pilots and private aviators put in hours and hours of training before they perform.

Finally, don’t forget that the value of Rosecrans Memorial Airport and the Air National Guard continues long after the F-16 Fighting Falcons fade into the horizon. With more than 1,000 employees, the 139th Airlift Wing is now one of the 10 largest employers in St. Joseph.

Following the 1993 flood, funding for Missouri River levee improvements became a priority in order to protect the base and facilitate future growth. Those efforts are beginning to pay off.

More good news came from Jefferson City this year when the General Assembly — with key support from our local delegation — passed Senate Bill 2, which counts part-time Guard members at the base toward Missouri Works tax credits. This might sound like an accounting move, but it could pay off down the road when the time comes to assign new military units to bases across the country.

This week’s show will be spectacular, we’re sure, but the daily work that makes Rosecrans and the base successful is something that’s equally impressive.

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