There will be A-10s equipped with seven-barrel Gatling guns flying low and close, manned by pilots showing the crowd battle maneuvers and how they get jets in and out of areas near the front lines quickly.
There will be F-16s, which will be loud, and there will be F-22s flown by pilots who’ll show the stealth, strength and maneuvering capabilities of the Air Force’s newest fighter aircrafts.
There will be acrobatic planes, too. Some that go 250 mph in a dive and can reach up to 10 Gs – a force the human body isn’t really built to withstand for long periods of time.
And amid all this – the jets taking off and landing, the noise, the music, the pyrotechnics – there will be recruiters.
Make no mistake, the 2012 Fort Wayne Air Show hosted by the Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing today through Sunday will provide the entertainment for aviation enthusiasts and fans alike.
But it will also let officials at the base show off what they do for those who might be seeking a career in the Guard.
It’ll be our biggest recruiting chance in probably a decade, said Tech. Sgt. Kallan Slater, the base’s recruiting office supervisor.
The last air show at the base was in the late 1990s, according to Slater.
That one was not as extensive as what’s expected this weekend, with various jets, parachutists, barnstorming planes and helicopters slated to make appearances.
Along with the Guard’s, recruiters from every branch of the military will be on hand, Slater said.
It’s a great opportunity to tell our story, he said.
And telling that story is what gets some future pilots, mechanics and support staff in the door.
Growing up in North Carolina, the now middle-aged David Kicklighter got hooked on flying when he visited an Air Guard base near Charlotte as a 10-year-old.
He eventually became a civilian pilot, then flew helicopters for the Army and now works with Lt. Col. John Klatt, an aerobatic performer featured this weekend.
Once he got the bug to fly, air shows only heightened his interest.
Oh, I remember going to air shows as a kid, Kicklighter said. Air shows are a big part of (becoming a pilot) for some people in families that maybe aren’t really that into aviation.
Klatt at one time spurred the military to use air shows as recruiting tools.
A pilot who has flown in combat, air support and humanitarian missions for the Air Guard, Klatt has been a full-time air show pilot for about 12 years.
During a show about a decade ago at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Klatt ran into recruiters who were tucked away in a hangar, far from being right in front of the public.
He was soon pitching ideas to the military on how to become more visible, and getting recruiters front and center at events like air shows was a much needed change.
I think honestly, the military in general over the last decade has taken notice of the alternative ways to reach their demographic, Klatt said, noting that military ads are now highly visibly at air shows and other events like motocross competitions.
The kids, if you will, are in different areas than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago, Klatt continued. An air show is one of those venues that is a rich environment to reach young people.
Kicklighter and Klatt said they’ve both met and heard from people who’ve become interested in joining the military after one of their air shows. And while they acknowledge that few people in the world become pilots, those pilots need support staff on the ground.
You can’t do the job without the team holding you up, Kicklighter said.
Still, wanting to fly or wanting to work on planes in some way is not the only reason to join the Air Guard, Slater said.
Recruits could be called to deploy overseas or be called to do disaster work in the wake of a hurricane.
You’ve got to be ready and you’ve got make sure you’re joining for the right reasons, according to Slater.
It’s like a relationship, he said. If you go in for the wrong reasons, it probably won’t work out well.
So that’s why Slater said when he and his staff meet with potential recruits, they’ll show them around the base.
They’ll ask potential recruits what they want to get out of the Guard.
And more importantly, they’ll do way more listening than talking.
It’s something they’re going to do much of this weekend – amid the noise of engines, of pyrotechnic blasts and the cheers of a hopefully large crowd.