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167th Airlift Wing base to hold open house at air show

December 15, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Before the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army's Golden Knights spread their wings over Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport next September, there will be even more to see on the ground at the Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing base.

"(With) the $285 million worth of military construction, we have basically a brand new base to show the world and that's what we're looking forward to doing," Col. Roger L. Nye, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing said Tuesday.

The prestigious military acts, which are scheduled to headline the "Thunder Over the Blue" air show Sept. 4 and 5, actually are coinciding with an open house that Nye said the public deserves.

"We've come through about five years of construction and conversion, from the C-130 to the C-5," Nye said.

"During that time, we basically had to close our gates because of safety reasons ... we're now close enough to being finished that it's time for us to open our gates to show our world and show the community what we've been doing here."

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The last hangar of the sprawling project is expected to be completed by next spring and an avionics shop for Airlift Wing is on track to be completed by fall 2010, but construction of a taxiway is not expected to begin until about the time of the air show and open house, Nye said.

The latter project could prompt some adjustments to where the air show is staged at the base, Nye said.

The Airlift Wing also hopes to build new facilities for administration and security/military police, Nye said.

Like previous air shows at the airport in recent years, the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle will be the beneficiary of the event, Nye said.

United Way also will act as the fiscal agent for the show, which is being modeled after shows that have been held by Rhode Island National Guard for 20 years, Nye said.

"We do not have a final lineup. Right now, we're waiting for some (corporate) sponsorships to roll in so that we can book acts," Nye said.

"We're not going to commit to any acts ... we're not going to ask the United Way to promise a single dollar until we have that in United Way's pocket ready to pay it out to do the show," Nye said.

Nye said they hope to announce a complete lineup in a couple of months.

"One of the things I said when I took command (of the Airlift Wing two and half years ago) was, 'I want to have an air show, I want to open the gates as soon as we can and allow the community to come in and see our base and give them something for their support through the years,'" Nye said.

There are about 1,200 people assigned to Airlift Wing, including about 700 traditional Guard members, Nye said.

"Anymore, the Guard is not two days a month and 15 days out of the year, it is a lot more than that ..." Nye said of the members' additional service.

Currently, there are five Guard members deployed overseas at five different locations, Nye said.

There are 11 C-5A planes stationed at the airport.

"Our goal is 16 C-5Ms," said Nye of an upgraded model of the aircraft.

"They are redefining the way the C-5 is flown in this nation," Nye said. "Where it takes us about six days (in a C-5A) to get to the desert and back, the C-5M is able to take off out of Dover (Air Force Base), land in Baghdad on that one hop and turn around and come back the next day ... so it's much more capable."

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