SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Hosting an open house and air show has many inherent risks. So how did Sheppard Air Force Base pull off the safest air show to date with little to no issues?
Sheppard’s open house and air show planning team began coordinating the 75th Anniversary Open House and Air Show event a year in advance to ensure they could put on an entertaining air show, while still remaining safe and keeping the public from harm.
During the event, Sheppard had an average of 77 medics, 31 firefighters, 171 police and five emergency management specialists standing by each day who were ready to react to any real-world contingency.
“This was, no doubt, the safest air show Sheppard’s had to date,” said Norm Yeingst, installation emergency management manager. “By safest, I don’t mean to imply we’ve had unsafe air shows in the past, but really that Sheppard has this unbelievable ability to improve our processes over time. During the show we had a fully stocked emergency operations center and countless other support folks like our police, firefighters, medical and public affairs teams that played a huge role in making sure we remained prepared and capable to react to any real-world emergency.”
For example, Tora Tora Tora’s Pearl Harbor reenactment involved setting the grass beside one of the active runways ablaze. This would pose a serious concern if it weren’t for the firefighters who were standing by at the scene to control and extinguish the flames and prevent a wild fire.
“We had a grass fire both days,” said Jeff Orf, Sheppard’s deputy fire chief. “We had anticipated it happening though and it really wasn’t an issue. We collaborated with our local Wichita Falls and Burkburnett fire departments to have extra brush trucks for the show. We had a matter of 15 minutes to extinguish the flames both days, and it was no challenge for us. We couldn’t have done it, however, without our Wichita Falls and Burkburnett partners.”
Hydration is another risk that’s easy to overlook during an air show. It’s easy for a spectator to pass out due to dehydration or exposure to heat for extended periods, but Sheppard’s medical team had several tents and a quick response team that ensured people were taken care of in a timely and efficient manner.
“We were ready,” said Tech. Sgt. Dianida Aguilar, a team lead for the air show medical operations. “It didn’t matter what it was, we were ready to move. The 82nd Medical Group had 77 Airmen at our various medical stations each day, and we even collaborated with the Wichita Falls Air Evac Lifeteam 34, Midwestern State University and Fort Sill providers in case we needed to get someone immediate emergency medical attention. Our team leads attended medevac training earlier this year to ensure we knew how to call in support. Altogether, our team did a great job of helping people who needed attention with timely expert medical treatment.”
Even Sheppard’s non-medical Airmen were prepared and provided prompt aid wherever needed. One Airman, Tech. Sgt. Brad Jones, caught one of the visitors and prevented her from sustaining potentially major injuries.
“I tripped over the F-16 Fighting Falcon ground sign and started to fall,” said a visitor from Waco, Texas. “But serviceman Brad Jones caught me and saved me from serious injury. I am very grateful for his quick action and kindness. I sustained some bruises and small laceration, but I’m convinced that my face would have struck the concrete had it not been for his help.”
It was all one big team effort that contributed to the success of Sheppard’s Air Show, Yeingst said. “There’s no other base that could have pulled off what we did this weekend,” he said. “It was incredible.”