Seymour Salutes North Carolina with Wings Over Wayne

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  • By Maj. James Ladd
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The United States Air Force's largest fighter wing is Seymour Johnson Air Force Base with more than 5,000 military members and civilians, situated right in the middle of rural-oriented Goldsboro, a community full of great Americans.

The wing's proud heritage dates back to World War II when our brave Airmen flew alongside our British Allies as part of the historic "Eagle Squadrons" before the U.S. officially entered the war where the 4th Fighter Group was the leading unit in destroying the German Luftwaffe.

Since then, our performances in combat have outpaced every other unit in the Air Force. In the Korean War flying F-86s, we became the world's leading MiG killers, more than doubling other units' efforts. Our F-4 Phantom crews fought valiantly in the skies over North Vietnam. Then in 1990, we transitioned to our current aircraft, the mighty F-15E prior to Operation Desert Storm.

The 4th FW has been on constant deployment cycles to Southwest Asia since then -- more than 20 years of continuous combat. From the opening days of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, we have patrolled the skies overhead, providing devastating destruction, constant coverage and on-call close air support to U.S. and coalition ground forces.

Five months ago, we deployed the 336th Fighter Squadron with 800 Airmen to Afghanistan for another 6-month deployment where they will be flying close air support missions to protect coalition forces on the ground. As we prepare for their homecoming, we are also gearing up to launch the 335th Fighter Squadron for a deployment to Afghanistan.

The 2011 Wings Over Wayne Open House is the perfect opportunity for North Carolina to give a hero's welcome home to one squadron while fare-welling the other with the grandeur they deserve. We talk every day about protecting and saving our country's Soldiers and Marines, Sailors and Airmen-- and we walk the walk when it comes to answering our nation's call.

I became the director for the air show in August 2010, and since, have assembled a team of more than 200 Airmen and civilians for the monumental task of planning the biennial event. This Open House will be very different from previous events and it is my vision that this will be the biggest event North Carolina and possibly the entire East Coast of the U.S. experiences this year. We have prepared to open our gates and welcome more than 200,000 people in order to celebrate the homecoming and farewell of our heroes and allow all the people of North Carolina to witness an awesome display of airpower.

A world-class line-up of performers will be streaking overhead demonstrating the awesome firepower that our military is known for. The U.S. Thunderbirds and U.S. Golden Knights as well as our very own F-15E Strike Eagle Demonstration Team will dominate the show with support from many other performers. They include; "Tora, Tora, Tora" a WWII Pearl Harbor reenactment and heritage flight that honors our present and past warriors with a WWII and Korea era P-51 Mustang demonstration. To further honor our proud heritage, a 4-ship fly-by that includes an F-4 Phantom, A-10 Warthog and P-51 led by our current war horse- the F-15E will represent the archetypical iron that has flown in every combat operation from WWII to present day Afghanistan.

Aerial performances include the dog-fighting Cobra helicopters, the KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling of an F-15E, our heritage fight and much more! The combined arms demonstration is complete with an amazing synchronized pyrotechnic display involving air and ground forces from each service pays tribute to our current efforts supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in a combat search and rescue scenario that showcases the joint interoperability that resembles a typical air support mission our troops face every day in Afghanistan.

As if these aerial acts weren't enough to entice you to our show, we have a multitude of attractions on the ground that will appeal to all ages. We have a big band from the WWII era performing music for swing dancing bringing back those golden oldies. Ground displays will include military working dog demonstrations, Orange County Choppers, the USAF Monster Truck and Stealth Car and the USAF Honor Guard Drill Team from Washington, D.C. There will also be appearances by the reigning Mrs. North Carolina who will be available to meet guests and sign autographs. For the first time ever, there will be two music concerts by country superstars to be announced this month.

For our fledgling aviators we will have an elaborate and entertaining kid-zone with activities that span the entire interior of the largest hangar on the ramp complete with huge jumping castles, bungee jumping trampolines, flight simulators and a new act, the "Euro Ball" races. There will also be a wide variety of food and beverage concessions and souvenirs for purchase. Guests can meet pilots from virtually every walk of aviation and military service to welcome you to Seymour Johnson AFB. They have some fantastic war stories to tell and interesting facts about their aircraft.

Gates open to the public at 8 a.m. April 16-17. This year sets a new standard for Wings Over Wayne as we celebrate with our USO partners commemorate their 70th anniversary! The combination of aerial and ground entertainment will be an event to be remembered.

The public is encouraged to bring family and friends to this highly anticipated and free event as Seymour Johnson salutes North Carolina.

For more info about the air show, visit or call the 4th FW Public Affairs Office at (919) 722-0027.