WATERKLOOF AFB, South Africa — More than 130 U.S. military members were invited to demonstrate the air and ground capabilities of American forces as they partnered with the South African air force during the 2012 Africa Aerospace and Defense Exposition here, Sept. 22 and 23.
“This was a tremendous opportunity for the U.S. military to come work with our South African partners, demonstrate some of our capabilities, observe theirs and strengthen the relationship between our countries,” said Col. Robert Huston, mission commander for U.S. participation in the Africa Aerospace and Defense Exposition.
The South African and U.S. air forces have a long-lasting relationship that was highlighted by the partnership and cooperation between the nations during the event.
“The American military, being able to see our aircraft here, was worthwhile because the U.S. invests time and money into our pilots’ training,” said Lt. Col. Gerry J. Engelbrecht, 28th Squadron C-130BZ pilot and instructor. “When you watch our pilots fly, it is easy to see that the investment is being put to good use.”
The South African government also recognized this investment in their country and arranged for U.S. service members to participate in the Youth Development Program, which aims to inspire a new generation of aviators.
According to event coordinators, 3,000 children participated in the YDP over the weekend, and more than 100,000 visitors attended the event, which filled seven hangars with displays of more than 90 aircraft, land vehicles and watercraft.
The U.S. military static displays included an Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III from the 137th Airlift Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.; a KC- 135T Stratotanker from the 171st Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mount Clemens, Mich.; and a C-130J Super Hercules from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Cherry Point, N.C.
Ground vehicles included a M-1117 Armored Security Vehicle from the 442nd Military Police Company in Queens, N.Y.; and a M-1126 Stryker Armored fighter vehicle from B Co., 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry in Cambridge Springs, Pa.
“My favorite thing at the show is the Globemaster III because I’ve only seen them flying,” said Cameron, 9. “I’ve never been able to climb in them and I’ve never seen them on the ground.”
The air show offered entertainment for everyone, whether they were young or young at heart.
“The show was very enjoyable,” said air show attendee Zinda Ntembeko. “This is the best air show in the area.”
The exposition typically takes place every two years, but due to past runway renovations, event coordinators say this is the largest air show in this area within the last five years.
“The crowds loved seeing the bigger aircraft, taking photos with the U.S. military members and listening to the band,” Engelbrecht said.
The U.S. Air Forces in Europe band, Touch ‘N Go, performed four shows during the show days as well as three performances in communities across South Africa.
“I’m looking forward to the next time the American Air Force comes,” Cameron said.