Inaugural military day to be held at Reno Air Races

Ulimited Class racer 'Strega' takes off to qualify.

Ulimited Class racer 'Strega' takes off to qualify.

The Reno Air Racing Association and the armed forces in Northern Nevada have teamed up this year for military day at this year’s air races at the Reno-Stead Airport.

To learn more about the function of Naval Air Station Fallon and the training provided over the Nevada desert, both the air race director and chief operating officer for the Reno Air Racing Association and the media recently visited the sprawling base to learn more about its operations and to promote military-day activities on Saturday which begins at 7 a.m.

Capt. David Halloran, commanding officer of NAS Fallon, and base spokesman Zip Upham presented an overview of the air station’s history and the role of the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center in training visiting air wings before they deploy overseas.

Halloran explained to RARA director Joey Scolari and COO Tony Longoteta the different steps a carrier air wing undergoes in ramping up for its deployment aboard an aircraft carrier. Carrier Air Wing 2 from NAS Lemoore is currently training at the air station. When the full air wing trains at NAS Fallon, Upham said the base’s population increases by about 2,000 sailors.

“This is the Ph.D of their training prior to their deployment,” Halloran said.

During training, he said pilots practice their warfighting skills over the Nevada desert. Once the air wing finishes its training, Halloran said the pilots then practice their takeoffs from their assigned aircraft carrier to one of the bombing ranges like NAS El Centro (California) or NAS Fallon if the carrier is sailing along the Northern California coast.

“They are training at their maximum before the actual deployment,” Halloran added.

Jessica Sanders Walker, RARA’s military liaison whose husband is a pilot at NAS Fallon, said RARA is preparing for its inaugural military day at the National Championship Air Races.

“We have disseminated over 1,500 tickets to military installations, Honor Flight Nevada and disabled veterans,” she said.

Walker added RARA also handed out tickets to the Nevada Air and Army National Guard, the U.S. Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport, Calif., and chambers of commerce in Fallon and Fernley.

At the end of the day at 5 p.m., she said the Bama Girls troupe will perform a high-energy USO-type program that begins with World War II tunes and progresses to music sung at their current shows. Former Miss Alabamas comprise the troupe, which has performed over the years at Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan and Panama.

“The Bama Girls were able to come out, and we were able to get sponsors to disseminate 1,500 tickets,” Walker said. “The Reno Air Races definitely wanted to honor our military in Northern Nevada.”

Sponsors include the city of Fallon, CamGuard, Spencer Aircraft Supply, Disabled American Veterans’ Reno chapter and the Not New Shop at NAS Fallon. The Bama Girls will recognize the Tuskegee airmen and all of the military installations on stage, Walker added.

Because the air wing is conducting back-to-back deployments and was not able to enjoy any USO show while on its first deployment, Walker said the air station will shuttle the aviators and their support crews on shuttle buses to the Stead airport. Walker said she saw this as a perfect opportunity for the air wing to enjoy some R & R (rest and recreation).

The different military services will also display their aircraft including the C-130 transport plane, the C-17 Globemaster, AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, A10 Thunderbolt II and various helicopters.

“There’s no community like the aviation community,” she said.

Both Scolari and Longoteta said they were impressed with what they learned about the air station.

“There’s not enough we can do to show our appreciation for the military and what they do,” Longoteta said. “We are honored to dedicate a day to the military.”

He said NAS Fallon is bringing many servicemen and women to the air races this year, so he and Scolari wanted to see the air station and how it operates. Although this is the first time RARA has distributed hundreds of tickets, Longoteta said NAS Fallon has provided aircraft for the static display. At previous air shows, the Navy’s Blue Angels have entertained thousands of air-race fans.

“They bring military aircraft out from Fallon every year for our display,” he said. “Everyone loves seeing the military aircraft.”


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