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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

BARKSDALE DEFENDERS OF LIBERTY AIR SHOW

BAFB

Major Branden Yarrington is on his second tour of duty at Barksdale Air Force Base. In his eight years total at BAFB, his involvement in the Barksdale Defenders of Liberty Air Show has been limited to, well, no involvement.

“Only as a spectator,” Major Yarrington said. But one phone call last summer – a call that wasn’t even for him – changed that. “A buddy of mine was slotted to be the air show director,” Major Yarrington explained.

“He had worked it in years past. One day at lunch, he asked me if I would mind helping out. I said, ‘Sure.’ That was the extent of our conversation. That afternoon, he got a phone call that said he had been awarded another assignment to Key West (Florida). The Wing Commander said, ‘Cool. Congrats. Major Yarrington, you are now the air show director.’”

The results of Major Yarrington unexpectedly being thrown into the fire will be on display the weekend of March 25-26 from 11 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. Close to 20 performers are scheduled – highlighted by the United States Navy’s Blue Angels. Admission and parking are free, but paid reserved seating is available.

“The Blue Angels put on a fantastic show,” Major Yarrington said. “They’re an iconic air performing act. They’re a great recruiting tool Taglavore for the Navy, and I will even say the best recruiting tool the Air Force

has ever had. I say that jokingly, but they travel the circuit. You’ve got a lot of young kids and adults alike who look up and see the Blue Angels. Maybe they have a family tie to the Air Force, so that aviation piece drives them to the Air Force.”

The Barksdale Defenders of Liberty Air Show – which takes place every two years – will look and feel this year like it did before the pandemic. 2021’s event was a “drive-in” show; people had to watch the action from their cars.

“I know the community really missed being up close and personal with the aircraft and the vendors and the fair and all of the excitement from ground level,” Major Yarrington said. “One of our initial goals was how do we bring the community back to normal – to where the air show is in person, and everybody can talk with aviators and fellow aviation enthusiasts. They can talk about the planes they like. They can watch the show up close and personal. That was our big overall goal. How do we get the community to feel like this is their happy place, this is their normal, and bring back that level of excitement.”

In other words, “It will be a full-blown show,” Major Yarrington emphasized. To meet that goal, Major Yarrington and his planning team have ensured you won’t be limited to looking up to see planes.

“Some of the luxuries (of the return of a normal air show) include our static aircraft,” Major Yarrington said. “We’re bringing in a ton of civilian and military aircraft that will park on the ramp for people to walk up, touch and see – and ask questions of the pilots. All of our airmen will be excited and proud to talk about what they do.”

This year, a learning opportunity will indirectly relate to flying. “We’ve turned an entire hangar into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)- focused activities for young kids and old kids alike,” Major Yarrington said. “It’s going to be a really great opportunity for families and kids to come out and get a hands-on educational experience with folks like Sci-Port and our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (weather services). A lot of the local schools and universities and other organizations are going to be there with hands-on exhibits and crafts for the kids to enjoy.”

Because, after all, a child’s attention span can be short. “There’s only so much that young kids can be excited about,” Major Yarrington said. “Airplanes, after a while, they’ve seen one airplane they’ve seen them all. So we really wanted to make sure they could be entertained for the entirety of the show in an educational way that can really encourage them for the science, technology, engineering and math-type focuses.”

Planning for this year’s show began immediately after Major Yarrington, an electronic warfare officer, learned he would be in charge.

“From last summer on, you have frequent meetings,” Major Yarrington said. “Not every day, not every week, even. You just kind of get the big rocks done first. You figure out who all your performers are, who the key players are. You build your team. As each month ticks by, you start to dig in a little bit more and a little bit more. We went probably full-time air show back in November. I shed the rest of my responsibilities here on base with my other duties and have focused primarily on the air show.”

Major Yarrington got some help deciding which acts would perform at this year’s show. “You pick and choose who are the performers you want to include, as well as who are the performers you are given by the big Air Force, big DOD (Department of Defense), for your show. Once you have all your performers laid out, you start looking at timelines, events, requirements, fuel, support, logistics – the whole nine yards of how to set up the air show once you have the big rocks filled.”

Base officials expect 75,000-80,000 people to attend the event daily. Major Yarrington is urging you to carpool to make traffic as manageable as possible. And if you would like to watch the air acrobatics from a prime location, you can buy reserved seating online. As of this writing, prices began at $49 for adults and $41 for children ages 3-12.

“This is an opportunity for us to allow everybody in the local community to come in and see what we do,” Major Yarrington said. “We’re proud of all the work we put in, not only to the air show, but the B-52 mission and all the people who support it and work on base day-to-day. We want to make sure this is something that the community is open to and welcome to, and we kind of show them some of what we do day-to-day.”

To learn more about the Barksdale Defenders of Liberty Air Show, visit www.defendersoflibertyairshow.com.

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