Chief of National Guard Bureau begins Thunder air show with mass re-enlistment ceremony

Story by Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, swears in 20 Soldiers and Airmen from the Kentucky National Guard during a re-enlistment ceremony on the Clark Memorial Bridge in downtown Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. The event, televised live, kicked off the 2015 Thunder Over Louisville air show. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 2015 Thunder Over Louisville air show began Saturday with a barrage of canon fire executed by the Kentucky National Guard’s 138th Field Artillery Brigade and a mass re-enlistment ceremony for 20 Kentucky Guardsmen led by Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Senior Airman Lindsey Horton, a recruiting assistant in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Force Support Squadron, said it was a great honor to be sworn in by the nation’s top National Guard officer on live television.

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Senior Airman Lindsey Horton, a recruiting assistant in the Kentucky Air National Guard, takes the oath of enlistment during a mass swearing-in ceremony on the Clark Memorial Bridge in downtown Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. The ceremony, which kicked off the Thunder Over Louisville air show, was led by Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

“Serving in the Air National Guard is something that I take a lot of pride in,” Horton said. “I’ve really taken the Air Force Core Values of service, integrity and excellence to heart, so being able to reaffirm my commitment to them with Gen. Grass was a great experience.”

Grass, who also serves on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as one of seven military advisors to the president of the United States, thanked Horton and the other troops for their continued service, calling their dedication to duty a “phenomenal act.”

Earlier in the day, Grass toured the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville to learn more about the missions of the 123rd Airlift Wing, which include tactical airlift, contingency response, and special tactics capabilities like combat control and pararescue.

One of the highlights of the air show was a tribute to Col. Gail Halvorsen, a retired C-54 pilot who became famous when he originated the idea of air-dropping small bundles of chocolate to the children of West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. What began with Halvorsen’s small act of kindness eventually grew to include hundreds of American Airmen and more than 21 tons of candy.

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Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, speaks to Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Fulkerson from the Kentucky Army National Guard after a mass swearing-in ceremony on the Clark Memorial Bridge in downtown Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. Grass administered the oath of enlistment during the ceremony, which kicked off the Thunder Over Louisville air show. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

In honor of Halvorsen, who became known as the Berlin Candy Bomber and was guest of honor at this year’s show, a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules air-dropped two simulated bundles of candy over the Ohio River before a crowd of more than 650,000 spectators.

Other highlights of the air show included performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration squadron, the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team and the U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier Demonstration Team.