BARKSDALE AFB, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Director of Barksdale’s 2023 Defenders of Liberty said he’d like to say it’s easy as Sunday morning, but there’s a lot that goes into making an airshow.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Major Branden Yarrington. “It’s really challenging in some areas, but man, when you see that first kid kind of do one of these and point at the sky and look up at the first airplane, it makes it all worth it. It’s great to have the public on the base and see what we do on a daily basis.”

From defying gravity to shattering glass ceilings, both on earth and in the sky, the men and women at Barksdale Air Force Base do not shy away from showing up and showing out.

Image: KTAL’s Jaelon Jackson.

“It’s really awesome to be able to defy the limits of gravity, and there’s only a handful of people in the world that really get to do that, so that is a huge privilege,” said MSgt John Lugo, USAF F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team superintendent. “They are the best of the best at what they do, and you will see that when you come out to airshows.”

Captain Aimee “Rebel” Fielder is both the Commander and a pilot in the F16 demonstration group. She says it’s exhilarating to be able to do what she does, and she hopes the show can inspire the next generation.

But not every member of the U.S. military flies airplanes or even works on the flight line. It takes men and women trained to be military police, public affairs specialists, engineers, mathematicians, and more to keep a military base operational.

To get this point across, Laurie Ilgenfritz, the Executive Director of Starbase Louisiana, took KTAL’s Jaelon Jackson on a tour of a place she called the Stem Zone.

Image: KTAL’s Jaelon Jackson.

“Starbase is a STEM education program on Barksdale,” said Ilgenfrizt. “We’re a Department of Defense program. We’ve worked with over 35,000 area students doing hands-on science technology engineering, science, and math.

Ilgenfrizt says there’s nothing that people see in an airshow that could happen without science, technology, engineering, and math.

“…What we want to do is show kids the beginnings of what leads to what they’re seeing out there,” said Ilgenfritz, referring to the hub of activity taking place on the flight line and the planes overhead.

Blue Angels at Barksdale AFB, 2023. Image: KTAL’s Brian Clevenger.

And though the stars of the weekend’s show, the Blue Angels, are not members of the U.S. Air Force, the sky is the common bond for those who know the wild of blue yonder and those who sail at break of day.

That bond between military forces is evident to civilians who gathered on the tarmac, too.

Brad Spears came from East Texas to see the Airshow. He says it’s always great to come out and support our nation’s Armed Forces.

Image: KTAL’s Jaelon Jackson.

“It’s just a great experience coming here to Barksdale,” said Linda Pickett,” and seeing what the service does for us here. And to celebrate them and thank them for their service.”

Barksdale Air Force Base’s Public Information Office says that they estimate around 160,000 visitors attended the airshow. The Air Operations Officer Capt. Thomas says the show was a great success.

“The air show team and I are so grateful to everyone who came out to enjoy the show and to all our Airmen that helped make it such a successful weekend. We exceeded capacity yesterday and got close again today. It would not have been possible without them. From the STEM Zone to the civilian solo performances, to the SEVEN demo teams, as one of the first airshows in the 2023 season, we have set the bar extremely high for our sister bases. 

Keep an eye out for our next show coming in 2025, we can’t wait to see you there!”