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318 Forum: BARKSDALE DEFENDERS OF LIBERTY AIR SHOW

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

“Just as a spectator,” Major Yarington said. But a call last summer – a call that wasn’t even for him – changed that. “A mate of mine was appointed as airshow director,” explained Major Yarrington.

“He had been working on it for the past few years. One day at lunch he asked me if I would mind. I said, ‘Sure.’ That was the scope of our conversation. That afternoon he received a call saying he had another assignment to Key West, Florida. The wing commander said, “Cool. Congratulations. Major Yarington, you are now the Airshow Director.’”

The results of Major Yarrington, who was unexpectedly thrown into the fire, will be available to view over the weekend of March 25th and 26th from 11am to around 4pm. Nearly 20 artists are planned – highlighted by the Blue Angels of the United States Navy. Admission and parking are free, but paid reserved seating is available.

“The Blue Angels put on a fantastic show,” said Major Yarington. “They are an iconic air performance number. They are a great recruiting tool Taglavore for the Navy and I would even say the best recruiting tool in the Air Force

ever had. I say this jokingly, but they travel the rounds. There are many small children and adults looking up and seeing the Blue Angels. Maybe they have family ties to the Air Force, so the piece of aviation drives them to the Air Force.”

The Barksdale Defenders of Liberty Air Show, held every two years, this year will look and feel like it did before the pandemic. The 2021 event was a “drive-in” show; People had to watch what was happening from their cars.

“I know the community has really missed being able to get up close and personal with the aircraft and the vendors and the fair and all the excitement from the ground,” Major Yarington said. “One of our original goals was how to get the community back to normal—where the air show is in person and everyone can talk to aviators and other aviation enthusiasts. They can talk about the planes they like. You can follow the show up close. That was our overall goal. How can we make the community feel like this is their happy place, this is their normal, and bring back that level of excitement?

In other words, “It’s going to be a full blown show,” Major Yarrington pointed out. To achieve this goal, Major Yarington and his planning team made sure you don’t have to limit yourself to looking up to see planes.

“Some of the luxuries (of the return of a normal air show) involve our static aircraft,” Major Yarrington said. “We’re bringing in a ton of civilian and military planes that will be parked on the ramp for people to go up and touch and see – and ask the pilots questions. All of our fliers will be excited and proud to talk about their work.”

This year, one learning opportunity will have an indirect connection to flying. “We turned an entire hangar into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities – activities for young and old kids alike,” said Major Yarrington. “It’s going to be a really great opportunity for families and kids to get out and have hands-on educational experiences with the likes of Sci-Port and our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Weather Services). Many local schools and universities as well as other organizations will be there with hands-on exhibits and crafts for the children.”

After all, a child’s attention span can be short. “There is only a limited amount that young children can get excited about,” said Major Yarington. “Planes, after a while they saw one plane, they saw them all. So we really wanted to make sure they could be entertained throughout the show in an educational way that could really encourage them for science, technology, engineering and math majors.”

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

“You have been meeting frequently since last summer,” Major Yarington said. “Not every day, not even every week. You just finish the big stones first. You find out who all your performers are, who the main actors are. You build your team. With each month that goes by, you start digging in a little more and a little more. We were probably a full time air show in November. I have handed off the rest of my responsibilities here at the base with my other duties and mainly focused on the air show.”

Major Yarington got some help deciding which acts would perform on this year’s show. “You choose which performers you want to include and which performers you get from the big Air Force, the big DOD (Department of Defense) for your show. Once you’ve got all your performers lined up, you start looking at schedules, events, requirements, fuel, support, logistics – all that thirty feet of setting up the air show once you’ve filled the big rocks.”

Base officials expect 75,000 to 80,000 people to attend the event each day. Major Yarington urges you to carpool to make traffic as manageable as possible. And if you want to watch the aerial acrobatics from a prime location, you can buy reserved seats online. As of this writing, prices started at $49 for adults and $41 for children ages 3-12.

“This is an opportunity for us to allow everyone in the local community to come in and see what we’re doing,” said Major Yarington. “We’re proud of all the work we’ve done, not just for the air show but for the B-52 mission and all the people who support it and work on the base every day. We want to make sure the community is open and welcoming to that, and we’re showing them some of what we do every day.”

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

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