JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —
Imagine for a moment your favorite television show. Every show has a few stars that everyone knows, but there are many others like the extras, set designers, camera crew, script writers and director, who are needed make the show happen.
The Power in the Pines Open House and Air Show at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is just the same. Every two years, dozens of aircraft and more than 250,000 visitors will flood Joint Base MDL for the biggest air show in New Jersey. While the fighter jets and stunning performances are exciting, the pilots and aircraft don’t get off the ground without the support of the entire base.
The 87th Civil Engineer Group and the 87th Force Support Squadron support the air show behind the scenes to provide services to all visitors, so the performers, service members and the public have a fun, safe experience.
If Joint Base MDL is a TV studio, then the Airmen of the 87th CEG are the set designers. They begin work early before the air show to map the services and entertainment across the base.
“Planning starts at least six months out. We layout all the stanchions, facilities, bubblers for people to get water out of and tents,” said 2nd Lt. Meredith Reisinger, general engineer and air show point of contact for the 87th Civil Engineer Squadron.
Members of the 87th CES also help plan the layout of aircraft displays and parking lots for the public. With 250,000 people expected on a base that normally holds 50,000 at a time, it is important to plan where all of them will go and how they will move around. The squadron’s engineering assistants create maps of the base that depict meticulous details like individual aircraft, facilities and water stations to make sure the crowds will be comfortable for the day-long experience.
“We bring the maps to the planning meetings and different entities all over the base discuss the map, making changes. Everything is fluid up until the day before,” said Reisinger.
The structure shop of the 87th CES then creates signs and stanchions that will communicate to guests where to go over the air show weekend. They make sure the audience gets the most out of the air show by providing them with everything they need in one place.
While the 87th CEG builds the set, the 87th FSS acts as the casting department by booking the performers and food vendors and organizing their lodging at the on-base hotel.
"All the performers, whoever is coming, we make sure they have a room to stay in,” said Jamal Alexander, the Reservations Department lead of the All American Inn.
“It takes a lot because we’ve blocked over 400 rooms and then some of those people need to be switched out… We also just make sure everything is organized,” said Alexander.
Both the 87th CEG and the 87th FSS teams work until the show is over.
“I’m excited to see all this planning – months of planning – come to fruition. There is a lot that goes into it and a lot of moving parts from all different people on base,” said Reisinger.
The 87th CEG and 87th FSS fill roles for the air show that most people don’t think about but are vitally important to the weekend’s success. Without the services and lodging that they provide, the acts and guests would not be able perform or enjoy the show. Thanks to them, the stage has been set; now everyone is just waiting for the director to call, “ACTION!”