JBLM’s airshow soars to 80,000 visitors

By Pamela Sleezer, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs on July 20, 2023

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD - More than 80,000 people attended the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Airshow & Warrior Expo on McChord Field July 15-16 and took in a large variety of military vehicle displays and breathtaking aerial maneuvers. The airshow featured the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds as the marque performer for JBLM's first airshow in seven years.

"The joint-team on JBLM has been working hard for over a year and a half to make this event happen," said Col. Kent Park, JBLM commander. "While incredibly challenging, we all knew how important it was for us to thank the local community for their support and to give them an opportunity to meet, up close and personal, their Army and Air Force. Overall, it was extremely rewarding to see such a great turn out and the enthusiasm everyone brought to the event."

The event offered something for everyone in its lineup that allowed visitors to get an up-close view of some of the aircraft performing demonstrations in the show, like JBLM's own C-17 West Coast Demonstration Team and helicopters from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. Joining them was the Tora! Tora! Tora! WWII aircraft historical reenactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and several other civilian aerial performances.

Warrant Officer Harry Perrera, with the Royal Canadian Air Force, participated in the show by bringing in a Lockheed CP-140 Aurora for families to climb aboard.

"We were invited to come be a part of this show, and we are really happy to be here," Perrera said. "The hospitality we have experienced has been great and it is always fun to see people's reactions as they walk through (the aircraft)."

Visitors also got the chance to step into the role as a soldier or airman by climbing into military vehicles and putting on tactical gear.

"I was a little worried about the crowd and everything before coming (July 16)," visitor Kiersten Mitchell said. "But my son really wanted to come and I'm glad we did. We had a great time."

As part of the "Meet Your Military" design of the event, people not only got to see military equipment, they were able to speak directly with the service members about their jobs and what they do. Hearing it first hand, helped more than 500 recruitable-aged visitors sign with the armed forces recruiters at the airshow for future appointments.

Park said, like every, major public event with thousands of people attending, problems are going to arise. On both days, long delays through security checkpoints and backups transporting people on base caused some people to turn away.

"Without a doubt, it was challenging to bring in so many people in such a short amount of time in a safe and secure manner," Park said. "Fortunately, with proper planning and a whole lot of patience from the visitors, we were able to pull it off without any major incidents. We know there were issues with traffic and the long lines, and we are conducting a thorough review of our process to improve all aspects of the JBLM Airshow & Warrior Expo for the next time."