MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. -- For what might seem like an eternity thus far in 2020, medical personnel, healthcare workers and essential personnel have been fighting around-the-clock against a faceless enemy, COVID-19. On Wednesday, 13 May, the 934th Airlift Wing along with the Minnesota National Guard’s 133rd Airlift Wing flew statewide flyovers in recognition of those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic response as part of Operation American Resolve.
“We are proud to extend our gratitude across Minnesota and honor those who have been working non-stop to keep our community safe by thanking them with this series of flyovers,” said Col. Chris Lay, 934th Airlift Wing commander. “Together with our Air National Guard partners, we want Minnesotans to know that this American Resolve is a tribute to the spirit instilled within our Nation and we will prevail beyond this difficult time.”
The flyover included a two-ship formation of C-130 Hercules aircraft; one from Air Force Reserve Command’s 934 AW and one from the ANG’s 133 AW.
“Today was awesome because being in the military you get a lot of support from the civilian side,” said Capt. Alisha Stewart, C-130 navigator with the 96th Airlift Squadron. “When we come back from a deployment, people are always at the airport to greet us when we get home. It was nice for once to give that support back. We got to be the ones saying thank you to all the medical personnel out there fighting the fight. Essentially, they are in the middle of their own war, so we kind of know what that is like. It was nice to come out here and say thanks,”
The flyovers were part of a statewide effort to recognize health care workers, emergency responders, food industry and other essential workers throughout the state that have done their part to keep the state functioning during the current stay at home order.
“Our crews must fly regularly to maintain their proficiency,” said Col. James Cleet, 133rd Airlift Wing Commander, “This is an outstanding way to both train our aircrew and to recognize those in our community that are on the frontline working hard for the citizens of Minnesota.”
The flyovers were also part of a larger Air Force movement to honor and show the Department of Defense’s respect to all front-line workers across the nation during this challenging time.
During his 10 years in the Air Force, Capt. Mike McFadden, 96th Airlift Squadron pilot, has experienced multiple situations while deployed and throughout his military career, but today’s flyover was a new experience for him.
“Never done anything like this before,” McFadden said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before, either. It’s good to give back and show we are all in this together.”
America Strong flyovers are a way for the U.S. Air Force to demonstrate continued readiness during the national COVID-19 response, while saluting and showing appreciation to the thousands of American heroes who are at the forefront in our fight against COVID-19. The flyovers are also intended to lift morale in cities across America due to the severe health and economic impacts that have resulted from COVID-19.
These flyovers are fully functional training missions, designed to maintain the lethality and readiness of Air Force pilots and maintainers while being conducted at no additional cost to taxpayers by being incorporated into existing flying schedules.