MADISON, Wis. --
The Wisconsin National Guard howitzers that fire powder charges and the F-16 Falcon fighter jets that fly overhead during the National Anthem at the annual Rhythm and Booms celebration at Madison's Warner Park are more than just show - they are a tangible reminder of the assets, capabilities and missions found in National Guard units in communities across Wisconsin.
"These are real howitzers," Command Sgt. Maj. James Ward of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery explained to Mike and Casey McCabe of Madison, Wis., in response to their questions about the four 105-mm cannons lined up at Warner Park June 30. "These are what we would take overseas to war, if needed."
The 115th Fighter Wing also hosted approximately 180 local civic and business leaders and their families at the Wisconsin Air National Guard base in Madison during Rhythm and Booms.
"This is our first event recognizing the Badger Air Community Council, an independent community council that's standing up to support the 115th Fighter Wing Airmen," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Brandemuehl, 115th commander. "It's a great way to demonstrate to local civic leaders and leaders in the community what we have here at the fighter wing - our capabilities, what our mission is, what our people do, and the impact we have on the community."
Among the prominent local business leaders behind the Badger Air Community Council, Brandemuehl said, are Pat Richter, Dave Anderson, Marv Siegert and Dave Lenz. Richter supported the annual Military Achievement Awards when he was an executive with Oscar Mayer Foods, and Lenz retired as a major in the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 176th Tactical Fighter Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 115th Fighter Wing.
"We're trying to show them behind the scenes what goes on - what goes into a fly-by, what goes into an event like this - that there's a lot more behind it than just the jets flying over," Brandemuehl continued. "There's usually about 40 Airmen when you talk about the maintenance side of the house, just to get the jets airborne. It also gives them a slice of what we do on a daily basis Monday through Friday as well."
The event included static displays of an F-16 jet, inert munitions, an F-16 flight simulator, and chairs and sound system for watching the fireworks.
"It's a good way to educate the local people on what an F-16 is," said Maj. Tim Dyer, "and also the munitions we use when we deploy to a foreign location as far as our missions are concerned."
Maj. Mike Palmer, who with Dyer helped organize the event at the 115th Fighter Wing, said the unit was putting greater emphasis on telling its story to the community.
"If you look at the role we play and how efficient we do the job, we're trying to tell that story to the rest of the world," Palmer said. "We know times are tough right now and money's tight, and we think we have a very efficient, highly educated group of people that we want to see continue forward into the future to keep the base open and defend our country at an efficient cost."
"This is our way of showing gratitude for their support," Dyer said.
Back at Warner Park, the public also demonstrated its appreciation for the Wisconsin National Guard, as handshakes and "Thank you for your service" became a common refrain heard near the howitzers.
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