By Mary James and Susan Wearly
On Wednesday, October 10th, the APA hosted twenty members at the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range East just south of Gila Bend to a morning of A-10 bombing maneuvers and personalized fly-bys. Air Force Public Affairs Specialist, Susan Gladstein, escorted us onto the range as a party of F-16's was finishing its morning run. We were given a thorough introduction by Susan as well as additional range history by a second military expert. The BMG Range, with all of its 1+ million acres, is considered a Department of Defense site where not only do our country's military branches practice, but governments from all over the world send their military here to train. The terrain and size make this range an ideal geographic & geologic venue that is similar to regions in the world where important military bases are located. Despite its vast size, only about 6% of the range is used for bombing practice, with the rest of the area protected in its natural, pristine desert state. The Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope is thriving here along with many other native species - flora and fauna alike. The Air Force has an extensive knowledge of the Native American peoples' settlements & gravesites and has protected the ancient pictographs & petroglyphs that are dotted throughout the million acres.
Jets arrived from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base south of Tucson and we watched and listened to their bombing results that were broadcast from the near-by tower. A result such as 1-6-4 meant that jet number 1's bomb landed 6 meters from the target at the 4 o'clock position. We saw one bull's-eye as the red dust plumed into the air - job well done! There were two parties on the range - the first were reserve pilots and the second was a party of active fighters. The active fighters used the south side of the range for missile practice which was exciting to see. The strafing field was not used as our recent monsoons had altered the terrain; hopefully we'll see these maneuvers on our next visit. Each party of jets personally greeted us with incredible fly-bys just before they roared off to the southeast to head back to base. Very impressive!
We have so much to be grateful for knowing that these brave and skilled men & women are serving and protecting our country. Thank you to these good individuals.
After our morning on the range, we returned to the Gila Bend Airport for a picnic lunch of tacos & tamales from Sofia's Mexican Restaurant. The sun was out and there was plenty of time for socializing. Our youngest visitor, Elliott Walker, was a fifth grader at Foothills Academy in North Scottsdale (near Cave Creek & Carefree) and Elliott was lucky enough to take the day off from school and enjoy this experience with his father, Brandon. I think it is safe to say that Elliott has about 19 new friends and perhaps he best friend is now Susan Gladstein, our tour director. APA members from Yuma, Tucson, Buckeye, and various parts of the Valley attended the day. We had 3 parties fly in to the airport. The next time anyone of us talks to the airport manager, Cory, please thank him as he prepared our picnic site and was very helpful in our preparations. And thank you to everyone who submitted excellent photographs - enjoy looking at them below.
We raised $300 after expenses and this entire amount was donated to the Air Force Charity Fund which will use our gift for a party for the families of deployed service men/women. This is the APA's way of saying Thank You.