ATLANTA – While the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve competed for recruits in Hometown USA this year, two military air show performers brought their recruiting rivalry to the nation’s air shows.
Air Guard sponsored aerobatic pilot Maj. John Klatt and Air Force Reserve sponsored jet car driver retired Master Sgt. Bill Braack said their air show runway race, Oct. 18, 2008, on Dobbins Air Reserve Base is a friendly rivalry that encourages both Guard and Reserve service.
“It’s entertainment, and it’s also great visibility for the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard,” said Klatt, a Minnesota Air Guard pilot.
Braack and Klatt have been racing each other at air shows for several years. Hundreds of thousands have seen them perform.
Klatt flies a 330 horsepower, carbon-fiber stunt plane, with a colorful red, white and blue Air Guard paint scheme. His aircraft can reach speeds of 250 mph.
During his 10-minute routine of death-defying flips, barrel rolls, and loops, Klatt speaks to the crowd about Air Guard service.
Braack drives the 10,000 horsepower jet car to speeds reaching 400 mph. He said he plays in front of the crowd as he makes his way to the end of the runway. Smoke and fire from the jet car’s exhaust draw the crowd’s attention to the car’s grey, blue and silver Air Force Reserve paint scheme.
“It’s show business; we hype it up certainly and have some fun with the Guard vs. Reserve,” said Braack.
To further build the patron’s excitement, the performers sometimes act like professional wrestlers before a match.
“That car belongs at the monster truck pulls, not on a runway,” Klatt jested spectators during his performance as Braack drove down the Dobbins’ flight line.
Diving from above, Klatt buzzed Braack and then circled around to race him. With Klatt and his plane inverted over the jet car, Braack hit the throttle for an eight-second, 0 to 380 mph ride. As they crossed before the crowd, Braack let his parachute out ending the race. Both performers said the Air Force won.
“It’s really all about promoting the total Air Force for our air show recruiters,” said Klatt.
“It secures a tighter bond,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kelly Smith, the Air Guard’s superintendent of marketing, who was recruiting at the air show. “That kind of playing off each other creates more awareness about the reserve components of the Air Force.”
Smith said her mobile recruiting team joins Klatt and his team at air shows to support state recruiting efforts. More then a dozen Georgia Air Guard recruiters were on the Dobbins’ flight line where they spoke to potential recruits from the Air Guard’s mobile recruiting station. Klatt also took time to sign autographs there.
“When we set up at an air show like this, our whole goal is to tell the Air Guard story,” said Smith. “The Georgia recruiters are out here generating the leads to do that.”
Braack said the Air Force Reserve’s air show program he works with demonstrates that air show performances and recruiters are critical to generating recruiting leads.
“With the thousands that come through our displays each weekend, our recruiters will end up with a bunch of leads that fill positions here or abroad,” said Braack.
Klatt said the Air Force Reserve and the Air Guard, over the last five years, have really seen the value in marketing at air shows to generate leads. To have a presence is critical to all armed forces, he said.
“I think it helps us tremendously,” said Master Sgt. Michael Mores Jr., a recruiting office supervisor for the Georgia Air Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. “One of the most challenging things about Air Guard recruiting is just getting the awareness out there.”
Mores and other Georgia Guard recruiters canvassed the air show crowd, carrying T-shirts and hats and spoke to people about the Air Guard. Their efforts generated nearly 250 recruiting leads in one day.
“Working a big air show and having John Klatt perform here helps us out a great deal,” said Mores.