By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
The public is getting an opportunity to visit the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station for a special evening of free entertainment. It’s also a chance to see the air base itself, a key part of Western New York’s ongoing history of military service.
The 914th Air Refueling Wing will host a free concert from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, at the air base. The concert celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Air Force Reserve, which has had a presence at the Falls facility for over 50 years.
The United States Air Force Heritage of America Band will present Rhythm in Blue, the unit’s dynamic jazz ensemble, as the featured performer.
“This group presents exciting and uplifting music to inspire patriotism and tell the Air Force story,” according to the press release from the base.
The group consists of 18 musicians and a sound engineer. Members are based in Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
The concert will be open to the public; however, seating is limited, and only those with tickets will be allowed access to the installation and event site. For ticket information, go to www.NiagaraFSS.com.
The concert will take place on the lawn of the Col. John Moriarty Memorial Air Park on base. Rhythm in Blue will also be the opening act of the Lewiston Jazz Festival on Friday, Aug. 25.
Air Refueling Wing Chief of Service Michael Williams said the 75th anniversary event gives the base an opportunity to publicly recognize the major milestone while also honoring the entire Western New York military community, past and present.
He said the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is the last remaining federal military installation in New York state.
“Only a few miles away we have the Buffalo Navy Operational Support Center and two Coast Guard stations,” he added.
“The band that is coming to play the event here, and each and every show that they do, regardless of whether it’s at an Air Force installation or in a local community, they play a musical tribute to all of the services and all of the armed forces,” Williams said. “We felt that, based on the strong military presence from all the services in Western New York, that it would be appropriate if we not only called it the 75th celebration, but also a salute to the entire armed forces.”
Williams summed up the varied services of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which he said they refer to as “Team Niagara.”
“We have the Air Force Reserve Unit, the 914th; we have a New York Air Guard Unit, the 107th; we have multiple Army units that are on the station, both Army Guard and Army Reserve; and we also have the Military Entrance Processing Facility for all of the military personnel in Western New York that join the military. So, we have kind of a broad, impressive footprint here,” he explained.
“The Air Force Reserve is a KC-135 air refueler, part of the network that keeps planes up in the air around the world.”
He noted the 107th has a drone mission, and the Army Guard and Army Reserve are units that help support any kind of local disaster or emergency that takes place – including the blizzard that took place over the Christmas holidays – as well as serving to help across New York state.
Williams said the public has always been supportive of the air base here. He also praised the Niagara Military Affairs Council that works on behalf of the base and ensuring its future in Western New York.
Preceding the concert will be a special Retiree Affairs Day. The goal is to bring as many area military retirees as possible to the base to learn from various service providers about the benefits the retirees are eligible to receive.
The motto of the celebration is: “75 Years of Combat-Proven Readiness for the Air Force Reserves ...Transforming for the Future.”
Other key points Williams wanted to stress:
•The Air Force Reserve has completed the mission in every U.S. conflict for the past 75 years.
“We are always ready to assure victory for our nation in the future,” he said.
•The Air Force needs the Air Force Reserve “to fortify the capability to fly, fight and win; anytime, anywhere.”