KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The 403rd Wing Family Day celebration took place May 14 with more than 1,000 people in attendance at the fuel cell hangar here.
The wing had not held this event since spring of 2019, before the COVID-19 Pandemic began in early 2020.
"The last two years have been a challenge so this is such an amazing opportunity to be able to get together with our Airmen and families, enjoy each other's company, and just have a good time," said Chief Master Sgt. Barbara J. Gilmore, 403rd Wing Command chief.
Col. Stuart M. Rubio, 403rd Wing commander, agreed.
“We’re very excited to come together like this,” he said. “It’s extremely important to me that we honor our families for everything they do to support our Airmen and their service.”
Adjacent to the fuel cell hangar, where Airmen and their families gathered in the shade, were static displays of an 815th Airlift Squadron “Flying Jennies” C-130J Super Hercules aircraft plus a 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” WC-130J with a new glossy paint scheme featuring the “weather” tail flash.
Guests could tour both aircraft and talk to aircrew about the equipment capabilities, missions, and the skills required of each crew member.
“We get to showcase some of the aspects of our mission to our families at this event,” said the wing commander. “It’s a lot of fun, especially for the kids.”
Fun activities included: corn hole toss games, musical chairs, face painting, chalk drawing, hula hoops, crayon coloring, and more. Burgers came hot off the grill and hot dogs were garnished with condiments, while salads, chips, desserts, snow cones, soda, and beer were available as well.
As a father, Staff Sgt. Michael Rothert, a 403rd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, said he was stunned that his three teens wanted to attend, and surprised by how much they enjoyed it.
“The thing they liked the most was tossing Frisbees on the flight line,” Rothert said. “My kids also got a kick out of the corn hole competition.”
Rothert’s daughter had another surprise for her parents after attending the 403rd Wing Family Day.
“As far as I knew, she had zero interest in joining the military, but she just told me she is now considering military service after talking to Airmen at the event,” Rothert said.
As the celebration went on, anticipation grew for the “pie in the face” fundraiser event to benefit the Rising 6 group to advance the professional development of 403rd Wing Airmen from E-1s to E-6s. This messy occasion capped the Family Day celebration and among the recipients were the 403rd Mission Support Group Superintendent Chief Master Sgt. Larry Anderson and the wing commander too.
Despite the pie in the face, Rubio was quite happy with the return of Family Day to the 403rd Wing and said it came together even better than his high expectations for the event.
“There are smiles on a lot of faces here,” he said. “We work extremely hard in the 403rd Wing to execute our diverse missions. It’s been awesome to take a few hours to relax and have fun with our families and fellow Airmen.”