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NEWS | Sept. 1, 2023

Guardians of Freedom Air Show returns with record attendance

By 155th ARW Public Affairs 155th Air Refueling Wing

The Guardians of Freedom Airshow returned to the Lincoln Airport for the first time since 2016 with a record number of attendees August 26-27, 2023.

An estimated two-day crowd of more than 350,000 saw the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team, hit speeds of more than 700 miles per hour and execute a number of formations, rolls, and turns in their distinctive blue and yellow F/A-18E Super Hornets.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen them,” said Candy Harris, who is from Lincoln and attended the show with her grandchildren. “It was so impressive, and I would encourage anyone who has the chance to see them to do so. It’s ten out of ten.”

Attendees also had the opportunity to see aerial performances by the U.S. Marine Corps C-130J Super Hercules, affectionately known as “Fat Albert,” the U.S. Air Force’s F-16C Viper Demonstration Team, U.S. Navy’s F-35C Lightning II Demonstration Team and a U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler demonstration.

Piloting “Fat Albert” was U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jackson Streiff, an Omaha native and 2014 University of Nebraska graduate.

“It’s kind of a full circle moment,” he said. “I’m proud to be from here and there’s truly no place like Nebraska.”

Besides military aircraft, the Guardians of Freedom Air Show also included a number of civilian performers and rare classic warbirds including P-51 Mustangs, an F-4U Corsair, and an F6F Hellcat to name a few.

“I love to see the P-51,” said Ron Welchert of Omaha, who came to the event with his son, Brody. “To hear those props just cutting through the air is so cool.”

In addition to aerial performances, show goers were able to get up close and personal with more than 50 static displays. Spread across the massive parking ramp were the E-4B Nightwatch, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt and B-52 Stratofortress and numerous others.

“Just seeing all of the planes is awesome,” said Amy Henricks, of Harlan, Iowa, who attended the show with her son Lincoln. “He’s been inside the C-17 and sat in the cockpit of another, so it’s been a great day.”

The U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wing of Blue Parachute Team opened both days by delivering the Nebraska Huskers flag as well as flags belonging to each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Also jumping with the Wings of Blue from a Nebraska Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter were members of the Czech Armed Forces Parachute Team, bringing with them the national flag of the Czech Republic, NATO, and other Czech military flags. The parajumpers were just a small portion of the nearly 100-member delegation form the Czech Republic who attended this year’s airshow to commemorate 30 years of partnership with the Nebraska National Guard and Texas National Guard through the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

“We are incredibly fortunate to partner with the Czech Armed Forces. They have been steadfast allies in global peace and security operations since before 9-11,” said Col. John Williams, 155th Air Refueling Wing Commander. “I’m thankful for the large role they played in the airshow, and that we were able to showcase our 30-year relationship to the citizens of Nebraska.”

The Guardians of Freedom Airshow was hosted by the Nebraska National Guard’s 155th Air Refueling Wing in partnership with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Airport Authority and 55th Wing, Offutt Air Force Base.

“We’re thrilled about how the event came together and with the support we received from our event partners. In all, an estimated 340,000 people attended the Saturday and Sunday show making it the biggest show we’ve ever put on,” Williams said.