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Smoky Mountain Air Show inspires people to join the National Guard, for some it becomes second family

The Smoky Mountain Air Show brings thousands of people in East Tennessee, where the Air National Guard recruits people.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One of the most sensational shows in the sky, the Smoky Mountain Air Show, will soon bring thousands of people to East Tennessee. Aircraft will spiral in the air and fill the sky with their acrobatic dance.

Recruiters from the Air National Guard will be there ready to talk to people who may be thinking of joining the military. Since the last show in 2016, more than 800 people joined the Tennessee Air National Guard.

Lieutenant Maggie Nave, a public relations officer for the 134th Air Refueling Wing, joined about a year and a half ago. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and after that, Nave found strength by joining the National Guard's community and from the help they offered.

"The thing for me was seeing my mom have that immediate support system, it was something that I wasn't finding in my civilian career," Nave said. "So, I knew taking that step forward, that I was going to be able to build that support group around me. 

Nave said many people will get to watch "aircraft tricks" this weekend and she hopes they will inspire people who want to be part of this community. 

"I think it's really cool when you get middle schoolers, high schoolers out here who just really don't have a sense of purpose or direction yet, and they're kind of like, 'Where's my life going to take me, I'm not really sure what my future exactly entails,'" Nave said.   

Master Sergeant C.J. Vincent, the Eastr Tennessee Recruiting Flight Chief, explains there are certain standards that people have to meet in order to join. These standards include a certain height and weight, passing physical exams and much more. 

This week though, many people are focusing on preparing to welcome people and present them with many opportunities if they want to be part of the National Guard.  

"We pride ourselves at the McGee Tyson and the 134th Air Refueling Wing as being the number one Air National Guard unit in the country," Vincent said. "So folks, they want to come and be a part of something that is the best of the best, the best Air National Guard unit."

Preparations for the Air Show include setting up hundreds of chairs, bathrooms, recruiting booths and much more. Because more than 100,000 people are expected to attend and the Air National Guard hopes many of them will meet with recruiters. 

The recruiter said the most prominent reasons people join are to serve their communities, and toserve the country.

Most prominent reason the recruiter said was...

"At the Air National Guard, we have a distinct mission where we, we support the United States of America, but we also support or support the state of Tennessee," said Vincent.

For both Nave and Vincent, the Air National Guard and being part of this community plays a big role in their lives. Nave said her mom will attend the Smoky Mountain Air Show and will be talking about her experience with the military and "highly recommend" it for whoever's path leads to it.

"It almost gives you a sense of comfort, knowing that you have those people that are going to be there," Nave said. "Whether it's a 2 a.m. phone call, or whatever the case is, you've got a strong support system. And that's what's important."

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