Air show co-director brings together grounds operations

  • Published
  • By Public Affairs
  • 81st Training Wing
Keesler's air show co-director, Lt. Col. Kyle Tate, 81st Mission Support Group deputy commander, envisions himself as bringing together the ground operations as he leads ground support responsibilities for the March 28-29 event.

"My job involves bringing disparate groups together," Tate said. "In dealing with organizations on and off base, it's complicated but positive - everyone is on the same page. We may have different ideas about how we go about it, but we have outstanding, talented professionals to make it happen."

Tate said he and Lt. Col. Ryan Conner, the other co-director, complement each other in their air show collaboration.

As air operations boss, Conner has the aerial background and handles all aspects of the airfield, scheduling and air-related activities. Tate is serving as ground operations boss, responsible for all non-aerial air show support and directing the 50-member planning committee.

Tate's position as the 81st MSG deputy commander makes him a perfect fit to oversee the support functions for an event expected to draw 100,000 visitors each day.

"At Keesler, I'm like a deputy city manager handling the operations of a mini-city," said Tate, a career intelligence officer who's served in the Air Force for 20 years. "Keesler is my first assignment in a mission support environment and I love it. I'm responsible for law enforcement, combat support, logistics and services activities for the base - all of the behind-the-scenes things necessary to make an air show a success."

Air show planners note that a full year is needed to plan and execute an air show, but at Keesler, this process only began late last summer.

"When I arrived at Keesler back in July 2013, I hung two posters from former air shows in my new office - in the back of my mind, I wondered when we would do an air show again," he remembered.

Budget shortfalls and sequestration had prevented Keesler and other installations from having air shows for several years.

"When we got word last summer the air shows were back on, I started prepping by looking at continuity binders and after-action reports my predecessor prepared for the 2011 air show," Tate recalled. "We got the word that our request was approved in October, but we had to shift our original dates two weeks earlier to accommodate the Thunderbirds' schedule."

"That repository of past plans and reports made a fundamental difference in our planning - we didn't have to reinvent the wheel," he pointed out. "We've been able to address all of the issues from the last two air shows, which made things much easier."

The colonel said that the core air show committee is comprised of people from the base and the surrounding community who bring specific talents to the table.

"When we first started, I knew which key players to start pinging and bring them together, and once I got that core element together, we were ready to go," he said.
Tate emphasized that one lesson learned from previous air shows was that key players need to communicate and establish synergy. He insisted that there's no problem with butting heads as long as people are collaborating. It's rewarding to be able to address, mitigate and fix potential logistical problems together, he added.

"For example, logistics readiness folks have to be talking to security forces to coordinate the transportation side of the house, which goes hand-in-hand with the force security side of the house," he explained. "81st LRS Airmen have to pick up our visitors at various off-base parking locations, and security forces has to screen them. Another instance is our marketing team needs to work closely with public affairs to coordinate commercial sponsors and get the word out."

When it comes to parking and transportation for the anticipated crowds, Tate commented, "We have a good, solid plan, but we hope our visitors exercise patience and maintain a sense of humor during the weekend."

Tate insists that air show worries haven't made him lose one second of sleep.

"I made sure I surrounded myself with the best and most-talented people there are, people to whom we can entrust, enable, embolden and delegate those responsibilities so I don't have to micromanage," he emphasized. "I know these people and what they are capable of doing - I just make sure they're executing and keeping me in the loop on things."

The one thing that worries Tate is something over which he has no control - the weather. For several weeks, he's been monitoring the ever-changing long-range forecast at least three times a day and is keeping his fingers crossed that sunshine and blue skies prevail during air show weekend.

"The word that Col. Conner and I want to get out is to come to the air show - be prepared for a wonderful, rewarding experience that you'll remember for years to come," he exclaimed. "It's been four years since Keesler had an air show and six years since the Thunderbirds were here. Our community is really looking forward to it.

"Everyone here at Keesler has the same goal - to field a phenomenal, exciting air show that the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast enjoys."