Above and Beyond the Call of Duty – Marine Corps Miramar Air Show – Brief Article
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, in San Diego, offers recreation aplenty to its military personnel. Marine Corps Community Services at Miramar operates 40 facilities and programs ranging from stables to swimming pools, Libraries to nightclubs. One would think that an operation of this magnitude on a military base that houses and employs more than 10,000 people would be sufficient to occupy MCCS’s 550 employees. However, MCCS staffers have a colossal collateral duty: to plan and produce the business activities for the Largest military air show in the world.
The MCAS Miramar Air Show has been flying through San Diego’s friendly skies for 45 years. The aviation extravaganza features the world’s best military and civilian pilots, headlined by the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron. The show now draws an estimated 1 million visitors.
The purpose of an air show, which is considered an “open house” of military bases normally closed to the public, is to educate the public about the mission of the Local base, assist in recruiting efforts, and improve community relations.
“I have a brother in the military, and I am always fascinated to Learn more about military planes and the machinery that the U.S. Armed Forces has to showcase,” says Jennifer Short, a marketing assistant for MCCS. Short, who saw her first Miramar Air Show in the 1980s, has worked the event since 1997. “From being a spectator and being an employee of the air show, I’ve gotten a firsthand Look at how much work it takes to plan an event of this caliber.”
Indeed, the amount of work it demands is impressive. MCCS handles all of the revenue-generating aspects of the show, including sponsorship, seating, vendors, and concessions. These areas touch hundreds of thousands of event visitors and require a significant investment of time and money to coordinate, implement, and manage. The primary benefit, of course, is that MCCS retains the revenue generated.
Sonja Johnson, CFO of MCCS, notes, “The air show revenues represent approximately one-third of our budgeted profit. Basically, the money that we generate at the air show supports all of our recreation programs throughout the year.” In turn, MCCS shares those profits with its customers. MCCS provides the “Weekly Freebee,” a giveaway at an MCCS facility. Monthly special events — free comedy shows, parties, and children’s events — have also been developed to return revenue to Miramar’s military personnel
Air show employees also enjoy a sense of camaraderie and the opportunity to take on new assignments. Richard Soule, assistant chief of staff for MCCS, says, “I’m amazed at how much our staff: produces. The air show is a perfect example. It gives people the chance to express their talents in another dimension. And our people respond to that. They go above and beyond the call of duty and work until the job is done.”
Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Keating, a senior noncommissioned officer in charge of MCCS’s Personal Services division, agrees. “I never knew the time and effort and planning it took to put on the show.” The assignment of helping to coordinate a consumer fair of some 70 businesses and organizations at the Air Show gives him insight into a different type of customer service. “I’m used to working with preventative programs, helping families. Working at the air show gave me the perspective of dealing with vendors and clients. By the end of the show, I developed greater respect for the business side of the operation.”
These opportunities to work outside the box allow MCCS employees to gel with their co-workers and customers for an event that benefits the entire Miramar community. At the end of the show, everyone enjoys the satisfaction of having helped produce San Diego’s largest weekend event. As Soule summarizes, “It’s a team-building experience not only for our department but for the whole base.”
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