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Ground boss: Air show planning well underway

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles on the behind-the-scene operations in planning an air show.

Lt. Col. Martha "Marty" Pruitt is a busy woman; she's the 46th Test Wing's Deputy Maintenance Group commander and the ground boss for this year's Air Show. 

The air show, scheduled for April 14-15, is a logistical balancing act, and that's the way Colonel Pruitt likes it. She volunteered to be in charge of coordinating all the non-aircraft displays and booths, even though her group is working closely to support aircraft showcased during the two-day event. 

While some of her folks will be sitting transient alert, providing air ground equipment and standing by if something breaks, Colonel Pruitt and her 30-man team will provide a different type of support, using her background to give her the experience she needs to make things happen on schedule. 

"Throughout my career, I've been involved in logistics," the colonel said. "I had the opportunity to work in and command a transportation squadron as well as a logistics readiness squadron; they're closely related to maintenance because we can't fix airplanes without the logistics piece and I wanted to put together those experiences to lead a team." 

As ground boss, Colonel Pruitt oversees the concessionaire coordination and agencies like the Red Cross and Airman and Family Readiness Center. Another huge addition to the air show is the Air Force Recruiting Service which uses these events to reach a cross-section of the population who might be interested in serving in the military. The recruiters display will include the Air Force's No. 21 car, which is racing in the NASCAR season. 

Hangar 110 will be the home of many displays to showcase the base to all visitors. Included in the hangar will be bombs and munitions, and the Army Ranger's popular reptile display. Colonel Pruitt's team is working closely with the other services to demonstrate their capabilities. 

While ramp space on Eglin's flight line seems endless, it will be at a premium the days of the show. The ground boss works closely with the ramp boss, Senior Master Sgt. Sheldon Parrish, to balance the attractions for all in attendance. 

"The aircraft will take the priority on the ramp and we'll work with the ramp boss to find out what space is left," Colonel Pruitt said. "We'll intersperse displays among the aircraft, and show center will showcase some of the big attractions." 

The ground boss needs a large team to cover all its bases and provide oversight for any of the jobs that need to get done. Working closely with the assistant ground boss, Don Cox, 96th Services Squadron, the ground team will continue to deal with space issues and fill the needs of the vendors while on site. And while juggling everything from children's rides to classic cars, Colonel Pruitt said her biggest challenge is safety. 

"With most participants arriving on Friday to set up, our greatest challenges will be foreign object debris and ramp congestion," she said. "I'm going to have non-aircraft booths setting up while aircraft are taxiing on the same ramp; safety is my biggest concern." 

Colonel Pruitt is also concerned that there are many parts still moving with the air show just a few short months away. 

"But I think by the time it comes around, we'll be in a monitoring stage and not in a reaction mode because it's all going to come together," she said.

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