VIENNA, Ohio (WYTV) – The Youngstown Air Reserve Station, or YARS, in Vienna was open to the public for the first time since 2007 on Saturday.
People with the 910th Airlift Wing wanted to give the public an opportunity to check out their equipment, see what they do and ask questions about it, all for free.
“It gives us the opportunity to throw open the gates, invite the public in, see what we’ve got … We’ve got great static displays of military equipment,” said Master Sergeant Bob Barko.
Barko said the last time YARS hosted an open house was eight years ago.
“It’s fascinating, it’s awe inspiring, I mean you just can’t imagine how big everything is,” said Judy White of Columbiana.
White and Charles May visited YARS for the very first time Saturday.
“To go in the planes themselves and see what they have to learn, to be able to get these things off the ground is unbelievable,” White said.
Poeple were able to check out six of the C-130 transports on the tarmac, they are the heart and soul of YARS.
“Ultimately they’re our bosses, they are the American tax payer, and part of our mandate is to be transparent and to show them exactly what their tax dollars are paying for,” Barko said.
Hanger 295, which was transformed into a display area, was the focal point of the free public open house.
“We’re part of the community and we want to make sure that the community knows that we’re out here for one, and knows what we do so it’s not just some mystery behind gate,” said Colonel James Dignan.
Friday was Family and Friends Day, a rehearsal for Saturday.
Among the items on display was an airman’s full gear for worst case scenarios.
“We would see them in this situation if there was a chemical warfare environment or a chemical, biological, nuclear environment,” said Senior Master Sergeant Jim Haupt.
Spectators were able to try on a helmet and flack jacket, and check out the military assault guns.
“We got a couple machine guns and then our standard carrier rifle, with a grenade launcher attachment,” said Sergeant Dana Portentoso.
There were also interactive displays and local food vendors.
“Every time we get folks from off base that get an opportunity to come on base, they say, ‘Wow, what a really nice piece of property, what a really nice gem we have here in northeast Ohio,’” Dignan said.