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Air Force takes part in Transcontinental Railroad’s 150th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Richard W. Essary
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

PROMONTORY SUMMIT, Utah -- Air Force recruiters and volunteers were among the thousands who gathered May 10-11 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Golden Spike National Historic Park.

The sesquicentennial celebration was supported by Air Force Recruiting Service, the Hill Air Force Base STEM Outreach program, and the 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings providing a four-ship F-35A Lightning II flyover during the official ceremony.

The country’s first transcontinental railroad was completed May 10, 1869. It took more than 20,000 railroad workers, mostly Chinese and Irish immigrants, nearly six years to complete the 1,800-mile rail line.

Heralded as one of the nation’s greatest engineering accomplishments, the then six-month cross-country trip by wagon was reduced to a week by rail, and drastically changed how people traveled.

“This event is a great celebration for the state and the nation. It is honoring the past and dreaming of the future,” said Alison Sturgeon, STEM Outreach program manager. “As STEM job openings at the base continue to outpace qualified workers, events like the Spike 150 celebration give Hill an opportunity to inspire and educate students, parents and teachers about what STEM career opportunities are available to them in the Air Force, both on the military and civilian side.”

Festivities included an “Innovation Summit” that focused on STEM-related activities hosted by government entities, industry, and secondary and higher education. There was also a presentation by a NASA astronaut.

An Air Force Special Ops “Air Commando Experience” exhibit sponsored by AFRS provided visitors a virtual reality experience inside an air-conditioned trailer. They were able to “see, hear and feel” what it’s like to be part of one of the most elite teams in the U.S. military.

In addition, the STEM Outreach program sponsored exhibits that included a pneumatic rocket launcher for children, pocket-sized robots to teach users coding, and a simulated F-16 heads-up display. Base volunteers also handed out miniature plastic injection molding aircraft.

An estimated 20,000 people gathered for the commemoration.

“It was an opportunity to speak with thousands of school children, the perfect age to open them to the endless possibilities their future holds,” Sturgeon said. “We hope to inspire and educate many about STEM and the Air Force.”

For more information about this and other Spike 150 events and activities held throughout the year, visit