Airman 1st Class Bailey Poage starred in a series of slip-and-slide inspired posts on 36th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Thomas Palenske’s Facebook page from a block party at Andersen Air Force Base Guam, on July 5-6, 2024.

Airman 1st Class Bailey Poage starred in a series of slip-and-slide inspired posts on 36th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Thomas Palenske’s Facebook page from a block party at Andersen Air Force Base Guam, on July 5-6, 2024. (Facebook)

How often in the Air Force does the base commander throw an open invitation to party for two days at his place around a national holiday?

If you’re stationed on Guam, it happened Friday and Saturday after July 4, Independence Day, at the home of Brig. Gen. Thomas Palenske, commander of the 36th Wing and Andersen Air Force Base.

“The Slip and Slide scheduled for the Joint Force at my house on 5 July and 6 July,” Palenske posted on the 36th Wing Commander Facebook page July 2, referring to backyard waterslides popular in summertime. “We’ll have a couple of food trucks available, a DJ and you are free to bring your own lawn chairs and BYOB! The event will basically be a base wide block party! Should be EPIC!” 

The all-hands, family-friendly event was “epic,” if photos Palenske subsequently posted are credible. One post attracted more than 2,000 “likes,” and the whole series of posts created an online buzz.

“Your posts make me want to reenlist!!” wrote Todd Krueger, an Air Force veteran and commenter from Texas.

Palenske has turned his official Facebook page into a morale booster, in which he lauds the achievements of individual airmen, comments on the weather, wildlife and other aspects of life on Guam and often ends with the exclamation, “’Murica!” followed by a U.S. flag emoji.

The slip and slide party went above and beyond, with a flurry of photographs on Facebook highlighting record-setting and record-breaking rides on the 400-foot-long slide.

“So, what Gen. Palenske really wanted to do was, he wanted to get people together, just to spend time together as human beings, to really just get the community vibe,” Master Sgt. Ryan Kegler, Agile Combat Support flight chief, told Stars and Stripes by phone Tuesday. “He’s really big on putting people first and he really cares about the well-being of his folks, and that was very evident in how excited he was for this event.”

Kegler said he worked on planning and involving different agencies to bring Palenske’s vision of an epic slip-and-slide event to reality.

“We had a lot of folks kind of coming through in waves,” Kegler said. “Between the two days, probably about 500 folks.”

Airman 1st Class Bailey Poage became a slip-and-slide celebrity thanks to a photograph of him airborne on a bodyboard atop the slide. Palenske humored his followers with Poage cut and pasted into various aircraft photographs: fired like a missile from an F-22 Raptor, sliding from the rear end of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter and launched like cargo from a C-141 Starlifter, an airlifter no longer in service.

“(W)e brought it back from the boneyard for this special event!” Palenske replied to one commenter. “Had to pull a couple pilots and a load master out of four VFWs to cobble together a qualified crew …”

Jordan Morgan, an Air Force spouse, said Palenske is the third base commander in the three years her family has been on Guam.

“Thanks Gen! My kids and husband had a blast,” Morgan commented on a Palenske post on Saturday. 

“He is honestly one of the best!” she told Stars and Stripes by Facebook Messenger on Tuesday.

The grand prize for longest slide, a Yeti cooler, went to Col. Tom Bowman, commander of the 36th Operations Group at Andersen, who gave the prize instead to second-place finisher Airman 1st Class Rogers, no first name given, according to a post on the commander’s Facebook page

“We’re out here in the middle of the ocean and it’s important for us to know that we have each other as a community, as airmen, as a wing,” Kegler said. “Gen. Palenske’s top priority is people, and when you take care of the people, when the people have that sense of community, then everything else kind of falls in place.”

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Jonathan Snyder is a reporter at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career was spent as an aerial combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is also a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and Eddie Adams Workshop alumnus.

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