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'Jeopardy!' honors AF’s 60th birthday

Alex Trebek films one of the Jeopardy! show clues near an F-22 Raptor March 31 during a United Service Organizations tour of Japan.
(U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz)

Alex Trebek films one of the Jeopardy! show clues near an F-22 Raptor March 31 during a United Service Organizations tour of Japan. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nestor Cruz)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The answer is "Video clues taped at Kadena Air Base." The question, Alex, is what will be featured on the Sept. 27 episode of the long-running game show "Jeopardy!" 

The show will honor the Air Force's 60th anniversary with video clues and an Air Force questions panel which will highlight current Air Force activities. There will be a special viewing of the show open to all ranks at 5 p.m. that day in Kadena's Officers' Club. 

Alex Trebek and the "Jeopardy!" crew visited Kadena in March 30-31 as part of his 12th USO-sponsored tour. The tour was advertised as a search for future show contestants, but the group's stay at Kadena had another purpose - filming "clue crew" questions. 

"The 18th Wing provided one or the other possible filming assets and locations and we also provided some of the information on those assets," said Johnathan Monroe, who headed up the 18th Wing's support for the filming. "Jeopardy producers however, developed the questions." 

Kadena aircraft to be featured in the show will include the F-15 Eagle, KC-135 Stratotanker and HH-60 Pave Hawk. Also featured is one of the 12 F-22 Raptors which were on their first overseas deployment from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va. 

The idea for the show's commemoration of the Air Force began in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. 

"During one of our weekly strategy meetings several months ago a question arose regarding how our office could most effectively get across information on the Air Force' 60th Anniversary in the entertainment media," said Charles Davis, U.S. Air Force Public Affairs chief, TV/motion picture liaison. "Two venues were discussed. First was to 'pitch' a cable TV movie channel a proposal to recognize the event by broadcasting several Air Force-supported movies. Second was a proposal to 'pitch' a TV game show, in this case 'Jeopardy!' to include a panel of questions about the history of the Air Force." 

The first idea was a success as Turner Movie Classics Channel broadcasted aviation-themed movies for 24-hours each Tuesday in July. 

"Master Sgt. Larry Schneck of our office took the 'Jeopardy!' proposal and successfully pitched one of the show's producers, Rocky Schmidt, into giving us a panel of Air Force-related questions," said Mr. Davis. "Host Alex Trebek was already slated to go on a USO tour of the Pacific and our suggestion to have members of the 'clue crew' and Alex appear on camera at Kadena meshed well with their original travel plans. 

"Kadena had a variety of aircraft, including the deployed F-22s from Langley AFB that are visually very attractive on TV," he said. "Johnathan [Monroe] and your entire team really outdid themselves in supporting the show and I'm sure we will all be pleased with the results come Sept. 27." 

"All the filming ideas, aircraft, itinerary and flow all originated here at the 18th Wing," said Mr. Monroe. "It was SAF's pitch to 'Jeopardy!' coupled with the 18th Wing's creative ideas and execution that made this event successful. Alex Trebek and crew were able to film clues on the KC-135, AWACS, F-22, F-15, and received a flight and filmed on our HH-60." 

The 18th Operations Group, 18th Maintenance Group and 18th Mission Support Group were the stars of Kadena's performance. The 18th OG provided aircraft crews and the experts needed to explain aircraft operations and missions. The 18th MXG was behind the setup of static displays in one location to provide ease of filming. The 18th MSG provided another filming location, the cryogenics lab, but the crew ran out of time. The 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron also handled transportation for the crew and a massive amount of filming gear. 

Mr. Monroe said it was very significant that Kadena was chosen to represent the Air Force on the show. 

"The fact that you can film a whole 60th Anniversary of the Air Force category and theme show using Kadena assets and personnel should tell you something," he said. "We are the example for the Air Force and we are an accurate snapshot of what the Air Force is all about. Especially with the deployment of the F-22, we really gave a tight overview of airpower. We represented all the Air Force bases in the world and we did an awesome job at doing that." 

The search for future "Jeopardy!" contestants was also successful. More than 300 active-duty military members, family members and civilian employees took the 10-question pre-test here. 

"Kadena had more people pass the pre-test than any other location on this particular tour," said Jon Boyd, director of the Schilling Community Center, who set up the pre-test, and autograph session there with Mr. Trebek. "Ninety people passed the pre-test with 75 taking the final test on Camp Kinser, and six passing to become possible contestants for the show." 

"The 18th WG did an extraordinary job supporting this event," said Mr. Monroe. "The filming was seamless, the weather was perfect, and the Airmen were at their best. The "Jeopardy!" crew couldn't believe the level of support and access they received here and they sent glowing remarks to the Secretary of the Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense. The 18th WG Airmen pulled off a massive project with excellence."