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Airlift Wing welcomes enlistees in splashy ceremony 19 recruits take oath on Maid of the Mist

The October day was a bit gloomy, but 19 people pledged their services to the 914th Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve on Wednesday against a spectacular backdrop.

They enlisted or re-enlisted in the Airlift Wing while aboard the Maid of the Mist at the base of the American Falls.

Typically the oath is administered by a junior officer, but on special occasions it can be given by commanders and generals. Wing Commander Col. Reinhard Schmidt did the honors Wednesday.

This was the first time the Airlift Wing used the historic tourist boat for a swearing-in ceremony, and friends and family joined to watch as Schmidt asked participants -- who come from all parts of the region -- to solemnly swear to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.

"This kicks off our 2009 recruitment season," the commander said afterward. "We like to do something special for the new enlistees. It raises community awareness of the reserves and it also tells the community that we appreciate their great support.

"Here in Western New York we are very well supported by the community, and what better place to show the power of Niagara [than] at the base of the American falls enlisting future warriors of Niagara?"

Dominick Caito, 19, of the Monroe County town of Greece, was among a dozen new recruits sworn in. He had never before been on the Maid of the Mist, and called his initiation to Niagara Falls a "little wet and chilly."

He expects basic training to be much warmer. He'll soon head off to San Antonio, Texas, for that.

Devin Long, 19, of Albion, Pa., another new recruit, said he joined for the opportunity to get health insurance for his 19-month-old daughter and hopes that he will also get some job opportunities from his service in the military. He also had not been on the Maid of the Mist before.

Angela Hansen, 31, of Erie, Pa., was among the new reservists.

Hansen, a mother of three who works as a club manager for an American Legion post, said she likes the one weekend a month commitment.

After Wednesday, her children, Wesley, 9, Annelise, 7, and Gabe, 5, already are enjoying mom's new job.

They got to ride on the Maid of the Mist, too.

"Being married with three children, the Reserves are the best fit for me," she said. "It's something I've always wanted to do. It's pretty unconventional, but my husband has been very supportive and now I've taken the oath."

Gary M. Fiore, facilities manager for the Maid of the Mist, said the company was honored to help arrange the ceremony.

"It's great that they wanted to do that," Fiore said.

He said the historic ride, which dates to 1846, was one of the attractions shown off to a national audience Sept. 16 on "Good Morning America." Hosts Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts stood on the deck to open the show, and "Extreme Home Makeover" guest star Ty Pennington chatted with visitors.

"It's all been very exciting," Fiore said.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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