AFA National Report

Feb. 1, 2011

Praising Alabama

Air Force Association Chairman of the Board S. Sanford Schlitt traveled in December to Montgomery, Ala., home of Maxwell Air Force Base, Civil Air Patrol headquarters, and the Montgomery Chapter.

At Maxwell, Schlitt made office calls on Air University Commander Lt. Gen. Allen G. Peck, Vice Commander Maj. Gen. David S. Fadok, and Col. Roger Watkins, commander of the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development.

As part of his work as a newly appointed member of CAP’s Board of Governors, Schlitt toured a hangar where Cessnas are refurbished for service and met with Susan Mallett. She is the CAP Youth Development Program coordinator and a new AFA national director.

AFA Chairman of the Board Sandy Schlitt (left) pays an office call on Maj. Gen. David Fadok, Air University vice commander at Maxwell AFB, Ala. At right is AFA South Central Region President Thomas Gwaltney.

Schlitt spoke to the Montgomery Chapter’s Executive Council, telling them that the chapter produces meetings of the caliber of those organized for entire AFA regions. He had particular praise for the chapter’s strategic planning and budgeting process. Led by Lawrence E. Boese, it involves deliberately aligning the chapter and its activities with AFA’s national-level goals and objectives.

Schlitt also updated the chapter on AFA programs such as CyberPatriot competitions for high school students.

The cyber defense contest now has teams from public, private, parochial, and home schools in an open division and JROTC and CAP units in an all-service division. Several rounds of competition determined which teams head to Washington, D.C., for the championship March 31 to April 2 at the Gaylord National Convention Center at National Harbor, Md.

Dropping of the Roses

Four survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor received honors at the Long Island Chapter’s annual Dropping of the Roses ceremony this past December in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Special proclamations from President Obama were presented to Gerard Barbosa, 17 years old and a gunner’s mate on USS Raleigh when it came under attack; Bernard Berner, who served in the Army’s chemical warfare division; Seymour Blutt, a veteran of the 11th Bomb Group; and William Halleran, now age 92.

Nearly 600 people gathered for the ceremony at the American Airpower Museum, reported Chapter President Fred Di Fabio, who organized the event with Chapter Secretary Catherine Ward. In a hangar at the museum, the audience listened to remarks from Col. Thomas J. Owens II, commander of the ANG’s 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Arpt., N.Y. Navy and Coast Guard representatives also spoke.

A contingent of sailors helped conduct the blessing of 69 red roses, one for each year that has passed since 1941. The audience then went outside to watch a vintage AT-6 aircraft take off and head for the Statue of Liberty. The pilots in the two-seater airplane dropped the roses into the waters surrounding the statue at 12:55 p.m., the exact East Coast time of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Dropping of the Roses originated with Navy veteran Joseph S. Hydrusko, from Massapequa, N.Y. He was aboard the hospital ship USS Solace at anchor in Pearl Harbor and after the bombing helped rescue sailors from the battleship Oklahoma. In 1970, Hydrusko began flying a vintage aircraft around the Statue of Liberty on Dec. 7 to commemorate those who died. The chapter took over organizing the event after he died.

Di Fabio said this year’s Dropping of the Roses was transmitted live to a TV news program in New York.


Not everyone can make it to the AFA Air Warfare symposium held in Orlando, Fla., every February, so Arizona’s Frank Luke Chapter came up with a way to fly its flag: Send an official chapter representative.

This year, the chapter selected Capt. Steven Shallenberger, an instructor pilot from the 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz.

So what does a chapter representative do? Take in the symposium information and “become smart,” said Chapter President Joseph W. Marvin. “Shake the hand of the AFA chairman and tell him you’re there for the chapter.” Then return to Luke and share what you learned about the Air Force and AFA.

Last year’s selectee, TSgt. Mark J. Adams from the 56th Component Repair Squadron, was the first chosen as the rep to Orlando. Marvin said the airman stepped forward to ask questions at symposium presentations. Back at Luke, Adams spoke to the chapter’s March meeting and went on to deliver a briefing to his unit as well as at a base commander’s call.

Adams is now the chapter’s VP.

Marvin pointed out that by paying for airfare, hotel, and meals so the representative can attend a symposium, the chapter contributes to an airman’s professional development. It is a chance to reward top active duty performers, he said, and it is “a good way for us to get a presence at the national symposium.”

Her Father’s Footsteps

At their October meeting, New York’s Chautauqua Chapter members learned about the World War II experiences of a B-17 gunner who endured 15 months as a POW in Europe.

Even Sgt. John R. Kyler’s own family didn’t know his wartime story until after he died, at age 81, in 2004. Like many veterans, he didn’t talk about those years, but in sorting through his belongings after his death, his daughter, Candy Kyler Brown, found notebooks of poems, sketches, and fragments of information he had compiled during the war.

Inspired to learn more, Brown visited the places where her father had served. He was inducted into the Army Air Forces at Fort Niagara, N.Y., in February 1943. A year later, he was with the 407th Bomb Squadron, RAF Podington, UK, flying on his fourth bombing mission. The target was Frankfurt, Germany. Flak hit the B-17 and the crew bailed out over Belgium. Kyler was moved from stalag to stalag in Lithuania, Poland, and Germany, living for weeks in a box car, jammed in the hold of a boat, sometimes shackled to other prisoners. He had just turned 21 years old. The Russians liberated his final POW camp, Stalag Luft I, in May 1945.

In retracing her father’s footsteps— including a visit to the B-17’s crash site—author Brown spoke to several chapter members who were former B-17 crewmen, among them Joe Leo. He told her what it was like to be a gunner on an Eighth Air Force Flying Fortress.

Brown wrote about the odyssey into her father’s past in the book What I Never Told You. Chautauqua Chapter President Stephen J. Kockler said her presentation to the chapter about this book was “compelling.”

The Shooting Star’s Namesake

With its name, the Shooting Star Chapter in New Jersey pays tribute to a World War I ace, 2nd Lt. Arthur Raymond Brooks, who had a shooting star emblem painted on the fuselage of his SPAD airplane.

This past September, the chapter, which is led by Howard Leach, learned more about Brooks’ life through a presentation by historian and author John Whitcomb of Basking Ridge, N.J.

Brooks was born in Framingham, Mass., in 1895 and graduated from MIT in 1917. He enlisted in the Army Signal Corps’ Aviation Section and took flight training in Canada. In March 1918, he completed training with the American Expeditionary Force in Issoudun, France. That summer, he became flight commander of the 22nd Aero Squadron, 2nd Pursuit Group. His squadron flew the SPAD XIII pursuit aircraft.

By the end of the war, Brooks had six confirmed kills and had completed 120 missions in four aircraft. The last one is displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

In his civilian career, Brooks helped establish Florida Airways, which eventually became Eastern Airlines. He later became a Bell Telephone Laboratories scientist in New Jersey. He is credited with developing innovations in navigation and ground-to-air communications. Brooks belonged to the Shooting Star Chapter until his death in 1991.

Chapter guest speaker Whitcomb’s own credentials include World War II service as a B-25 navigator-bomber. He is a former high school teacher and has had several books published, notably Real Life at the White House.

At the end of his chapter talk, Whitcomb revealed his personal tie to Brooks: His uncle, Philip E. Hassinger, was Brooks’ wingman.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

In Minnesota, the Richard I. Bong Chapter’s December holiday gathering spotlighted a community support program aimed at helping military families cope with a deployment.

Jennifer Kuhlman, the 148th Fighter Wing’s Airman and Family Readiness program manager, spoke about the Minnesota National Guard’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon initiative. The program started last April with a group of more than 40 community members identifying volunteer services, developing a military resource guide, and creating a relocation package for military families moving into the area.

Kuhlman told the chapter that items for the families now include what Chapter Secretary Keith M. Bischoff called “a youngster packet”—a teddy bear and book, among other things.

In an earlier news release about the Yellow Ribbon program, Lt. Col. John Safstrom, 148th Fighter Wing vice commander, said the program lets airmen “know that when they are deployed, their families will be taken care of, and then when they get home, they will be taken care of.”

At the chapter’s holiday dinner meeting, members donated $300 to the program.

Air Force Week in Cocoa Beach

The Cape Canaveral Chapter helped Air Force Week in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in October carry out its theme, “Honoring Hometown Heroes.”

The chapter rounded up Community Partners to sponsor active duty Air Force personnel—the hometown heroes—so they could attend a formal banquet. Held at the Atlantic Grill on Cocoa Beach Pier, the Senior Leadership Dinner was the culmination of seven days of USAF-oriented activities in the area. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz; Gen. C. Robert Kehler, head of Air Force Space Command; and Brig. Gen. Burke E. Wilson, commander of 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla., attended the dinner.

It was not hard to persuade the Community Partners to pitch in to sponsor airmen, said Chapter President Chris G. Bailey. For this and other chapter fund-raising in the past, he said the local business people have actually telephoned him to ask, “What do you need from us?”

Bailey was a member of the 45th Space Wing’s planning group for Air Force Week. As part of the festivities, the chapter helped sponsor a golf tournament at Patrick, with proceeds benefitting the chapter’s aerospace education fund.

High points of the week were concerts, static displays, and demonstrations: The USAF Thunderbirds performed at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue team parachuted from a C-130 Hercules and landed on the beach.

Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley established Air Force Weeks in 2006 to spotlight the USAF mission and way of life.

More Chapter News

News reports said donations for the Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots drive lagged this year, but in New Jersey, Mercer County Chapter members proved to be generous donors. Chapter President Stewart Zitzner reported that the chapter collected more than $400 to benefit the annual gift program for needy children. A group headed by Norman Mathews, former chapter president, shopped for the toys and delivered them to the Marine Corps Reserve facility at Mercer County Airport. Helping Mathews were Charles Johnson, Marcy L. Johnson, Pearl E. Lipski, Harry Williams, and Joan Judson.

In New York City, the Iron Gate Chapter’s December reception demonstrated an “outpouring of patriotism,” said Chapter President Frank T. Hayes. The event, held at the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard, and Airmen’s Club, involved a silent auction. Hayes reported that “the hot item” was aviation artist John D. Shaw’s SR-71 print, bought by former Marine F-4B reconnaissance systems officer Paul Mulvihill.Special guests were New York State President Maxine Rauch; Col. Thomas J. Owens II, commander of the 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Airport; and Capt. Mark Jansen, AFROTC commandant of cadets at Manhattan College.

The Hawaii Chapter’s SMSgt. Jean Fontenot received an AFA Medal of Merit in December. Gen. Gary L. North, Pacific Air Forces commander, made the presentation, with Hawaii Chapter President Nora Ruebrook and Jack Murphy, chapter VP for awards. Fontenot has helped with the continued expansion of the Atterbury Circle Legacy Pathway Project at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The memorial commemorates airmen who were or are serving in the Air Force in the Pacific.


AFA Board Chairman Sandy Schlitt makes an office call on the Air University commander, Lt. Gen. Allen Peck, at Maxwell AFB, Ala., in December.

Schlitt (center) tours a hangar where Cessnas are refurbished for service. At left is Gary Schneider, Civil Air Patrol director of logistics. South Central Region President Tom Gwaltney is at right. (CAP photo by Susan Robertson.)

A sailor hands roses to an AT-6 backseater. The roses were dropped around the waters of the Statue of Liberty for the Long Island Chapter’s Dropping of the Roses ceremony. (USMC photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton)

Gerard Barbosa was one of the four survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack who was honored at the Long Island Chapter’s Dropping of the Roses ceremony. (USMC photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton)

Cape Canaveral Chapter President Chris Bailey greets USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz at the Senior Leadership Dinner during Air Force Week in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in October. Chapter Community Partners sponsored active duty airmen so they could attend this dinner.

Hawaii Chapter’s SMSgt. Jean Fontenot receives an AFA Medal of Merit. Presenting it are (l-r): Jack Murphy, chapter VP for awards; Gen. Gary North, Pacific Air Forces commander; and Hawaii Chapter President Nora Ruebrook.

Joe Panza, Montgomery Chapter communications VP, attended the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House in September for the late CMSgt. Richard Etchberger.

As a Jolly Green pilot during the Vietnam War, Panza had helped with rescues from Lima Site 85 in Laos in 1968. The Etchberger family invited him to the Medal of Honor ceremony.


20th & 81st Wgs, RAF Woodbridge, UK. Sept. 1-3 in Altus, OK. Contact: Danny King, 1705 Crain Dr., Altus, OK 73521 (580-482-3114) (580-471-4212) (

63rd Army Air Forces Flying Tng Det. Oct. 16-21, in Douglas, GA. Contacts: John Hermann, 3562 West Fork Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45211 (513-481-0130) or Bill Manchester, 35499 Richland St., Livonia, MI 48150 (734-421-6624).

305th BW, 45th MMS, May 5-8 in Dayton, OH. Contact: Richard Hoffman, 10610 W. 115th Ct., Cedar Lake, IN 46303 (219-374-9264) (

Pilot Tng Class 58-G, Marana AB. Sept. 13-15, in Cody, WY. Contact: Rob Orchard, 4203 Rd. 82, Ten Sleep, WY 82442 (307-366-2450).

E-mail unit reunion notices four months ahead of the event to, or mail notices to “Reunions,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198. Please designate the unit holding the reunion, time, location, and a contact for more information. We reserve the right to condense notices.