AFA National Report

March 1, 2012

San Antonio Success

Air Education and Training Command’s sixth January symposium—co-hosted by the Alamo Chapter in San Antonio—attracted yet another record crowd.

AFA Board Chairman Sandy Schlitt (left) and Alamo Chapter President Randy Coggins look over an information brochure at the AETC Symposium’s tech expo in San Antonio. The next symposium is in 2014.

Held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, the seminar brought in 3,996 attendees. They came to hear updates on topics ranging from recruiting to ROTC. In fact, commented AETC Commander Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., attendees could essentially learn about the entire AETC enterprise through the symposium.

In the course of two days, the event offered three keynote presentations, some 150 exhibitors at the technology exposition, and 70 breakout information sessions.

Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin C. Conaton; Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr., head of Air Mobility Command; and retired Army Maj. Gen. Josue Robles Jr., president and CEO of USAA, were the keynote speakers.

Symposium attendees watched a prescreening of a new George Lucas movie, “Red Tails,” about the first African American US military pilots, maintainers, and their support personnel, collectively known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Eight of these World War II veterans were on hand. So was actor Nate Parker, who portrays a pilot in the movie.

John J. Politi, former Air Force Association board chairman and Alamo Chapter’s symposium lead, said Parker had attended other screenings for “Red Tails” but told the symposium’s 2,300 movie-goers that this one was the most meaningful.

The Alamo Chapter has responsibility for many activities that make the symposium tick: organizing the tech expo; arranging for the convention venue and hotel; funding transportation to shuttle people from local hotels to the black-tie banquet; and hosting two receptions, plus an AFA executive dinner that brings together AETC leaders and symposium sponsors.

An AETC public affairs news release noted that future symposia will be held every other year, beginning in 2014, as a cost saving measure.

Wounded Airman Support

At the Air Force’s invitation, AFA recently launched a program to help wounded airmen who have returned to US medical facilities from the war zone. The airmen often don’t have personal items with them because they move quickly from hospital to hospital.

Three AFA chapters have already begun implementing this Wounded Airmen program: the Nation’s Capital Chapter and the Donald W. Steele Sr. Memorial Chapter, working together in the Washington, D.C., area, and the Alamo Chapter in San Antonio. AFA selected these chapters to pilot the initiative because of their proximity to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas.

Steele Chapter President F. Gavin MacAloon reported that Chapter VP Kevin Lewis and Nation’s Capital Chapter Senior VP Harvey Dahljelm paid an initial visit to three airmen. They began an assessment of needs—working with the Air Force recovery and care coordinator—and delivered gift baskets and money for incidental expenses.

From San Antonio, Alamo Chapter President William R. Coggins e-mailed: “I had a good visit today with one of our wounded airmen, SrA. Orion Orellana (“Oreo”) at SAMMC. Oreo is a JTAC [joint terminal attack controller]. His vehicle was hit by an RPG in Afghanistan on Nov. 16, and he suffered a lot of damage to his entire left side: lost fingers on his left hand and left leg crushed by the impact.” Orellana was on his third deployment, having served before in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had also moved through at least three medical facilities within a month.

In talking to him, Coggins learned that the combat controller wanted headphones so he could listen to music and watch movies. The chapter collected some $75 that day, and chapter member SMSgt. Linda Scott, who is the group’s 59th Medical Wing representative, took a set of ear buds and a pair of headphones to Orellana the next day.

“He was choked up and very humbled that [we] went through all that trouble for him,” Scott wrote.

So That We Won’t Overlook a Vet

At the Cheyenne Cowboy Chapter’s USAF banquet, AFA National Director Rick Hartle (l) and Rocky Mountain Region President Gayle White (r) present AFA Pitsenbarger Awards to SrA. Daniel Rivera and SrA. Paul Link. (USAF photo by Matt Bildin)

With help from Hangar One Chapter President Dominick J. Mullaney and New Jersey State President Howard Leach, AFA in the Garden State donated funds to identify grave sites of all veterans buried at a cemetery in Neptune, N.J.

Alexander Scott, a senior at Marine Academy of Science and Technology in Sandy Hook, got the idea for this Eagle Scout project because his Boy Scout troop had been decorating vets’ graves at Hamilton Cemetery every Memorial Day. It occurred to him that they might be overlooking some of them.

He began his research last summer and by fall was looking at individual grave markers in the cemetery. There, one day in October, he happened to meet a professional genealogist, Cindy Kiefer. Scott had by this time identified the graves of about 300 veterans. Kiefer helped him find another 100. The oldest dated to the War of 1812.

Scott used the funds he collected from AFA and other donors to pay for a sign erected at the cemetery. He had the veterans’ names engraved on aluminum sheets, mounted the lists on bead board, and covered the whole sign with a small roof. He placed a PVC flag holder into the ground near some graves that are not readily identifiable as the resting place of a veteran. His scout troop will thus be able to find the site and decorate it with a small flag this Memorial Day.

Scott became an Eagle Scout in January.


The Air Force Ball, sponsored by the Lance P. Sijan Chapter at a resort in Colorado in January, highlighted Air Force Space Command’s 30th anniversary—and a dynamo who headed the chapter’s Community Partner program.

The chapter calls the Air Force Ball the “No. 1 formal military event in town,” and this time, the black-tie-and-mess-dress event at the five-star Broadmoor kicked off a year of AFSPC activities that will take note of the command’s establishment in January 1982.

So it was fitting that the ball’s special guests included retired CMSgt. Charles P. Zimkas Jr. He was AFSPC’s first command chief and is now an AFA national director emeritus. Other AFSPC VIPs: Gen. William L. Shelton, the commander, and Lt. Gen. Michael J. Basla, vice commander.

AFSPC Outstanding Airmen and spouses of deployed airmen from the command, NORAD-US Northern Command, and the Air Force Academy each were introduced to the audience. It was a high point in the evening, said Hank Scarangella, the chapter’s secretary.

In another memorable moment, AFA Chairman of the Board S. Sanford Schlitt presented Sijan Chapter’s Debbie Estrem with a Chairman’s Citation, recognition as she wrapped up eight years as the chapter and state Community Partner VP.

In 2003, Estrem—who always carried AFA membership applications in her handbag—took on a CP program consisting of four members. Within five years, she increased the number to 150. She signed up so many businesses that the chapter had to appoint two assistants to help her. The chapter newsletter editor said the list of CPs sometimes took up two pages.

By the time Estrem handed over the reins to a new CP VP last November, the chapter had won eight consecutive national-level Community Partner Membership Gold Awards. They are given when CPs represent at least six percent of overall chapter membership.

That’s one Gold Award for each year Estrem led the chapter’s program.

STEM Street After-School Club

The Leigh Wade Chapter in Virginia presented $3,000 in December to support an after-school program that encourages kids to explore science, technology, engineering, and math concepts.

Cindy M. K. Jones, a physical education teacher at Clover Hill Elementary School in Midlothian, Va., received the AFA matching grant from James C. White, chapter VP for aerospace education. Also on hand to donate the funds: Chapter President Gary D. Metzinger, Secretary Cordell Hopper, and Treasurer Ferris J. Hackleman.

Jones, who was AFA’s Virginia State Teacher of the Year 2009-2010, caught the attention of the chapter again because of her STEM Street Club. The program uses robots assembled from plastic building blocks, straw rockets, parachutes weighted with pennies, and other hands-on devices, to get the Clover Hill students interested in science.

The program involves other teachers and the students’ families, as well: The program held a train-the-trainer three-day workshop for the adults last summer, and when the STEM Street Club began its first session in October, each child brought along a parent or grandparent.

The STEM Club’s inaugural session was for kindergarteners to fifth-graders; its winter session, now under way, targets fourth- and fifth-graders. The winter club meets for a month, once a week, for 90 minutes.

Major sponsors of this program come from the roster of Leigh Wade Chapter Community Partners, Metzinger said.

Flying the Flag in Alabama

In Huntsville, Ala., county officials dedicated a Veterans Memorial this past Veterans Day. Eight flags fly from the granite monument, to honor the US, Alabama, POWs-MIAs, and each military branch.

Getting the Air Force flag in that lineup took “herculean effort” from the Tennessee Valley Chapter, according to Russell V. Lewey, aerospace education VP. He explained that the memorial’s foundation required $15,000 to sponsor a service flag. The funds were to cover construction as well as maintenance.

A local company paid for the Marine Corps flag, for example, but until the Tennessee Valley Chapter stepped forward, the Air Force flag had no sponsor. This town “is predominantly Army-focused,” Lewey pointed out.

So the chapter set to work. “In our first year, we raised over $6,000 and are well on our way for next year’s collection,” he said. The chapter has five years to complete the project.

Lewey said a plaque at the base of the flagpole acknowledges the chapter’s sponsorship, and “airmen from all across the valley … will be able to reflect upon the Air Force’s heritage and its future as a result of the presence of the Air Force flag.”

USAF Anniversary in Wyoming

The commander of Air Force Global Strike Command addressed the Air Force anniversary banquet, hosted by the Cheyenne Cowboy Chapter in Cheyenne, Wyo., in October.

Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski spoke about how local citizens have worked with the military. “This is a community that has consistently and historically supported Fort D. A. Russell, F. E. Warren, 20th Air Force, the 90th Missile Wing, and Global Strike Command,” Kowalski said. “There is a long and invaluable relationship that endures here.”

Chapter President Irene G. Johnigan similarly praised Air Force personnel at F. E. Warren Air Force Base. “It is truly an honor for us to honor our young people in blue,” she told the audience of 345 guests.

Among the blue-suiters in the spotlight were Capt. Daniel R. Moore and 1st Lt. Stephen McVay, from the 90th Missile Wing, who accepted the AFA national-level Gen. Thomas S. Power Award as best missile crew.

AFA National Director Rick Hartle and Rocky Mountain Region President Gayle White presented awards that evening. The Cheyenne Chapter received four of them. In addition, Medal of Merit awards went to chapter members Carol A. Holland, Leslie D. Swidecki, and Mary Thompson.

Hartle and White presented AFA Pitsenbarger Awards to SrA. Paul E. Link and SrA. Daniel D. Rivera, both from the 90th Medical Operations Squadron at F. E. Warren.

AFA Pitsenbarger grants of $400 go to selected top enlisted personnel who graduate from the Community College of the Air Force and plan to continue on to a bachelor’s degree.

$12,000 Worth of Hot Dogs

They worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. They sold hot dogs, bratwurst, nachos, and cold drinks. They grossed $12,000. Call it a good weekend’s work by the San Jacinto Chapter in Texas.

Together with AFROTC cadets from the University of Houston, chapter members earned the funds by manning a concession stand at Ellington Field’s Wings Over Houston air show.

The 27th annual event attracted the crowds through the F-22’s first appearance at this venue, a “Tora! Tora! Tora!” re-enactment of the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor, and aircraft such as the B-52, AC-47 “Spooky” gunship, and vintage B-29 Superfortress.

The AFA-AFROTC concession stand sat in a strategic location: on the flight line and near an entrance gate, the first food booth the visitors came across.

Homer S. Black, chapter secretary, organized the concession. He had help from Treasurer Larry M. Bradshaw and chapter members Lt. Col. Aldru T. Aaron, who is the AFROTC detachment commander, and Lt. Col. Shaunte Y. Cooper, executive officer of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing.

Chapter members who pitched in behind the counter at the air show included Chapter President Donald E. Keltner.

Black gives credit to the dozen cadets who manned the grills both days, helping turn out the booth’s best-seller: hot dogs ’n beer. The chapter received 10 percent of the gross and gave the cadets 60 percent, for their role in this fund-raiser.


Alamo Chapter President Randy Coggins (l) and guest speaker retired Maj. Gen. Josue Robles at the podium at the AETC Symposium.

Randy Coggins (far right), AETC Commander Gen. Edward Rice Jr., and others look over an exhibit at the AETC Symposium’s tech expo.

AFA Board Chairman Sandy Schlitt has a big hug for Debbie Estrem. She was honored at the Air Force Ball in Colorado Springs for extraordinary work as the Lance P. Sijan Chapter’s Community Partner VP.

Leigh Wade Chapter’s Aerospace Education VP Jim White displays the group’s donation to teacher Cindy Jones (l) and Clover Hill Elementary School Assistant Principal Karen Brown.

In Alabama, Tennessee Valley Chapter members stand in front of the Veterans Memorial. They have so far raised more than $6,000 to sponsor the USAF flag at this site.

Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, addresses the Air Force banquet hosted by the Cheyenne Cowboy Chapter. (USAF photo by Matt Bildin)

AFA National Director Rick Hartle (l) and Rocky Mountain Region President Gayle White (r) present the Wyoming State Teacher of the Year award to Nicholas Bellack of Jessup Elementary School in Cheyenne, Wyo. (USAF photo by Matt Bildin)

AFA Medal of Merit awards, presented by Hartle, White, and Chapter President Irene Johnigan, went to retired Col. Carol Holland, Mary Thompson, and Leslie Swidecki. (USAF photo by Matt Bildin)

The San Jacinto Chapter’s booth at Wings Over Houston got a huge assist from University of Houston AFROTC cadets.

San Jacinto Chapter President Don Keltner congratulates University of Houston cadets on their induction into the Arnold Air Society. At left is Chapter Secretary Homer Black.


55th & 58th Weather Recon Sq. June 13-15 in Branson, MO. Contact: Conrad Layton, (918-446-6945) (

84th ATS/MAS Sq. May 18-19 at the Hampton Inn in Vacaville, CA. Contact: John Burnett, 3013 Red Maple Ct., Vacaville, CA 95687 (

91st Strategic Recon Wg Assn. Aug. 22-27 at the Grand International Hotel in Minot, ND. Contact: Jim Bard, 3424 Nottingham Rd., Westminster, MD 21157 (410-549-1094) (

351st BG Assn. June 14-17 at the Holiday Inn Cincinnati Airport in Erlanger, KY. Contact: Deborah Eason, 3722 Sussex Dr., Milledgeville, GA 31061 (478-453-7388) (

446th BG. May 3-6 in Washington, DC. Contact: Beverly Tucker, 2210 Englewood Ave., Durham, NC 27705 (919-280-1249) (

Berlin Airlift Veterans Assn (1948-49). Sept. 26-29 in Ogden, UT. Contact: J. W. Studak, 3204 Benbrook Dr., Austin, TX 78757 (512-452-0903).

First Flight Det., Nha Trang AB, South Vietnam. June 4-7 at the Embassy Suites, Colorado Springs, CO. Contact: Wayne Haring (719-598-2692) (

Forward Air Controllers Assn. Oct. 17-21 in Tucson, AZ. Contact: Tom McGrain (480-460-1969) (

JCAFB Navigator Tng Class 63-01. May 17-20 in Washington, DC. Contact: Ken McNair (425-226-5501) (

SAC Airborne Cmd Control Assn. Aug. 22-26 in Washington, DC. Contact: (804-740-2290) (

UPT 52-C. May 7-11 at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. Contact: Jim Griffith (830-598-5403) (

Unit reunion notices should be sent four months ahead of the event to, or mail notices to “Unit 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.