AFA National Report

May 1, 2009

Tuskegee Airmen On Stage

When the Metro Rhode Island Chapter and Newport Blue & Gold Chapter (R.I.) organized a tribute in March to the Tuskegee Airmen, the guest list grew to the point where the reception had to be moved to a large auditorium at Quonset State Arpt., R.I.

Tuskegee Airmen are African-American World War II pilots who took their primary flight training at Tuskegee AAF, Ala. They numbered just under a thousand, and their combat record includes 111 aircraft destroyed in the air, 150 destroyed on the ground.

Other Tuskegee Airmen were navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, and instructors—all personnel involved in training the airmen.

The Rhode Island reception honored seven Tuskegee Airmen from the New England area: Victor Butler, George S. Lima, and Herman Wells, who are natives of the state, and Jack Bryant, Charles W. Diggs, Harvey F. Sanford, and Willie Saunders, all from the Boston area.

Robert J. Wilkinson, state president, reported that the guest list of more than 150 covered a range from USAF-related groups to Navy personnel from Newport to students from a Providence charter school.

The audience watched videos on the history of black aviators, then the seven veterans took to the stage and held a question and answer session. They received several standing ovations.

At Robins AFB, Ga., in February, AFA Board Chairman Joe Sutter (right) makes a point during a meeting with Maj. Gen. Allan Poulin, the AFRC vice commander, and Col. Theron Davis and CMSgt. Dave Henry. Poulin explained issues facing Reservists. Sutter also met with Maj. Gen. Polly Peyer, Warner Robins Air Logistics Center commander. (AFRC photo by Philip R. Davis)

The nonprofit Black Air Foundation, from Providence, co-sponsored the reception, which had its origins in Metro Rhode Island Chapter member Fred Frostic’s idea of spotlighting the Air Force’s “living history” resources. Metro Rhode Island Chapter members CMSgt. Lori Ashness, Lori Casucci, Steven Winsor, and Mark Sheehan helped organize the tribute. Chapter President Dean A. Plowman hosted the evening.

The chapter is sponsoring four “Visions of Exploration” classrooms, as a thank you to the Tuskegee Airmen. Sponsored by AFA and USA Today newspaper, the Visions program brings newspapers into classrooms to encourage an interest in studying science, technology, engineering, math, and aerospace topics.

Evening in Fort Worth

Although the black-tie formal in Texas is called “Evening in Fort Worth,” for the Fort Worth Chapter’s guest speaker, the annual event actually started during the day.

Before everyone donned dress blues and formal attire for the March banquet, Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz spent that afternoon at NAS-JRB Fort Worth. Lorenz, commander of Air Education and Training Command, received mission briefings on two of the major USAF units on the Navy-hosted base: Col. John J. Mooney III, vice commander of 10th Air Force, presented information on the AFRC numbered air force, and Col. Kevin C. Pottinger, then commander of the 301st Fighter Wing, briefed the general on his unit, which had deployed more than 100 members to Southwest Asia a few weeks earlier.

A windshield tour of the base, encompassing 1,805 acres, took Lorenz past the ANG’s 136th Airlift Wing, as well as Navy and Marine flying units.

The formal banquet, hosted by Chapter President Timothy J. Malone and chapter council members, took place at a downtown Fort Worth hotel, the Renaissance Worthington. The evening got under way with the posting of the colors by University of North Texas AFROTC cadets. Airmen from the 136th and 301st performed the invocation, Pledge of Allegiance, and a POW-MIA ceremony. AFA’s President-CEO Michael M. Dunn then introduced Lorenz to the audience.

The general spoke on leadership, to the gathering of more than 160 guests, representing all services and the defense industry.

Chapter member M. N. Heth was named a Charlotte Loos Fellow by the AFA Texas and Aerospace Education Foundation of Texas organizations. Other awards that evening went to SrA. Dan Slater of the 136th AW, named as the chapter’s Air National Guardsman of the Year 2008, and MSgt. Mary Staffield, from the 301st FW, named the chapter’s Reservist of the Year 2008.

More Chapter News

The Col. H. M. “Bud” West Chapter (Fla.) selected a project on vortex generators to receive its first science fair award at the Capital Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Tallahassee in February. Chapter President Gary B. Sharpe and Vice President John E. Schmidt Jr. made the award presentation to Dean Gonzalez at North Florida Christian High School in Tallahassee. Gonzalez developed and built wind tunnels and measurement equipment, controlling the test environment and collecting data to test his hypothesis on vortex generators, devices that help maintain correct airflow over control surfaces. The chapter awarded him $50 and a commemorative plaque.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Chapter (Va.) hosted a reception and dinner for an airman who had received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Afghanistan. MSgt. David Webber, a mental health NCOIC from McConnell AFB, Kan., was at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E last Dec. 24, when a truck he was standing behind took a direct mortar hit. Before he was wounded, he had been corresponding with a cadet at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, Va., through a project called Membership VP Stephanie D. Portillo, who teaches Spanish at RMA, coordinates the school’s participation in the program. The chapter pays postage and incidental program expenses. At the chapter reception, Webber said that the letters—about 3,500 over the past two years—have been important support to the deployed airmen.

At its March meeting, Southern Indiana Chapter members got an update on the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division—in particular, the Air Force Reserve Ammunition Team there. The 14-member unit includes the chapter’s March guest speaker, MSgt. Craig Haza, who told the audience that his unit maintains 6,000 short tons of USAF air-to-surface munitions, such as JDAMs, 30 mm ammunition for the A-10, laser guidance sections for smart bombs—”go to war stuff,” as he put it.

In Arizona in February, Frank Luke Chapter Membership VP Mads H. Brandt attended the graduation ceremony for Class 08-HBC at Luke Air Force Base, to present the chapter’s “Top Gun” trophy—an AFA mug. First Lt. Brian Beears, assigned to Hill AFB, Utah, was selected for the award from the 13 F-16 pilots graduating from the Initial Qualification Course, nine months of training with Luke’s 62nd Fighter Squadron. Brandt also awarded Beears membership in AFA.

The Tucson Chapter sent a STARBASE teacher from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to a professional conference in New Orleans in March. Vanessa Friedman attended the National Science Teachers Conference to learn new curriculum and about techniques to interest students in the hands-on projects that are the hallmark of STARBASE. Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) is a science and math course for fifth-graders that takes place over five-day periods on military installations. Davis-Monthan’s program began in 2006, through the 355th Fighter Wing. Tucson Chapter’s Karen Halstead, the communications VP, noted that STARBASE at Davis-Monthan serves more than 700 students a year, helped out by the chapter’s sponsorship.

Goal! Several Genesee Valley Chapter (N.Y.) members attended an ice hockey game pitting the Air Force Academy against Rochester Institute of Technology on Feb. 28. The chapter hosted an after-game reception on campus. Guests included 30 Falcon hockey players and 40 other guests, including academy-parent groups from Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo. Among the chapter members at the game were Kenneth P. Beaman, Joseph DiPaolo, Robert Fink, Kent W. Hemphill, Joe Pow, and Sanford E. Way.

Columbus-Bakalar Chapter member Robert L. McCracken spoke at the group’s meeting in Columbus, Ind., in March, about his World War II experiences and a USAF career that spanned 1942 to 1967. McCracken, a retired lieutenant colonel who came from an Indiana farm family, completed an aviation cadet program as a member of Class 44-E. He was an instructor pilot and in the 1950s was among the first sent to Germany to rebuild that country’s air force, reported Chapter Secretary John B. Pavone. In his civilian career, McCracken worked for what is today ArvinMeritor, an automotive supplier.

Sylvia A. French, 1938-2009

Sylvia A. French, former chief of field services at AFA, died March 6 after an illness. She had worked for the association from 1984 until her retirement in 2003.

Ms. French was well-known to AFA members because of her work, coordinating the administration of chapters, states, and regions, as well as the AFA National Convention. She had retired to Ruther Glen, Va.

Lindsey A. Farley, 1962-2008

Lindsey A. Farley, an accountant at AFA for more than 20 years, died Dec. 29, 2008. A certified public accountant, he began working at the association in the finance department in 1986, two years after graduating from Virginia Tech.

13th AF Veterans Assn (WWII). Sept. 16-19 in Grand Rapids, MI. Contact: John Reeves, 3460 4 Mile Rd., Grand Rapids, MI 49525 (

312th BG Assn, 5th AF, SWPA (WWII). Sept. 24-27 in Oklahoma City. Contact: J. T. Happy, PO Box 848, Haines City, FL 33845 (

526th FIS/TFS, Ramstein, Germany. Oct. 8-11 in Omaha, NE. Contact: Don Wenzlick, (402-980-7054) (

1381st Geodetic Surveyor Sq. June 26-28 in Cheyenne, WY. Contact: Garrett Moore (

Air Rescue Assn/Pedro Rescue Helicopter Assn. Sept. 23-26 at the Sheraton Great Valley Hotel in Frazer, PA. Contacts: Marilyn Nicholas ( (316-686-0430) or Ken Pribyla (703-619-1385) (

Berlin Airlift Veterans Assn (1948-49). Sept. 28-Oct. 2 in Dayton, OH. Contact: J. W. Studak, 3204 Benbrook Dr., Austin, TX 78757 (512-452-0903).

FB-111A, including crews, maintenance, staff, and others interested. Oct. 1-4 in Fort Worth, TX. Contact: Gerry Patterson, 104 Amberjack Ct., Georgetown, TX 78633 (512-863-9363) (

OCS Class 58-A. Sept. 14-17 in Las Vegas. Contact: Mort Friedlander (702-645-1288) (

Pilot Tng Class 49-C. Sept. 29-Oct. 2 in Branson, MO. Contact: Milton Arneson, 4542 4th St. S., Moorhead, MN 56560 (218-233-2427) (

PA AACS. July 14-16 at the Hampton Inn in DuBois, PA. Contact: Ed Rutkowski (814-371-7167).

Rustic FAC Assn., including Rustic O-2 or OV-10 forward air controllers, interpreters, or support troops. Sept. 10-13 at the Dulles Hyatt Regency Hotel in Reston, Va. Contacts: Doug Aitken (910-295-5801) ( or Tom Capps (919-812-4848) (tomcapps@nc.

USAFE football reunion. Sept. 4-5 at the Hooters Casino/Hotel in Las Vegas. Contact: Scott Thomas (702-303-7938) (

Wurtsmith AFB, all are welcome. Sept. 10-12 at the YAF Air Museum and the Oscoda/Wurtsmith Arpt., MI. Contact: Harry McCown (586-808-3499) (

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.


Chapter President Gary Sharpe (right) and North Florida Christian School administrator James Lieser present Dean Gonzalez (center) with the Col. H. M. “Bud” West Chapter’s first science fair award.

1st Lt. Brian Beears shows off the Frank Luke Chapter’s “Top Gun Trophy”–an AFA mug–that he received from Chapter Membership VP Mads Brandt (l). At right is Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, 56th FW commander.

Gen. Stephen Lorenz (r), commander of Air Education and Training Command, congratulates SrA. Daniel Slater of the 136th AW, named as the Fort Worth Chapter’s Air National Guardsman of the Year.