AFA National Report

Aug. 1, 2010

Enlisted Appreciation in Oklahoma

Sponsored in part by the Enid Chapter in Oklahoma, Enlisted Appreciation Night at Vance Air Force Base offered dinner, games, and some highly coveted door prizes.

The Enid Chapter—led by Scott Northcutt—donated $1,000 for the pizza party’s two top cash awards. Chapter Secretary Mary Feightner contacted local businesses to solicit door-prize donations. She and other volunteers rounded up nearly $19,000 worth of cash and goods from 170 donors, more than half of them chapter Community Partners.

George Pankonin, chapter leadership development VP and co-chairman of the event, said cash donations paid for the party’s food, as well as prizes.

And what a list of door prizes: two freezers packed with food, flat screen TVs, iPods, digital cameras, Blu-ray DVD players, a home theater system, a laptop computer, and camping equipment.

AFA Board Chairman Joe Sutter addresses AFA’s Midwest Region Conference, hosted by the Whiteman Chapter at Whiteman AFB, Mo., in June. (Photo by Gregg A. Moser)

“The businesses in Enid really like to support the enlisted men and women at Vance,” said Pankonin.

Enlisted Appreciation Night took place at the Vance Collocated Club. Col. Mark C. Nowland, the 71st Flying Training Wing commander, and CMSgt. Mitchell K. Balutski, the wing’s command chief master sergeant, were among those taking part in this event.

The Leadership of Irene Johnigan

In May, F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo., celebrated Armed Forces Day, and to hear the wing commander tell it, “This occasion would not have been possible or a success without the leadership of Irene Johnigan, the AFA [Cheyenne] Cowboy Chapter president.”

Col. Gregory S. Tims, 90th Missile Wing commander, didn’t stop there. “Irene has unlimited energy and the heart of an angel,” he wrote in an F. E. Warren Web page commentary. “We are so lucky to have her on our team.” He singled out Johnigan, in particular, because of the chapter’s sponsorship of the banquet that kicked off the 60th annual celebration.

The Cheyenne Cowboy Chapter gained even more publicity when the base newspaper, The Sentinel, featured that banquet, putting a photo of AFA Pitsenbarger Award recipients on its front page.

SSgt. Millie Gargurevich of the 90th Forces Support Squadron and SSgt. Christopher Melton, 90th Logistics Readiness Squadron, were pictured receiving the awards from Tims and guest speaker Brig. Gen. Everett H. Thomas. He is commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

AFA’s Pitsenbarger Awards provide $400 to top active duty, Guard, or Reserve USAF enlisted personnel who plan to go on for a bachelor’s degree after graduating from the Community College of the Air Force.

Tweet From the ACC Boss

“Just returned from a great evening at the AFA 18th annual Salute to ACC,” typed Gen. William M. Fraser III.

It was 7:55 p.m. on May 20, and the commander of Air Combat Command wanted readers on the microblogging service Twitter to know his thoughts on the gala hosted by the Langley Chapter (Va.).

Brig. Gen. Everett Thomas (l), Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander, and Col. Gregory Tims (r), 90th Missile Wing commander, present SSgt. Millie Gargurevich and SSgt. Christopher Melton with awards sponsored by the Cheyenne Cowboy Chapter. (USAF photo by SSgt. Mike Tryon)

Held at the Hampton (Va.) Convention Center, the reception and dinner was the chapter’s black-tie celebration for ACC personnel and Team Langley. Nearly 450 guests attended the gala, described by Chapter Vice President Stanley S. Stevens as “a most successful event.”

Stevens had organized the evening, directing a group of more than 40 chapter members and Community Partners, as well as ACC and Langley representatives. The gala culminated two days of events associated with the Combat Air Forces Airpower Symposium.

The symposium opened with Fraser delivering a welcome on the morning of May 19. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz was the symposium’s keynote speaker, on video, addressing some 250 attendees.

Gen. Gary L. North, Pacific Air Forces commander; Gen. Roger A. Brady, US Air Forces in Europe commander; and Maj. Gen. Jay H. Lindell, Global Power Programs director in the Air Force acquisition office, moderated panels for this sixth annual symposium.

(“Tough issues; great discussion with industry,” Fraser tweeted in one of his short messages sent during the symposium’s lunch break.)

Chapter members Bob Allison, Vince Wisniewski, and Scott Frazier organized a golf outing as part of the symposium’s roster of activities.

Mentors at Palm Springs

Along with the Palm Springs Air Museum in California, the Palm Springs Chapter co-hosted the “Gathering of Mentors”—a fly-in of aptly named T-34 training aircraft—in May.

Beech Aircraft-built T-34 Mentors were used for Air Force primary flight training in the 1950s.

The May 7-9 Palm Springs flight exhibitions, formation flights, and contests with the Mentors and other training aircraft took place at the museum, located at the city’s airport. Chapter Community Partners were among those receiving incentive rides on the T-34s during the weekend.

Chapter President John L. Hill said he and chapter board member Gene Ramirez took the lead in organizing the behind-the-scenes tasks that make for a successful fly-in: They found motels for the pilots and, with chapter funds, booked a hospitality room and paid for the pilots’ incidental expenses.

Derived from the Beech Bonanza, Mentor tandem-seat trainers were also used by other services. “This year,” wrote Hill in an e-mail, “we even had an Army T-34 come in from Wisconsin.”

The Palm Springs Chapter helped organize a T-34 fly-in in California. Chapter member Gene Ramirez is at far left; Chapter President John Hill is front row, third from right. (Photo by Eric Van Gilder)

The Book on LeMay

The Air Force Chief of Staff recommends it, so why not encourage Iron Gate Chapter members to read it

In New York City, author Warren Kozak was invited to address a chapter luncheon meeting in April, to speak about his book, LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay.

Published last year, the book about USAF’s fifth Chief of Staff—and former Strategic Air Command commander—is still gaining fans: The book was added, this April, to the Air Force Chief of Staff’s 2010 Reading List.

Kozak had knowledgeable listeners among the Iron Gate Chapter crowd: Ed Whitman told chapter members that he still remembered LeMay’s speech on leadership, delivered to Whitman’s graduating class at the Air Force Academy 50 years ago. Another chapter member, J. Stanley Holtoner, worked for LeMay as chief of the Aircraft Branch in the R&D directorate at the Pentagon.

Such an audience made for a lively question and answer period following Kozak’s talk, said Chapter President Frank Hayes.

On Record

“Madam Speaker,” began US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives on March 25. “I rise today to honor Sandy Palmer upon receiving the Hurlburt Air Force Association Chapter 398’s Overall Teacher of the Year Award for 2010.”

Miller went on to describe how Palmer, a third-grade teacher at Shalimar (Fla.)Elementary School, incorporates space and aviation topics into her classroom. Thus the Hurlburt Chapter’s Teacher of the Year, as well as her two fellow finalists, became part of the record—the Congressional Record.

In April, some 40 chapter members and guests gathered for dinner at the club at Hurlburt Field to honor Palmer and the runners-up: Jeff Baugus from Woodlawn Beach Middle School in Gulf Breeze and Amy Davis from Kenwood Elementary School in Fort Walton Beach.

The teachers all received membership in AFA, a cash award, a chapter commemorative coin, a plaque, and a certificate presented by Helen Rigdon, from Miller’s office, attesting that their selection as top teachers had been read into the Congressional Record.

In addition, the principals from each school received a US flag that had been flown over the US Capitol.

More Chapter News

In North Carolina, the Tarheel Chapter selected Bob Penny of Sanderson High School in Raleigh as its 2010 Teacher of the Year. A retired Air Force colonel and now a senior aerospace science instructor, Penny caught the group’s attention when his AFJROTC cadets earned scholarships worth more than $1.3 million. That includes student Jaron Moore, who reeled in several scholarships totaling some $456,000, including one to Stanford worth more than $177,000.

Taking a kind of Tom Sawyer approach, the Tarheel Chapter put a group of cadets to work, tasking the AFROTC unit from North Carolina State University with planning the chapter’s quarterly meeting. “It’s a first,” noted Chapter Secretary Joyce Feuerstein. Cadet Zachary Jarvis, who also heads the AFA-affiliated Arnold Air Society group at the school, organized the event, held at the university’s coliseum. Lt. Col. Christopher P. Froeschner, the Det. 595 commander, was guest speaker for a presentation about current AFROTC training.

The Leigh Wade Chapter in Petersburg, Va., announced its Teacher of the Year 2010 at a banquet and ceremony at the county airport in May. Cindy M. Jones of Clover Hill Elementary School in Midlothian was also named Virginia State Teacher of the Year. James White, chapter VP, presented her with $500 and an AFA certificate. Guest speaker Kirk Cox, a state legislator, praised the innovative teaching approaches to science and math taken by Jones and by the chapter’s AFA Educator Grant recipients recognized that evening: Nancy Hoover of Lloyd C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, Allison Couillard of J. B. Watkins Elementary School in Midlothian, and Timothy Couillard of James River High School in Midlothian.

In Valdosta, Ga., the South Georgia Chapter selected as its Teacher of the Year Mimi Wetherington, a third-grade teacher at Lake Park (Ga.) Elementary School. She told Chapter President Nick Lacey, “Year after year, my students leave my classroom proclaiming that they love math and science because I made it fun.” Lacey and Dean Failor, chapter VP for aerospace education, presented her with $250, a plaque, and certificate. School Superintendent Steve Smith and School Principal Cathie Felix attended the ceremony, held at a meeting of the Lowndes County Board of Education. A press release about the award and a photo was posted on the school board’s Web site.

In Texas, Concho Chapter President Jim Graham invited AFA Texoma Region President David Dietsch and Texas State President Kelly M. Jones to San Angelo to help chapter members represent AFA at celebrations for Air Force Medal of Honor recipients George E. “Bud” Day and Leo K. Thorsness. AFA leaders Dietsch, Kelly, and Graham went to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, where two visiting officers quarters buildings were dedicated on May 7 in the names of Day and Thorsness. That evening, the AFA guests attended a gala for Day and Thorsness, held at Angelo State University.

The AFA National Chaplain, retired Maj. Gen. Donald J. Harlin, has announced his resignation, effective Oct. 1. Appointed to the post in 1998, Harlin said that being AFA’s chaplain gave him more satisfaction than any other project he had taken on since retiring from active duty in 1995. Harlin lives in LaGrange, Ga.


AFA Chairman of the Board—and former missile wing commander—Joe Sutter (l) spoke at the Minuteman I Missile Crew Reunion at Fairborn, Ohio, in May. Ken JuVette, master of ceremonies, is at right.

Missouri State President Frank Niblock (l) and Midwest Region President Frank Gustine at the Midwest Region Conference, Whiteman AFB, Mo. Before the meeting, AFAers toured a B-2 simulator and a decommissioned Minuteman silo.

Midwest Region Conference attendees included this group from Missouri (l-r): Jim Snyder, Harry Truman Chapter President Pat Snyder, Harry McLane, and Della McLane.

Midwest Region Conference hosts Ann Niblock, secretary of the Whiteman Chapter, and Fred Niblock, Missouri state president.

CMSgt. Mitchell Balutski, 71st Flying Training Wing command chief master sergeant, deals cards at Enlisted Appreciation Night, co-sponsored by the Enid Chapter at Vance AFB, Okla.

Col. Mark Nowland, 71st FTW commander, stands up to run the card game at Enlisted Appreciation Night in the Vance Collocated Club.

Tarheel Chapter President Ray Benson (l) presents an AFA matching grant to North Carolina State University ROTC cadet Zachary Jarvis and Det. 595 Commander Lt. Col. Christopher Froeschner.

Cindy Jones, named Leigh Wade Chapter and Virginia State Teacher of the Year, receives an AFA Certificate from Leigh Wade Chapter VP Jim White.

Texas State President Kelly Jones (l) and Texoma Region President Dave Dietsch (r) pose with Medal of Honor recipient Bud Day at a gala in San Angelo, Tex. (USAF photo by 2nd Lt. Vasav Swaminathan)

Texas State President Kelly Jones (l) and Texoma Region President Dave Dietsch (r) pose with Medal of Honor recipient Leo Thorsness at a gala in San Angelo, Tex. (USAF photo by 2nd Lt. Vasav Swaminathan)

Hurlburt Chapter President Dann Mattiza (r) presents a certificate to Teacher of the Year Sandy Palmer (c). It states that her achievement has been read into the Congressional Record. Helen Rigdon (l) is from the office of US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).

Unit Reunions

6th BG, Tinian island (1944-45). Sept. 9-12 in Dayton, OH. Contact: Bill Webster (651-345-4575) (

11th BG, WWII. Nov. 3-7 at the Best Western Buena Vista Resort in Orlando, FL. Contact: Phil Gudenschwager (480-945-9119 or 602-361-7846) (

14th Special Operations/Air Commando Wg, including all AC-47 personnel. Sept. 9-11 in Branson, MO. Contacts: Junior Skinner (352-653-7081) or Dale White (970-884-2699).

40th Fighter/Flight Test Sq., all veterans and active duty. Oct. 1-3 at Eglin AFB, FL. Contact: Bill Highfield (770-229-4297) (

81st FW/FTW (January 1942-December 1993). Nov. 10-14 in Las Vegas. Contact: Ken Ward, 4422 Carta Luna St., Las Vegas, NV 89135 (702-804-9301) (

376th Air Reueling Sq. Sept. 28-30 in Bossier City, LA. Contact: Bill Bryan (360-692-3609) (bill77B@gmail. com).

966th Airborne Early Warning & Control Sq. All EC-121 personnel are invited. Oct. 15-17 in Kissimmee, FL. Contact: Phil Szymkowicz (503-645-3917) (

4080th/100th Strategic Recon Wg and support units. Nov. 12-14 in Tucson, AZ. Contact: George Barnett (520-749-3982) (

AF Security Forces Assn. Oct. 7-9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego. Contacts: Jerry Bullock (888-250-9876) or Tom Foster (760-438-0683).

Seeking personnel for Iceland radar sites and 667th, 932nd, 933rd, 934th AC&W reunion. Contact: William Chick (803-932-9596) (

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.