AFA National Report

July 1, 2011

The Astrochimp

In Alabama, a presentation organized by the Montgomery Chapter’s aerospace education VP has captured the interest of adults and kids alike.

Susan Mallett came up with the idea of spotlighting Ham, a chimpanzee that rode a Mercury Redstone rocket into a suborbital flight 50 years ago, on Jan. 31, 1961.

Ham’s spacecraft reached an altitude of 157 miles, a speed of 5,857 mph, and landed 422 miles downrange. This was higher, faster, and farther than originally planned, due to technical problems, but he survived his 16.5-minute flight in good condition. The first chimp in space paved the way for America’s first human astronaut, Alan B. Shepard Jr., who went into space four months later.

Mallett was inspired to highlight Ham’s anniversary flight because a friend, retired USAF Col. Marvin E. Grunzke, had trained Ham and other animals sent into space. She wanted the Montgomery community to know about Grunzke, whom she called one of the “hidden gems” in their midst.

The initial presentation in January on “Ham the Astrochimp”—by Grunzke, Mallett, and fellow chapter member Debbie Dahl—drew a standing-room-only crowd of 300 people. They had expected 50.

A local newspaper gave this event Page 1 full-color coverage, and it generated TV and Internet video segments.

AFA Board Chairman Sandy Schlitt (far left) watches the CyberPatriot’s Open Division champ, Team Mantrap from Red Bank Regional High School in New Jersey, celebrate its win. Next to Schlitt is Melissa Hathaway, a panelist in AFA’s CyberFutures Conference. At far right is Amanda Galante, Team Mantrap’s advisor. See “CyberPatriot Nation,” p. 65. (Photo by Guy Aceto)

Mallett says the trio then began receiving invitations to give the presentation to schools and churches. Once, they were filmed live for an hour-long local TV program.

Most recently, Mallett partnered with the Civil Air Patrol to present the program as part of National Astronomy Day in May at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium.

Mallett used a video to explain the astrochimp program, then spent four hours with some 100 children at the planetarium, building and flying “fun shuttles” made from paper and balsa wood, with propellers driven by rubber bands. As at previous events, she distributed brochures on AFA, the CyberPatriot program, Civil Air Patrol, and photos of Grunzke training Ham to push buttons on a space capsule simulator.

“Like a Rock Concert”

At a state drill meet in Virginia, carried out by the Tidewater Chapter and Richmond Chapter, the AFJROTC cadets performed before highly experienced—some might think intimidating—judges: the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team.

If that wasn’t enough, more role models—the Air Force Color Guard from JB Langley-Eustis, Va.—performed during the competition’s opening ceremony.

The honor guard drill team is the traveling component of the USAF Honor Guard, based at JB Anacostia-Bolling, D.C. They “added credibility to the judging,” remarked Gordon Strong, Tidewater Chapter secretary and head of the AFJROTC unit at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake. “And then when they performed” for the young cadets, Strong continued, “it was like a rock concert.”

One observer said the place was “rolling.” The kids even asked drill team members for autographs.

This annual Virginia State Air Force JROTC Drill Meet involved two dozen units competing at Atlee High School in Mechanicsville.

Besides the Air Force drill team, other judges came from the ranks of senior ROTC cadets from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

In front of this knowledgeable panel, E. C. Glass High School cadets from Lynchburg won the overall event trophy for the second consecutive year.

Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg came in second, and Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, third.

Virginia State President J. Randy Hobbs presented the trophies. The drill meet had financial backing from the Donald W. Steele Sr. Memorial Chapter, Gen. Charles A. Gabriel Chapter, Langley Chapter, and the state AFA organization.

Thomas O. Moran, leadership development VP from the Richmond Chapter, gets the credit for inviting the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team to the event, said Strong. “He started working them a year out.”

First Scholarship for First Unit

The Lincoln Chapter in Nebraska presented its first annual aerospace education scholarship in April.

AFJROTC cadet Rebekah E. King, a senior at Lincoln Northeast High School, received the award, presented by Chapter Aerospace Education VP Diane R. Bartels and Brandon R. Tovado, then a University of Nebraska-Lincoln AFROTC cadet and now a newly commissioned second lieutenant.

Behind the presentation of this $500 award to King lay a lot of effort by the chapter over a lengthy period.

Bartels reports that the chapter had urged Lincoln Public Schools to establish an AFJROTC unit for 17 years. The big push came in 2008 when the chapter hosted a reception for an AFJROTC site survey team.

The AFJROTC program at Lincoln Northeast received the go-ahead shortly thereafter and got under way the following school year.

Then-Lincoln Chapter President Robert R. Tovado—who was largely responsible for establishing the high school’s AFJROTC program at Lincoln—and his family fund the new aerospace education scholarship. Tovado, his son Brandon, and daughter Meagan all participated in AFJROTC programs during their high school years.

Back Again

The General Doolittle Los Angeles Area Chapter, one of AFA’s original charter chapters, faltered last year, but AFA California leaders worked together to help it rally this year. In the process, they discovered a source of new members, willing volunteers, and youthful enthusiasm: the Arnold Air Society.

The chapter marked its restart with an April meeting, highlighted by an unusually stellar VIP list: George K. Muellner, AFA vice chairman of the board for aerospace education, and retired Col. Jimmy Doolittle III and Jonna Doolittle Hoppes, grandson and granddaughter of the USAF—and AFA—legend for whom the chapter is named.

“Chapter reconstitution,” as the Golden State AFA officials called this new beginning, came about under the direction of California State President Rex Moen. He appointed Donald E. Zweifel, membership VP of the Orange County/Gen. Curtis E. LeMay Chapter, as interim president for the Doolittle Chapter.

Zweifel, in turn, tapped Arnold Air Society cadets from Loyola Marymount University, UCLA, and University of Southern California. A professional, honorary organization focused on service, AAS aims to develop cadets into strong Air Force officers, and Zweifel found its members eager to help the AFA chapter: In fact, AAS cadets Jonathan C. Blaisdell and Jonathan S. Coe now serve as chapter VP and secretary, respectively.

They were elected at that April meeting, along with Harry Talbot as president and Capt. Ryan C. Marcotte, treasurer.

On Base in Minnesota

Some 30 chapter members and guests attended the May dinner meeting of the Richard I. Bong Chapter (Minn.), hosted by the 148th Fighter Wing at Duluth Airport.

The wing vice commander, Lt. Col. Jon S. Safstrom, served as guest speaker. The chapter’s Teacher of the Year and the local Civil Air Patrol unit also took a turn in the limelight that evening.

Safstrom delivered an update on wing activities, including the arrival of F-16s from Spangdahlem AB, Germany. The Block 50 fighter aircraft began joining the wing in April 2010, as part of USAF’s legacy fighter drawdown, to replace the unit’s Block 25 F-16s.

Chapter Teacher of the Year Rebecca Lindgren is from the South Shore School District, Port Wing, Wis. At the meeting, she received $250, a plaque, and a book bag as part of her awards.

Chapter President Carol J. Wolosz pointed out that Lindgren is a Visions of Exploration teacher.

Now in its 20th year, Visions of Exploration is a joint program of AFA and USA Today newspaper. It encourages the study of science, technology, engineering, and math by providing print or digital copies of the newspaper to classrooms. Lesson plans, multidisciplinary activities tied to news events, and other resources help teachers carry out the Visions program.

To cap the chapter’s quarterly gathering, the Duluth Civil Air Patrol squadron received a donation presented by Wolosz, to support cadet summer training and education programs. This summer, for example, the CAP cadets plan a field trip to the Air Force Museum and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Beastly Attraction

Need to attract attention? Try a beast. Scott Berkeley Chapter President Mike Hartsfield did.

Joined by State President Louis A. Emond and Southeast Region David A. Klinkicht, Hartsfield manned an AFA booth at Wings Over Wayne, a two-day air show at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., in April.

Emond bought plastic bags decorated with the AFA logo, and the trio stuffed them with copies of Air Force Magazine, an AFA membership application, and a flyer about CyberPatriot.

Helping out was the eBEAST. At Seymour Johnson, Airman eBEAST is a florescent-green costumed mascot whose name-acronym reminds people to take care of the environment: Buy and use recycled and bio-based items; Encourage family and friends to “Think Green”; Act to protect land, air, water, and animals; Sort recyclables; and Turn off faucets and lights when not needed.

MSgt. Mike Wolfe, the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron’s first sergeant, donned the eBEAST costume for the air show.

Chapter members distributed 300 AFA goodie bags that weekend.

4th Fighter Wing public affairs office reported that a record-breaking 160,000 attended the air show.

Think Safety, and Pass it On

Troubled by several airplane crashes in the Long Island, N.Y., area, some safety-minded pilots in the Iron Gate Chapter (N.Y.) decided to set up bi-annual Pilot Safety Seminars. The purpose: Exchange information on how to avert accidents.

The latest Iron Gate-sponsored seminar took place at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, N.Y., in May. Chapter President Frank T. Hayes introduced Andrew Miller, from the Air Safety Institute, as guest speaker for a capacity crowd of 300 pilots. Miller’s presentation covered subtle errors and missed clues that have led to crashes, and several pilots related personal experiences.

Afterward, reports Hayes, Miller was surrounded by guests asking questions and expressing thanks for sharing the information.

The Iron Gate Chapter sponsored a reception beforehand, using the opportunity to distribute AFA membership applications and copies of Air Force Magazine.

More Chapter News

The AFROTC detachment at the Florida State University in Tallahassee invited Clifford Palmer, president of the Col H. M. “Bud” West Chapter, to present several honors at its annual awards ceremony in April. Among the recipients were: Christian J. Shipp, receiving an AFA Silver Medal; William R. Sinkey, named Outstanding AS 400 Cadet; and Anthony D. Monaro, who earned the Chief John Schmidt Community Service Award, established by the detachment to recognize a longtime supporter. Schmidt—a seven-term chapter president and now its VP—attended the presentation.

Scott Chesnut, the Frank Luke Chapter (Ariz.) aerospace education VP, presented AFJROTC cadet Joey Kendrick with an AFA Medal at an awards ceremony at Gilbert (Ariz.) High School on April 15. This was the first of 18 cadet ceremonies supported by the chapter in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, pointed out Luisa C. Bailey, chapter communications VP.

Howard Leach Jr., acting New Jersey state president as well as president of the Shooting Star Chapter, attended the May 11 New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz.

Team of the Year

In April, AFA honored five Air Force first sergeants as its 2011 Team of the Year: CMSgt. David R. Henry, from headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, Robins AFB, Ga.; SMSgt. Melanie K. Noel, instructor at the USAF First Sergeant Academy, Gunter Annex, Ala.; SMSgt. Manny Pineiro, from headquarters 3rd Air Force, Ramstein AB, Germany; SMSgt. Ernest T. Williams, 147th Combat Communications Squadron, San Diego ANG Station; and MSgt. Todd K. Meaney, 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron, F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo.

CMSAF James A. Roy and major-command-level command chief master sergeants selected the first-sergeant career field for this recognition.


The 2011 Team of the Year received honors from AFA President & CEO Michael Dunn (far left) and CMSAF James Roy (far right). L-r are the award-winning first sergeants: CMSgt. David Henry, SMSgt. Melanie Noel, MSgt. Todd Meaney, SMSgt. Manny Pineiro, and SMSgt. Ernest Williams.

At the AFA Virginia AFJROTC Drill Meet, State President Randy Hobbs presents the overall winner’s trophy to E.C. Glass High School AFJROTC cadet Shawn Cording. (Staff photos by Eric Chiang Lee.)

Lincoln Chapter members present their first aerospace education scholarship. L-r: Mark Musick, retired Lt. Col. Karen Pullen, scholarship recipient Rebekah King, Brandon Tovado, Diane Bartels, and Lincoln Northeast High School Principal Kurt Glathar.

Becci Lindgren, the Richard I. Bong Chapter’s Teacher of the Year, displays her certificate, with Tom Wilk and Leo Wittenberg.

A visit from the eBEAST brings attention to the Scott Berkeley Chapter’s table at the Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., air show.

AFRC Lt. Col. Clifford Palmer (far left), president of the Col. H. M. “Bud” West Chapter, presented awards at a Florida State University, Tallahassee, awards ceremony. L-r: Christian Shipp, William Sinkey, Anthony Monaro, chapter member John Schmidt, and Col. William Francis, detachment commander.

Retired Col. Scott Chesnut (left), the Frank Luke Chapter’s aerospace education VP, presents AFJROTC cadet Joey Kendrick, with an AFA Medal, at Gilbert High School in Arizona.

Representing New Jersey AFA and the Shooting Star Chapter, Howard Leach (right) attended the induction into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame of USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz (left).

Schwartz’s bronze plaque in New Jersey’s Aviation Hall of Fame notes that he is from Toms River, N.J.


1st Fighter Assn. Sept. 14-18 at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA. Contact: Pete Marty (

5th Aerial Port, Evreux-Mildenhall. Aug. 18-21 in Fairborn, OH. Contacts: Bill Bishop ( or Lee Jarrett (

18th Fighter-Interceptor Sq. Sept. 26-29 in Colorado Springs, CO. Contact: Jim Sidebottom (303-913-9104) (

40th Fighter/Test Sq Assn. Oct. 6-9 at the Hilton House NASA Clear Lake, Houston. Contact: Keith Kosan (850-687-0009) (

384th Air Refueling Sq. Sept. 9-11 at the Wichita Marriott Hotel in Wichita, KS. Contact: Kenneth Godstrey, 12018 Maycheck Ln., Bowie, MD 20715 (301-464-1150) (

405th Bomb Sq, Laon AB, France (1953-59). Sept. 20-24 in Las Vegas. Contact: Willie Wise (717-838-1561) (

Johnson AB, Japan (1946-62). Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Nashville, TN. Contact: Keith Swinehart (303-814-0800) (

National Red Horse Assn, including Prime Beef. Oct. 16-20 at the Holiday Inn San Antonio Downtown, San Antonio. Contacts: Paul Sattler (303-650-1215) ( or Greg MacDougal (912-396-1359) (

Randolph UPT Class 70-05. Oct. 27-30 in Savannah, GA. Contact: Howard Hackney, 605 S. Lapeer Rd., Oxford, MI 48371 (248-505-1964 or 248-236-9050).

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.