AFA National Report

Oct. 1, 2009

Back-to-Back in Alabama

Air Force Association Chairman of the Board Joseph E. Sutter was keynote speaker for both the Montgomery Chapter (Ala.) Community Partner Appreciation Luncheon and the Alabama State Convention, hosted by the chapter in August. The events took place back-to-back at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Larry G. Carter, chapter information management VP, said that Sutter took a good news-bad news approach in his remarks to the Community Partners: He spoke about the reduction in numbers of Air Force fighter aircraft; termination of F-22 production; USAF’s aging aircraft fleet; and the impact of budget decisions on the industrial base. Turning to the good news, he praised the quality of today’s airmen and described how AFA works on their behalf.

The Montgomery Chapter has more than 70 Community Partners.

Alabama State President Thomas W. Gwaltney chaired the state convention that followed the luncheon.

AFA Board Chairman Joe Sutter (right) chats with CMSgt. Brye McMillon and Joe Panza of the Montgomery Chapter. Sutter spoke at the Alabama State Convention and the chapter’s Community Partner luncheon. McMillon is the command chief master sergeant for Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala. Panza is the state VP.

As convention speaker, Sutter presented an update on AFA activities, emphasizing four areas: improving AFA’s role as an advocate, grassroots communications, membership, and financial resources.

Mark J. Dierlam, South Central Region president, led a discussion on how to improve chapter operations. His topics ranged from information available on AFA’s Web site to an example of an active chapter’s annual activity plan.

In elections, Gwaltney was re-elected, as were the other state officers: Joseph A. Panza Jr., vice president; William Voigt, treasurer; and James E. Dotherow, secretary.

Community Partner Dinner: Plan B

After the Community Partner Dinner hosted by the William J. “Pete” Knight Chapter (Calif.), Randolph H. Kelly had two words to describe it: “Semper Gumby.”

“Always flexible,” the chapter VP translated, explaining the phrase as a combination of the Marine Corps motto and a reference to the bendable clay-animation toy figure.

Kelly went on to say that the dinner had been planned months ahead of time for Aug. 19. But as he drove to work at Edwards AFB, Calif., that day, he learned that the venue—the base’s Club Muroc—had been broken into the night before, and the Office of Special Investigations had closed it off as a crime scene. Dinner location, catering, audio-visual and manpower support—all gone. Kelly said he panicked for three seconds. Then the chapter, headed by Rex Moen, organized a Plan B.

Kelly said that chapter members, some of them still driving to work through the Antelope Valley area, began replanning the dinner. Tasks were “farmed out by cell phone to board members all over the valley,” Kelly said. Chapter Secretary Cindy Phillips and Leigh Kelly served as coordinators between chapter members and the base’s organizations.

By the afternoon, the group lined up the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum as the new dinner location, and signs placed around the base diverted guests to the right place.

An honor guard presented the colors, that evening. Maj. Gen. David J. Eichhorn, the test center commander, was guest speaker. Gail Knight—wife of the late Air Force test pilot-astronaut and state senator Pete Knight—was there, as well as many of the chapter’s 66 Community Partners. The chapter even signed up a new one, that night.

Kelly noted that the chapter carried out “a first-class social event replanned and executed in basically a business day.”

Keystone State Convention

The Pennsylvania State Convention took place in August in Carlisle, Pa., a city known in military circles as home of the US Army War College. In fact, Olmsted Chapter President Earl T. Kuhn Jr. arranged for an AWC student to be the convention’s awards dinner speaker.

Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Payne was commander of the 7th Operations Support Squadron at Dyess AFB, Tex., before his selection for the War College. His convention presentation focused on the diverse assignments his squadron conducted in the war zones.

State President Robert Rutledge said Payne’s photos and illustrations showed how the Air Force is on the ground with soldiers and marines, driving trucks, going into combat situations as explosive ordnance disposal technicians, and carrying out duties not usually associated with the Air Force.

During awards presentations, the Lt. Col. B. D. “Buzz” Wagner Chapter of Johnstown was named State Chapter of the Year, and Karen G. Hartman of the Joe Walker-Mon Valley Chapter was announced as State Member of the Year. Also honored were AFA national-level 2009 awardees Charles R. Harker, George D. Henderson, Eric P. Taylor, and Gary M. Wolbert.

State officers were re-elected during the convention’s business session: Rutledge of the Buzz Wagner Chapter, president; Susanna B. Gyger of the Eagle Chapter, vice president; Thomas G. Baker, Altoona Chapter, secretary; and Hartman, treasurer.

Central Indiana Chapter President Michael Malast (l) thanks guest speaker retired Lt. Col. Todd Lovell for briefing the chapter on the CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Lovell was commander of the 71st Special Operations Squadron, Kirtland AFB, N.M., until retiring in 2008. He spoke about the unit’s Osprey flight crew training mission.

Convention in Atlantic City

Hosted by the Highpoint Chapter, the New Jersey State Convention took place in May at an Atlantic City resort.

Newly elected State Secretary Mary F. Lower described a presentation by two airmen from McGuire AFB, N.J., as a highlight of the two-day convention. TSgt. David Williamson and SrA. Daniel Zaleski, from the 87th Logistics Readiness Squadron, showed photos and video from a deployment to Afghanistan, where their duties included protecting convoys. Lower said she was almost overcome with tears when she watched their video showing a truck accidentally triggering an improvised explosive device.

James R. Lauducci, AFA’s vice chairman of the board for field operations, was keynote speaker for the convention’s business session. His topics included chapter revitalization, leadership development, communications, the focus on gaining new members, and AFA’s education programs.

Other convention speakers were Col. Gina M. Grosso, commander of the 87th Air Base Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Army Col. Ronald J. Thaxton, at the time commander of Ft. Dix; and Navy Capt. Phillip L. Beachy, commander of Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst. Property and funds for Ft. Dix and Lakehurst transfer to Air Force control Oct. 1.

Among the AFA state leaders returned to office are Norman G. Mathews of the Mercer County Chapter, re-elected as state president, and Geraldine Jones from the Thomas B. McGuire Jr. Chapter, re-elected as state VP.

AFRC Awards in Ohio

Air Force Reserve Command’s 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown ARS, Ohio, was the focus of the awards banquet hosted by the Steel Valley Chapter at the air station’s Eagle’s Nest consolidated club in late May.

Col. Timothy S. Costa, wing vice commander, received the 2009 Officer of the Year award. The banquet program brochure stated that he is an FAA air traffic controller “in civilian life” and has commanded units during the wing’s activation for service in Europe, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom.

SMSgt. Eric W. Stere, 910th Security Forces Squadron operation superintendent, was named Enlisted Member of the Year. Employed by the state Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Stere has deployed five times, including consecutive deployments to Iraq.

Chapter President Fred Kubli Jr. presented the other two awards, that evening. Alyshia D. Borntreger received the AFJROTC Cadet of the Year award, while Marine Corps Reservist Maj. Maureen R. McFarland was named Teacher of the Year. Borntreger was the AFJROTC squadron commander at Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Warren. McFarland is a Kent State University assistant professor of aeronautics and was chosen for the honor by the university’s AFROTC cadets at Det. 630.

Chapter Secretary Lori Stone, served as master of ceremonies for the evening. Ohio State President John W. McCance was among the other AFA officials at the gathering.

Focus on Aviation

In Delaware, the Brig. Gen. Bill Spruance Chapter’s annual Focus on Aviation awards event featured former Vietnam War POW Jon A. Reynolds as guest speaker.

An F-105 pilot at Takhli AB, Thailand, in November 1965, Reynolds was shot down and imprisoned at several POW sites, including the Hanoi Hilton and Son Tay. He was repatriated in February 1973. A captain at the time he was shot down, Reynolds later retired from active duty as a brigadier general and worked for Raytheon in a civilian career.

Chapter President Howard Sholl Jr. said that Reynolds spoke to the chapter about leadership, based on experiences as a POW.

Focus on Aviation took place this year near Wilmington, at New Castle County Airport, home of the Air National Guard’s 166th Airlift Wing.

Receiving awards at Focus on Aviation for outstanding performance as members of the 166th were MSgt. Todd Hughes, MSgt. Robbin Moore, MSgt. Carrie Wade, TSgt. Elizabeth Fleischer, and SrA. Mark Rutt.

The event also honored Joseph Nickle, for excellence in flight training; chapter Teacher of the Year Beenu Gupta, from The Charter School of Wilmington, where she teaches biology; and Civil Air Patrol officers Gene Egry and Kevin Lighter.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

In July, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Chapter (Va.) took 32 military veterans out to the ball game.

The chapter guests were clients of the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the chapter hosted them at a Winchester (Va.) Royals baseball game.

Joining the vets in the stands were a dozen chapter members and guests, including Thomas G. Shepherd, aerospace education VP; Raleigh H. Watson Jr., leadership development VP; and Arthur Olson. James R. Phillips, veterans affairs VP, organized the event, working with the hospital staff.

Before the game, the announcer told the fans about the chapter’s sponsorship, and one of the veterans threw out the first pitch. She got the ball to the catcher on one bounce, Chapter President Norman M. Haller reported.

The Royals—a summer collegiate team—lost the game, nine to three, to the Haymarket Senators, “but the vets enjoyed the outing,” Haller said.

More Chapter News

At a Community College of the Air Force graduation May 28, Ark-La-Tex Chapter President Jack M. Skaggs presented an AFA Pitsenbarger Award to SSgt. Danielle N. Dial of AFRC’s 917th Maintenance Squadron, Barksdale AFB, La. Dial, a journeyman aircraft mechanic, received an associate degree in aviation maintenance technology at the ceremony. AFA’s Pitsenbarger Awards are $400, granted to CCAF graduates who plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree. They are named after Medal of Honor recipient A1C William H. Pitsenbarger, a pararescue jumper who died while on a mission in the Vietnam War.

In August, Maryland State AFA hosted the annual Teacher of the Year Luncheon near Andrews Air Force Base, with Maj. Gen. Ralph J. Jodice II, Air Force District of Washington commander, as guest speaker. Honorees at the event were Christopher Orlando, State Teacher of the Year; Bonnie Beavan, the Thomas W. Anthony Chapter Teacher of the Year; and Julie Harp, Baltimore Chapter Teacher of the Year. Offering congratulations were Robert B. Roit, state president, and Chapter Presidents Robert J. Hawkins, of the Central Maryland Chapter, and Charles X. Suraci Jr., of the Thomas W. Anthony Chapter. Robert Pelletier represented the Baltimore Chapter.

Capt. John W. Picklesimer received a 2008 national-level AFA Medal of Merit at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, in July. Hawaii Chapter President Nora Ruebrook made the presentation at a chapter board meeting held at the Hickam Officers Club. Picklesimer is executive officer in the Directorate of Communications, Pacific Air Forces.


20th Air Police/Security Police (1960s). May 11-13 at the Stone Castle Hotel in Branson, MO. Contacts: Gerald Dickey ( or Roy Johnson (360-929-3791) (

Pilot Tng Class 60-H. June 11-13 at Saddlebrook Resort, in Tampa, FL. Contact: John Granskog (239-384-9371) (

SAC Airborne Command Control Assn. Sept. 8-12, 2010, in Seattle. Contact: Wilton Curtis (804-740-2290) (

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.


At Hickam AFB, Hawaii, Capt. John Pickelsimer receives a 2008 AFA Medal of Merit from Hawaii Chapter President Nora Ruebrook.

Maryland Chapter Teachers of the Year holding their AFA certificates are (l-r) Bonnie Beavan, Christopher Orlando, and Julie Harp.

Pennsylvania State President Robert Rutledge thanks Lt. Col. Gregory Payne, the guest speaker at the state convention.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Chapter hosted military veterans at a local-league baseball game.