AFA National Report

Nov. 1, 2011

AFA’s National Teacher of the Year

A high school physics teacher from Virginia received the Air Force Association’s National Aerospace Teacher of the Year award at AFA’s National Convention in September.

Nancy R. Hoover from Lloyd C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, Va., is the 26th recipient of the prestigious award and the Leigh Wade Chapter’s second Teacher of the Year to earn the top title. The first was Melinda Kelley in 2000.

Hoover initially considered careers in music, forestry, and the medical lab, but “the signs all pointed to me entering [the] education [field] as a science teacher,” she wrote. Hoover began teaching in Chesterfield schools, south of Richmond, in 1996.

She established an aerospace curriculum and collaborates with fellow teachers on interdisciplinary lessons that combine engineering and math with social studies and English. She has sponsored robotics and rocketry teams and, with Leigh Wade Chapter sponsorship last year, established an aerospace engineering club. Hoover created and rounded up funding for a two-week-long Girls in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science (GEMS) camp, and she has organized Brown Bag Seminars to bring together students, parents, and professionals to encourage kids to study science, technology, engineering, and math.

Hoover earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University and coordinates the Governor’s Academy for Engineering Studies at Bird High School.

She received the $3,000 Teacher of the Year award at the convention’s Field Awards Celebration Dinner at the Gaylord National Resort Center. Lori Bradner of Florida was named the second-place national Teacher of the Year. Thomas E. Jenkins Jr. of Ohio placed third.

Nancy Hoover, AFA’s National Teacher of the Year, posed with students Mallory Pitchford (l) and Thienson Nguyen at the Girls in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science camp in summer 2010. They had just finished launching model rockets.

The Two-Timer Wearing Three Hats

The 15th annual Air Force Marathon took place Sept. 17 at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, with the help of organizations such as the Wright Memorial Chapter.

Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Mark Cucuzzella won the marathon—again— beating more than 2,500 competitors. Cucuzzella, who was just short of his 45th birthday also won in 2006. His time for the 26.2-mile course this year: two hours, 38 minutes.

Cucuzzella is assigned as a Reservist to the Air Force Marathon Office as chief medical consultant. He had a third role as a guest speaker for the sports and fitness expo held in conjunction with the marathon.

In civilian life Cucuzzella wears three hats, too: He is a medical doctor, a professor at West Virginia University’s medical school and owner of a natural-running shoe store.

A total of 10,320 athletes completed the marathon and its associated half-marathon, 10K, and 5K races.

As in previous races, a dozen Wright Memorial Chapter members were among the 2,000 volunteers needed to carry out a sports event of this size. Led by Everett G. Odgers and including 65 AFJROTC cadets from Bellbrook High School, they passed out cups of water and packets of nutritional gel at the 7.6-mile hydration stop.

Odgers said cadets had the discipline to get up early enough to catch a 5 a.m. bus to Wright Patt, where they helped set up the chapter’s water station.

Tinker on 9/11: One Hole Per War

The Central Oklahoma (Gerrity) Chapter organized an oral-history symposium to spotlight the role of Tinker AFB, Okla., in the nation’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The chapter brought back to Oklahoma City some of the commanders who had been on duty that day, to tell their stories.

The 9/11 Forum took place Sept. 9 at the Rose State College Performing Arts Theater and featured six panelists.

According to local newspaper coverage of the three-hour symposium, retired Lt. Gen. Charles L. Johnson II, former Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center commander, recalled that the ALC had more than one-third of the B-1s in the Air Force inventory at Tinker undergoing a major modification. “Our job was to get those back operational,” he said.

Retired Brig. Gen. Ben T. Robinson, 552nd Air Control Wing commander on 9/11, found that key air crew members got stuck in traffic after the base was locked down. He accompanied a security forces person to the back of the base and told him to use bolt cutters to cut a hole in the fence so essential personnel could get on base.

“After he cut the first hole,” Robinson recalled, “he looked over at me and asked, ‘Where do you want the next hole?’ I told him I get one hole per war and that’s it.”

“Gate 99” stayed operational for several months.

Retired Col. Patrick Sheets, who had been the 552nd ACW operations director, told the audience that Tinker had 17 AWACS available at the time. One covered the President, while others monitored the skies over various major cities. Wing leadership knew they would run out of the aircraft if the fight went overseas, Sheets said. In October 2001, five NATO AWACS deployed to Tinker. Robinson said he could think of no other example of a foreign aircraft deploying to America. NATO crews stayed at Tinker for nine months.

According to Col. Mike Mahon, now the 507th Air Refueling Wing vice commander, the wing had eight KC-135s to refuel military aircraft patrolling the skies. “The tankers were in the air all the time,” he told the audience. Refueling F-16s on combat air patrol in US airspace “was a game changer,” he added.

Gerrity Chapter VP Mark L. Tarpley said the speakers had “an incredible story of how Tinker Air Force Base and Oklahoma played a vital and often overlooked role in our nation’s defense in a time of crisis.”

A Cure for Burn Out

After schoolteacher Melanie Peters graduated from the space camp that Florida’s Hurlburt Chapter sent her to this summer, she wrote an after-action report.

There is no doubt the camp’s five days of aerospace activities bowled her over: Her report ran eight pages. The day-by-day account included how she watched—from the camp’s 3-D theater—the space shuttle’s final launch, July 8, live and narrated by Discovery and Columbia astronaut Donald A. Thomas.

The US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., runs the Space Academy for Educators, informally called space camp. It comprises 45 hours of classroom work, labs, and training, as well as simulations and other activities to show teachers what can be done in their own classrooms.

For Peters, a fourth-grade teacher at Holley Navarre Intermediate School in Navarre, the camp came just in time. Although she had been the chapter’s Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2011, she admits to having burned out. Then Glenn S. Rutland, a former Hurlburt Chapter and state Teacher of the Year, told her the chapter was seeking a teacher to send to space camp.

At the camp, Peters helped design a heat shield, practiced a water landing, whirled around on a multiaxis trainer, and by her own account was pushed to her mental and physical limits.

On the other hand, she wrote, “I ate lunch with astronauts, shook hands with legends, and rubbed shoulders with some incredible individuals.”

Peters has returned to the classroom to “take what I learned from my space camp summer and pass it on.”

Post-bin Laden World

Billing the topic as the “War on Terror in a Post-bin Laden World,” the Seidel-AFA Dallas Chapter in Texas called on a former Navy SEAL to provide perspective on recent events such as the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and the shootdown in Afghanistan of a helicopter carrying 38, including 17 SEALs.

Clint Bruce was a SEAL for some seven years and now runs Trident Response Group, a safety and security firm in Dallas. He is a native of the city, a Naval Academy graduate, and well-known in Dallas because of numerous media interviews and being featured several times on Fox television’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Bruce told the chapter luncheon meeting that “we are still living in a very dangerous world and must be constantly vigilant,” said Chapter President Robert M. Gehbauer.

The audience asked Bruce about the impact of “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. He told them instability would remain a challenge in that region, Gehbauer reported.

Some 50 people turned out for this meeting.

New Jersey’s Teacher of the Year

In a highlight of the New Jersey AFA state convention in August, Amanda Galante, technology teacher at Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver, N.J., received the Teacher of the Year award from both the state and the Hangar One Chapter.

Held at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., the gathering was hosted by the 305th Air Mobility Wing. Retired Brig. Gen. James Young, a former base commander, joined Eric P. Taylor, AFA’s Northeast Region president, in presenting Galante with the two awards: a total of $1,000, as well as certificates, a jacket, and other items.

Galante had coached the champion team in the Open Division CyberPatriot III, this past April. Her “Team Mantrap” beat 185 groups from across the nation in the final round. Team members included Christopher Barry, Colin Mahns, John Kelleher, Adam Cotenoff, Josh Eddy, and Jared Katzman.

CyberPatriot is a national high school cyber defense competition run by AFA with support from Northrop Grumman and other corporate sponsors.

The Thomas B. McGuire Jr. Chapter, under the leadership of Capt. Jennifer Condon-Pracht, organized this Garden State convention. An operations officer with the 305th, Condon-Pracht arranged for C-17 Spirit of New Jersey to park alongside the hangar where the AFAers conducted their meeting and barbecue. 305th pilots give the visitors a tour of both the Globemaster III and a KC-10 on the flight line.

Galante brought several Mantrap students to the event, including some who will form her new CyberPatriot team and others who hope to join it in the future.

More Chapter News

A group of AFA members who are considering starting a new chapter in the Sarasota and Manatee area of Florida, met on the Air Force’s 64th birthday, Sept. 18, in Manatee. Mike Richardson, currently a member of the Waterman-Twining Chapter, noted, “The Air Force Association has over 330 members in the two-county area,” and turnout for this inaugural meeting was “more than I had hoped.” Col. David P. Pavey, commander of the 927th Air Refueling Wing, MacDill AFB, Fla., dropped in on the meeting to show his support for starting a new chapter.


AFA Board Chairman Sandy Schlitt (center) attended the funeral for retired Maj. Gen. John Alison in October. With him are l-r: Ross Perot Jr., chairman of the Air Force Memorial Foundation; Oliver North; Hill Perot; and Matthew Byrd, president and CEO of a Perot company.

Against a backdrop of images from 9/11, a panel speaks at the Central Oklahoma (Gerrity) Chapter’s forum. L-r: Brian Harmelink; retired Navy Capt. Gary Foster; Col. Michael Mahon, 507th ARW vice commander; retired Col. Patrick Sheets; retired Brig. Gen. Ben Robinson; and retired Lt. Gen. Charles Johnson. USAF photo by Margo Wright.

Melanie Peters (third from left) and her fellow teachers at the Space Academy for Educators. The Hurlburt Chapter sponsored Peters’ attendance at the camp, held at the US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Ala.

At Space Academy for Educators, Peters met Donald Thomas, a four-time shuttle astronaut.

Peters said the Space Academy’s classroom work, simulators, exercises, and field trips inspired her to pass on the knowledge she gained.

Hangar One Chapter and New Jersey State Teacher of the Year Amanda Galante displays her award alongside a C-17 at the state AFA convention at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. James Young (on her right) and Eric Taylor, Northeast Region president (far right), presented the award. With Galante are three of her award-winning CyberPatriot team members (l-r): Christopher Barry, Colins Mahns, and Jack Kelleher.

Galante with some Red Rank Regional High School students and teachers. In the blue ball cap is Hangar One Chapter President Dominick Mullaney.

At an Air Force birthday celebration in the Sarasota-Manatee, Fla., area, are (l-r): Hal Millett, Michael Richardson, and Col. David Pavey. Their Air Force service covers three eras: World War II, the Vietnam War, and Iraqi Freedom.


B-52 Assn. Aug. 9-12, 2012, in Dayton, OH. Contact: Wayne Pittman, PO Box 340501 Beavercreek, OH 45434 (937-426-1289) (

664th AC&W Sq. June 22-24, 2012, in Bellefontaine, OH. Contact: Larry Lewis, 1715 Co. Rd. 10, Bellefontaine, OH 43311 (937-592-6787) (

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.