AFA National Report

Nov. 1, 2012

Teacher of the Year

Lori B. Bradner, a science teacher from Lakeland, Fla., became the 27th recipient of the Air Force Association’s National Aerospace Teacher of the Year award during the AFA National Convention at National Harbor, Md. The Central Florida Chapter had originally named her as their 2011 Teacher of the Year.

At the time of her selection, Bradner taught honors classes in chemistry, biology, and earth science and the advanced placement class in environmental science at the Central Florida Aerospace Academy of Kathleen High School. Bradner now teaches fifth-graders at Valleyview Elementary School in Lakeland.

AFA’s National Aerospace Teacher of the Year Lori Bradner (far right) with a group of students.

Bradner grew up in Flint, Mich., where her father was an engineer for General Motors and her mother a teacher. Before combining her parents’ career fields to become a science teacher, Bradner went to college: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Clown College.

Bradner traveled with the circus for a season before pursuing a more formal education at Michigan State. She earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology and began graduate studies. Later, she moved to Lakeland and, while raising four children, earned a teaching certification in science. She began substitute teaching in 2008, and the next year, the newly created CFAA hired her.

Within three years of joining the faculty, she had attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., received a NASA Endeavour Fellowship, and landed nearly a dozen teaching awards.

Has a BFA—”Bachelor of Fun Arts” —degree from Clown College helped

“I use acting skills every day in class,” Bradner wrote in her AFA application for the Teacher of the Year award. “Teachers, in reality, are actors whose role is to encourage students to observe and analyze the world around them.”

A Project With Merit

Miami-Homestead Chapter’s Ramon E. de Arrigunaga calls it “among the most difficult” to earn of all merit badges awarded by the Boy Scouts.

It is the aviation merit badge. To acquire it, a scout must explain piston, turboprop, and jet engine operations and how an aircraft’s control surfaces work. He must build a model airplane and figure out the education and training needed for a career in aviation. Then come more hurdles: reading an aeronautical chart, for example.

A few years ago, de Arrigunaga’s former AFA chapter in Homestead, Fla., proposed the idea of conducting a class to help local Boy Scouts earn this badge. Backed by volunteers from the 482nd Fighter Wing and their facilities at Homestead Air Reserve Base, de Arrigunaga conducted the inaugural all-day merit badge class in January 2009. Thirty-eight scouts attended that first Saturday morning session on base.

The program now takes place three times a year, with enrollment limited to 35. The slots fill up quickly, de Arrigunaga said.

At New Jersey’s State Convention, AFA Executive VP David Buckwalter (left) and Northeast Region President Eric Taylor present McGuire Chapter President Jennifer Condon-Pracht with an AFA Citation congratulating her on an Exceptional Service Award.

The most recent class, in September, began with a continental breakfast at the base’s all-ranks club, followed by several hours of the academic component, led by de Arrigunaga. He covered everything from the history of aviation to principles of flight. Chapter President Rodrigo J. Huete and a local Boy Scouts official helped de Arrigunaga guide the scouts in a tabletop exercise using visual flight rules sectional aeronautical charts.

After lunch, the scouts toured the base’s control tower and an F-16 on static display. Huete then conducted a contest to see which scout’s styrofoam-plate glider could fly the farthest. The program concluded with the youngsters taking an open-book test to earn their badges.

De Arrigunaga reported that he has conducted 11 sessions in the past three years, with some 345 Boy Scouts earning the Aviation Merit Badge.

Welcome Back

In South Carolina, Columbia Palmetto Chapter members turned out in good numbers for a chapter meeting welcoming back one of their own: Lt. Col. E. G. Shuler III.

He is not only chapter president, but wears a couple of other hats as well: In his full-time job, Shuler is the plans and programs officer for the 169th Fighter Wing, McEntire JNGB, S.C. He also flies C-130H3 aircraft with the 145th Airlift Wing, located some 100 miles north at Charlotte/Douglas Arpt., N.C.

Shuler addressed his chapter’s latest quarterly meeting, describing his recent deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.

The Hawaii Chapter hosted a reception for Gen. Gary North (holding framed memento) and his wife, Shelley (left), marking the end of tour and retirement for the Pacific Air Forces commander. At right is Chapter President John Murphy Jr.

Shuler deployed as a squadron scheduler but ended up flying for half of his two-month rotation, filling in for a pilot who had a medical emergency.

Shuler spoke to the chapter about the problems faced in C-130 combat airlift missions that resupply forward operating bases and small, remote airfields: winter weather, extremely mountainous terrain, and enemy threats.

“Unlike most of my squadron mates that have deployed numerous times for Operation Enduring Freedom,” Shuler wrote later in an e-mail, “this was my first deployment since Desert Storm in 1991. It was some of the most challenging flying I have done in my 28-year career.”

First in the State

The New Jersey State Convention—hosted again by the Thomas B. McGuire Jr. Chapter and 305th Air Mobility Wing at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.—honored a group of young people who have become familiar to Garden State AFAers.

During the convention’s awards ceremony, six students from Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver, N.J., received recognition for their state-level first-place finish in CyberPatriot IV: Richard Connors, Alec Jasanovsky, Jared Katzman, Luke Matarazzo, Ryan McVeety, and Michael Terpak, along with teachers Amanda Galante and Jeremy Milonas. Twenty-six teams from the state had originally registered for this national high school cybersecurity competition. Red Bank’s team was only one from New Jersey to get into the third round.

AFA members might recall the Red Bank students. Nicknamed “Team Mantrap,” they won last year’s CyberPatriot III’s Open Division outright. The summer 2011 state convention featured them with pride, and they received a tour of a C-17 and KC-10 parked on the flight line at McGuire.

This year, Dominick J. Mullaney, president of the Hangar One Chapter, presented the Red Bank team with a state-level-win award plaque, decorated with a CyberPatriot IV challenge coin unique to this year’s competition.

Mullaney himself received an AFA Citation at the convention. The award congratulated him on receiving a national-level 2012 Medal of Merit. McGuire Chapter President Jennifer L. Condon-Pracht similarly received an AFA Citation noting her selection for a national-level Exceptional Service Award.

In other convention highlights, the Sal Capriglione Chapter named retired Maj. Charles M. Taylor as its Teacher of the Year. Taylor is the senior aerospace science instructor for AFJROTC unit NJ-761 at Piscataway High School. Chapter President Anthony Devino and Chapter Membership VP Joseph Capriglione were on hand for the ceremony.

Northeast Region President Eric P. Taylor, New Jersey State President Howard Leach, and AFA Executive VP David T. Buckwalter made the award presentations.

Alabama: All About Education

“Our state convention this year was all about education for the future,” wrote Alabama State President James E. Dotherow in an e-mail describing the gathering hosted by the Tennessee Valley Chapter in Huntsville, Ala.

Michael Kersjes was among several teachers invited as guest speakers for the gathering in August. Kersjes talked about his book, A Smile as Big as the Moon and the recent Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on it. The book chronicles how he worked to get his special education students accepted into Space Camp, the US Space and Rocket Center’s program in Huntsville that promotes the study of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Kersjes’ Michigan high school students had disabilities ranging from emotional and eating disorders to Down syndrome and Tourette syndrome. They performed so well at the 1989 camp they finally attended that they opened the door for more than 2,000 special needs children who have been through the program since then.

Kersjes wrote his book in 2002. Actor John Corbett, most recently known for the “Sex in the City” TV series, starred in the movie version of this story. It aired in January.

Two other teachers addressed the Alabama convention: Sylvia Dean, current State Teacher of the Year, and Lynn Toney, who held the title in 2009. They had traveled to Edwards AFB, Calif., earlier in the summer as part of a field trip organized by the Montgomery Chapter’s aerospace education VP, Susan Mallett, and spoke to the convention about the week-long trip, including the highlight: visiting the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where they saw a full-size model of the rover that only a few weeks later would land on Mars.

Dotherow reported that their remarks promoted the AFA-Civil Air Patrol tie. CAP supports AFA by providing aerospace education materials for chapter-sponsored teachers, for example. AFA in turn provides several CAP education grants and recognition awards for cadets.

More AFA News

The Hawaii Chapter hosted two tables at the Air Force Anniversary Ball in Honolulu on Sept. 14. Chapter Executive VP Newton Wong hosted a table full of chapter members, including Maj. Gen. Darryll D. M. Wong, the state’s adjutant general; 10 USAF personnel and spouses sat at the second.

During the AFA National Convention, Central East Region President Scott Van Cleef presented Thomas W. Anthony Chapter President John L. Huggins Jr. with the regional Chapter of the Year award. Maryland State President Joseph L. Hardy accepted the regional State of the Year award from Van Cleef.

Florida Region President Michael H. Emig and Edward H. Hance, president of the Waterman-Twining Chapter, presented the 2012 AFA Florida Legislative Staffer of the Year Award to Shirley Anderson. She works as district director for US Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), who was on hand for the presentation in his office in September.


Michael Kersjes addresses the Alabama State Convention, describing how he got his students accepted into Space Camp.

At the New Jersey State Convention, Hangar Chapter President Nick Mullaney (sitting) receives an AFA Citation congratulating him on a national-level Medal of Merit award. L-r: State President Howard Leach, AFA Executive President David Buckwalter, and Northeast Region President Eric Taylor.

Piscataway High School teacher Charles Taylor displays his Teacher of the Year award from the Sal Capriglione Chapter at the New Jersey State Convention. L-r: Leach, Buckwalter, Joseph Capriglione, Taylor, Capriglione Chapter President Anthony Devino, and Taylor.

At the Air Force Ball in Honolulu, Hawaii Chapter members—including Executive VP Newton Wong and, next to him, Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, standing at far right—shared a chapter-sponsored table with guests. USAF photo by TSgt. Jerome Tayborn.

At the AFA National Convention, Maryland State President Joe Hardy accepts the Central East Region Outstanding State Organization award from then-Region President Scott Van Cleef (left).

At the convention, the president of the Thomas W. Anthony Chapter, John Huggins, accepts the Central East Region Exceptional Chapter award from Van Cleef (left).

At the convention (l-r): Col. David Koontz, Anthony Chapter Military Affairs VP; Huggins; Bob Roit, past state president; Technical Sergeant Tilley, a delegate and Airmen Leadership School instructor from Hanscom AFB, Mass.; 1st Lt. Miranda Hernandez, Baltimore Chapter president; SSgt Patricia Burleson, Baltimore Chapter VP; and Hardy.

Koontz chats with Van Cleef. The convention gives AFA leaders opportunities to exchange ideas in an informal manner.

Shirley Anderson holds her AFA Florida Legislative Staffer of the Year award, presented by Waterman-Twining Chapter President Ned Hance (far left) and Florida Region President Mike Emig (far right). US Rep. Rich Nugent (R) is second from left.

Unit Reunions

55th & 58th Weather Recon Sqs. June 5-8, 2013, in Branson, MO. Contact: Conrad Layton (918-446-6945) (

Super Sabre Society. April 9-12, 2013, at the Gold Coast Hotel in Las Vegas. Contact: Dewey Clawson, 611 Anderson Rd., Enon Valley, PA 16120 (724-336-4273) ( (

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.