AFA National Report

Dec. 1, 2013

The Heimlich Hero

At AFROTC field training camp in June, a cadet began coughing during dinner in the mess hall at Camp Shelby, Miss. It happened at a time when everyone was supposed to sit at attention, with no talking or unnecessary movement. As a result, the cadets hesitated to break the discipline of this regimen called a “tight meal.” But Matthew Longo, a Gen. Joseph W. Ralston Chapter member, became alarmed at the cadet’s prolonged coughing spell.

Longo said in a phone interview in October that the instructors didn’t understand that the cadet was actually choking on food, but “once I turned around in my seat, it was obvious he was in trouble.”

The instructors yelled at Longo for disobeying the tight meal rules. This didn’t stop him from running over to the cadet and asking if he was choking. When he nodded, Longo performed an emergency technique he’d learned in high school health class: the Heimlich maneuver. He wrapped both of his arms around the cadet, from behind and above the waist, and jerked them hard to forcefully expel air—and thus dislodge a piece of Salisbury steak—from the cadet’s windpipe.

The instructors didn’t comment on the incident, so at the training camp’s closing ceremony at Maxwell AFB, Ala., a week later, Longo was completely surprised when Lt. Gen. David S. Fadok, the Air University commander, called him up on stage and presented him with an AFROTC Silver Valor Award.

The recognition goes to cadets who have voluntarily acted with heroism.

Now a junior at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, Longo returned to his hometown near Dayton for an October Wright Memorial Chapter meeting. His dad, chapter member Eugene Longo, introduced him to the audience, then turned the podium over to Matt.

“The chapter was very moved and excited to hear what he had done,” then-Chapter President Shiela Wallace commented.

New USAF, Civilian Scholarship for Graduate Studies

The family of the late retired Lt. Col. Loren J. Spencer and his wife, Lawona E. Spencer, have endowed an AFA scholarship for Air Force personnel and civilians who want to pursue graduate studies in management and administration.

Spencer had been an AFA national director emeritus until his death March 3 in Arlington, Va. He was 89. Lawona Spencer had preceded him in death three years ago.

AFA will post applications for the scholarship on its website next month. The association will award the scholarship based on academic standing and job performance and will announce the recipient in July.

Spencer received a commission in December 1944 and flew with Thirteenth Air Force in the southwest Pacific. His post-World War II assignments included Air Training Command and a NATO stint in Paris. He flew some 100 kinds of aircraft, accumulating more than 7,000 flying hours, before retiring from the Air Force in 1966. He went on to a civilian career with the FAA and the Department of Transportation.

The Five-and-a-Half-Hour Luncheon

The Iron Gate Chapter’s October luncheon began with a reception at 11:30 a.m. at New York City’s famed 21 Club.

According to former Chapter President Frank T. Hayes, he and three chapter members, along with guest speaker Jonna Doolittle Hoppes, were “still in the lobby bidding good-bye” to the last of the audience at 5 p.m. “Nobody wanted to leave,” he wrote in an email.

The lengthy chapter gathering began with “America the Beautiful,” performed by opera singer Sarah Viola. Hoppes then spoke about her legendary grandfather, famed American aviation pioneer Gen. Jimmy Doolittle.

More musical entertainment followed: three USO Liberty Bells harmonizing on “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and Broadway actor-vocalist Danny Siford singing the Air Force song.

Rema Webb, an actress from the “Lion King,” brought a poster signed by the musical’s cast members. Ronald Cohen, an official from the Mayor’s Office, offered for a raffle two reviewing stand tickets for New York’s Columbus Day parade.

New Jersey State Convention

The New Jersey State Convention in August featured wartime memories from “The Greatest Generation” and the newest when Hangar One Chapter VP James E. Young and SMSgt. Joey Bailey (see p. 76) delivered keynote addresses.

Young flew B-24s and later B-17s in World War II, while stationed in Massachusetts, Italy, and England. He later served in the Korean War and Vietnam War. After nearly 40 years of service on Active Duty and in the Air National Guard, he retired in 1980 as a brigadier general and as New Jersey’s assistant adjutant general for air.

At the convention, he received a print of a painting by aviation artist Keith Ferris. The artwork by Shooting Star Chapter member Ferris is called “Circus Outbound” and depicts a B-24 on a World War II mission from England to Vegesack, Germany.

Wright Memorial Chapter honored Matt Longo (center) for helping a cadet at ROTC summer camp. At left is Eugene Longo, his father. Shiela Wallace (right), then chapter president, presented the cadet with a chapter coin.

Sal Capriglione Chapter President Joseph Capriglione (far right, second row) and Chapter VP Anthony Devino (far left, second row) presented Passaic High School’s NJROTC team with a CyberPatriot V award. The students placed second, All-Service Division, in New Jersey. The presentation was at the New Jersey State Convention at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

“Who’s in?” Charleston Chapter members asked at a CyberPatriot Meet ’n Greet at The Citadel in South Carolina. These “knobs” answered, “We are!” They volunteered to help start and mentor a nearby high school’s CyberPatriot team.

SMSgt. Joey Bailey of the Thomas B. McGuire Jr. Chapter spoke at the convention about his Afghanistan assignment. Here, he receives a state resolution presented by Col. Kevin Keehn, 108th Wing commander.

Jimmy Doolittle’s granddaughter, Jonna Doolittle Hoppes, delivers a presentation to the Iron Gate Chapter in New York.

Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., then head of Air Education and Training Command, chats with a new basic military training graduate and her mother (right) during Military City Family Night Out in San Antonio. The Alamo Chapter in Texas supports the event. It gives BMT grads an extra 2.5 hours on their town passes, to spend more time with their families.

At the University of Florida, Red Tail Memorial Chapter President Michael Emig (right) and VP Ben Langer attended an area and regional conclave for Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings members in October. Here, with University of Florida cadets Jennie Seibert (left) and Lauren Mackiewicz, Emig goes over the conclave program before delivering his briefing on AFA.

Dick Codling (l), then a VP, Paul Revere Chapter, Massachusetts, shows Chapter President Paul Zauner an award. The VA gave it to Codling for organizing the Vettes to Vets Program at its Bedford, Mass., facility. This year, some 420 Corvettes were displayed for the center’s clients. The chapter fed more than 1,000 visitors at this event.

Emerging Leaders

The Air Force Association recently began an Emerging Leaders Program as an avenue to secure AFA’s future.

Emerging Leaders volunteer for a year. With guidance from a mentor, they participate on a national-level council, attend national leader orientations, and serve as National Convention delegates. Emerging Leaders will be profiled here in the coming months. Here’s the second one.

Juan E. Cruz

Home State: Puerto Rico.

Chapter: Robert H. Goddard (Calif.).

Joined AFA: 2010.

AFA Offices: Currently chapter president; previously treasurer.

AFA Awards: California Meritorious Service award 2011 and 2012.

Military Service: More than 24 years, mostly in space operations. Retired master sergeant.

Occupation: Space Based Infrared System program analyst, Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Education: B.S., Everglades University; M.A., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Social Media: Find the Goddard Chapter on Facebook and Cruz on LinkedIn.


What did you learn from the Region and State Presidents Meeting at AFA headquarters in October? It was informative to see how many programs AFA has, like Wounded Airman, [the Transition Program, now in a test phase], … the Air Force Memorial.

What has taught you the most about leadership? The period when I was at the 533rd Training Squadron, when I had to fill four different positions. So I was the career development course author. I was the flight chief for the largest flight in the squadron. I was the additional-duty first sergeant. And I was the acting superintendent. All of those are full-time.

How can AFA increase membership? It’s really just talking to people face-to-face and telling them the good things we are doing.

What gets them to join? The service that you’re providing to members on base—and off base. The challenge of leadership appeals to them.

At the AFA National Convention (left), Cruz suggested improving the membership database to more easily identify and track Community Partners.

How to Spotlight an Ace

At the sign unveiling, on the right, are: State Sen. John Wozniak (D), Pennsylvania State President Bob Rutledge (center), and Wagner Chapter Treasurer Jim Kirkstadt (right).

Lt. Col. B. D. “Buzz” Wagner Chapter members in Pennsylvania completed a major initiative in October: designating a road in honor of their chapter’s namesake, the first Army Air Forces ace of World War II.

The Lieutenant Colonel B. D. “Buzz” Wagner Memorial Highway—known to the post office as Airport Road—runs alongside the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown.

“Chapter Treasurer Jim Kirkstadt and Chapter President Bill Burns took the lead with this project two years ago and worked tirelessly,” wrote Pennsylvania State President Robert Rutledge, who also serves as chapter secretary.

Kirkstadt began the road-designation campaign with a letter to the local township supervisors. They liked the idea but said the state owned the road. Next step: The three chapter leaders paid office calls on state Rep. Bryan Barbin (D) and state Sen. John N. Wozniak (D).

Bills for the name designation passed both chambers, and the governor signed it on June 19. The state transportation department finished the new sign in September.

Should another chapter take on a similar project to spotlight a hero, Kirkstadt says here’s how:

Decide on what to designate: a road? A bridge? An airport? Note that this was a designation for honorary or memorial purposes, not the renaming of a road—a more complicated process involving changing postal addresses, public meetings, and postal officials.

Make personal contact. Kirkstadt also points out that chapter leaders already knew the politicians, having been their active supporters for several years.

Don’t hesitate to follow up. Although it took the Wagner Chapter a couple of years to nudge this initiative along, Burns says they always received “100 percent, complete approval” from everyone they approached.

Wagner was born in Emeigh, Pa., and flew P-40s from the Philippines, beginning in 1940. He became an ace on Dec. 16, 1941, and quickly reached eight kills before being reassigned Stateside to train other fighter pilots. Wagner died in 1942 when his airplane crashed on a flight from Eglin Field, Fla. He was 26.

Boyd W. Gilbert—Wagner’s nephew and a chapter member—attended the road-designating ceremony, as did Wagner’s cousin, Jan Bolha of Johnstown.


91st Bomb Group. May 21-25, 2014, in San Francisco. Contact: Mick Hanou, (925-425-3220) (

601st, 615th Aircraft Control & Warning Sq, Germany. April 28-May 2, 2014, at the Riverpark Inn in Tucson, AZ. Contact: Francis Gosselin (352-588-9295) (

Air Force Public Affairs Alumni Assn, including retirees and Active Duty military and civilians and broadcasting, band, and multimedia fields. April 10-13, 2014, at the La Quinta Inn & Suites, San Antonio Convention Center. Contact: John Terino (703-239-2704) (

Aviation Cadet Pilot Tng Class 54-G. April 11-15, 2014, in Phoenix. Contact: John Schaefer (623-561-5000) (

Blindbat C-130A Flareships. May 19-21, 2014, in Las Vegas. Contact: Dennis Miller (702-363-4231) (

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.