Jay Simpson, former Technical Director and Program Manager for the CIA, meets with students for hands-on activities during an educational event hosted by the Air Force Association and Kaiserslautern High School Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program at Kapaun Air Station, Dec. 16, 2019. Simpson wrote several books on optical fiber technology and is responsible for 80 publications and 15 patents in the field. Photo: Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater
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Airman for Life

April 1, 2020

The Air Force Association Promotes STEM Abroad

In Germany, the local Kaiserslautern Air Force Association in collaboration with the Kaiserslautern High School Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program supports aerospace education for students through partnerships and participation in their Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps.

Kapaun Air Station hosted a STEM event in December 2019 that allowed students and Kaiserslautern teacher Ken Robinson to hear  STEM presentations and to engage in hands-on activities. Former CIA Technical Director and Program Manager, Jay Simpson, was in attendance and is now an AFA special advisor to all STEM programs in the area. He has written several books on optical fiber technology, is responsible for 80 publications, and has 15 patents in the science field. Aaron Williams, who serves as AFA’s European Special Assistant and oversees these efforts, continues to advance AFA’s presence in Europe.                                                             

San Diego AFA Chapter Renamed for USAF Hero

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas (left) with Dick Jeffreys, president of the AFA chapter named in Cardenas’ honor, at the dinner event where the chapter was officially renamed. Photo: courtesy Dick Jeffreys

AFA’s San Diego Chapter was renamed the Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas chapter in honor of the former combat and test pilot’s military and post-military contributions.

 The change became official Jan. 30 at a celebration with Cardenas and members of his family as the guests of honor. Born on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and raised in San Diego, Cardenas enlisted in the California National Guard in 1939, transferred to the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant and awarded his wings in 1941. During World War II, he successfully completed 19 combat missions in the European Theater as a B-24 pilot before being shot down on his 20th mission in 1944.

Following the war, he was assigned to Test Pilot School, and during an assignment at Muroc Field, Calif., was mission commander and pilot of the B-29 that carried Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1 aloft for the mission that broke the sound barrier for the first time. Cardenas also served as a test pilot at Wright Field, Ohio.

During the Korean War, he commanded the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing at Naha Air Base, Okinawa. He commanded the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Air Base in Thailand during the Vietnam War and flew F-105s. In 1970, as Vice Commander of 16th Air Force, he helped negotiated the closure of Wheelus Air Base, Libya, with Muammar Gaddafi. He retired on July 1, 1973, after more than three decades on Active duty.

Cardenas served on the Veterans Affairs Memorials and Cemetery Committee, where he campaigned for a new national cemetery to serve San Diego’s large military community, resulting in the opening of the Miramar National Cemetery.

Changing a Chapter’s name is unusual. But then again, so was the remarkable career of Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas.                

AFA Chapters Celebrate Pitsenbarger Movie Premier

Moviegoers in Piqua, Ohio—Pitsenbarger’s hometown, enjoyed a day full of events in town and at the local mall, ending with a packed movie premier. Photo: Courtesy
At the Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter pre-movie event, the crowd gathers for a group shot before entering the show. Photo: Courtesy

AFA chapters gathered at local theaters across the country to celebrate the movie premiere of “The Last Full Measure,” which opened nationwide in January. 

More than 70 members of the Central Oklahoma Air Force (Gerrity) community gathered together on Jan. 24 to honor local Vietnam-era pararescuemen (PJ’s) during a reception prior to the showing of the movie “The Last Full Measure,” written and directed by Todd Robinson. The movie examines the story behind Medal of Honor recipient Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger, who was posthumously awarded the honor 30 years after he was killed in action in Vietnam. 

During a reception, hosted by the AFA Gerrity Chapter, attendees also celebrated with families in attendance upon the administering of the Oath of Enlistment to 10 new Air Force recruits by the Oklahoma Cabinet Secretary for Veterans Affairs retired Brig. Gen. Ben Robinson. Chapter President Scott Wilson presented each of the three PJ’s (one of whom was in the movie) with a signed movie poster. 

Other groups represented included 13 members of the Arnold Air Society from the University of Oklahoma, representatives of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce ACES program, AFA Gerrity Chapter Community Partners, and Active military. 

At the New Jersey movie premier, air power advocate Susan Loricchio introduced the special attendees to the audience, which included about 50 veterans representing all branches of the services, and she also spoke on the importance of the film.  

At Pitsenbarger’s hometown of  Piqua, Ohio, the screening sold-out in less than 35 minutes. In attendance were members of Piqua High School, his alma mater; the movie’s producer, Sidney Sherman; movie director Robinson; Piqua Mayor Kris Lee, as well as four of the “Mud Soldiers” who were with Pitsenbarger on that day of valor April 11, 1966, depicted in the movie. Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Fred Navarro recalled to the audience how Pitsenbarger saved his life that day. Various events took place all over town, coordinated by the President of the Piqua Chamber of  Commerce, Kathy Sherman. At a Piqua Museum and also in the National Museum of the United States Air Force this quote from one of the “Mud Soldiers” is on display:

“There was only one man on the ground that day that would have turned down a ride out of that hellhole—and that man was Pitsenbarger,” F. David Peters, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, said.

For all, it was a night to remember in celebration of selfless heroism and U.S. Air Force history.