How To Make a Splash—in Two Weeks
"Wow, what a look on their faces," wrote Maryland's Thomas W. Anthony Chapter President John L. Huggins Jr. in an e-mail. He was describing the reactions of an airman and his wife when they received a surprise gift of a Dodge Caravan, presented in a ceremony at an NFL football game.
SrA. Chad T. Long had been told ahead of time only that, because of his superlative job performance, he would be a guest of Easterns Automotive Group for the Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys game. Long is a public health journeyman at the 779th Medical Group, JB Andrews, Md.
So on Dec. 30, Long and several family members—including wife, Michelle, and their son, Marcus—joined Huggins at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. From Easterns' VIP suite, they watched the red-hot rivalry that determined the NFC East title. At half-time, they went onto the field. In front of the crowd of 82,000 fans anticipating the Redskins' first division title in 13 years, Easterns CEO Robert Bassam handed Chad Long an oversize photo of a keyless remote, representing the keys to the minivan.
"It was a great feeling to be part of that moment," said Huggins afterward.
The Longs had needed a larger vehicle to transport three-year-old Marcus, who has muscular dystrophy, and his medical equipment. Easterns wanted to honor a military family in its annual car giveaway, done in partnership with the Redskins and contacted Joint Base Andrews to find a family. The public affairs office sought out Huggins.
The chapter president met with the Redskins' representative and 11th Wing leadership to ensure he understood everyone's legal role. Then Andrews officials suggested five candidates, and Huggins called on the chapter's executive committee to make the selection.
Most challenging, perhaps, is that all this had to come together in a little over two weeks.
And the Next Week …
The president of the Thomas W. Anthony Chapter had even less lead time on the next project.
On the Friday afternoon just two days before the Redskins' next game—the playoff—Huggins received a phone call from Kevin L. Jackson, president of the Nation's Capital Chapter in Washington, D.C.
Jackson explained that SSgt. Brian Williams, a wounded airman at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., had approached a recovery care coordinator with what the RCC described as "a long shot request": tickets for the game against the Seattle Seahawks.
"My first thought was, 'You've got to be kidding," Huggins confessed.
But he reached out to his network of contacts, and after turndowns from some, Easterns Automotive Group again came through: Williams, who is a security forces airman, and a guest would watch the wildcard matchup from the car dealership's VIP box.
The Air Force Association chapters got involved in the first place because the recovery care coordinator, Dennis Fritz, had been casting about for a way to come up with the tickets. Williams, who lost a leg in the explosion of an improvised explosive device, had never asked him for anything, Fritz explained later, so the RCC especially wanted to fulfill this wish. Then he remembered the Air Force Association's Wounded Airman Program.
Established in 2011, it helps airmen who have returned to US medical facilities transition to Active Duty or civilian life. Three chapters—the Alamo Chapter (Tex.), Nation's Capital Chapter, and Donald 'N. Steele Sr. Memorial Chapter (Va.)—are carrying out pilot programs.
The D.C.-area Anthony and Nation's Capital Chapters were able to work together so quickly because Huggins had earlier laid the groundwork for a relationship: As soon as he had become president of the Anthony Chapter, he contacted area chapter leaders to discuss possible collaborations. Also, Jackson had seen the half-time minivan giveaway.
The Anthony Chapter has since signed up Easterns Automotive Group as a Community Partner.
Starbase Oklahoma City
In Oklahoma City, the Central Oklahoma (Gerrity) Chapter donated $1000 to support its local Starbase, a science, technology, engineering and math education program.
Chapter President Rick Buschelman presented the funds to Starbase Oklahoma director Pamela Kirk at a December chapter meeting.
Starbase originated with Michigan educator Barbara Koscak in the late 1980s. She interested the 127th Wing commander at Selfridge ANGB, Mich. Brig. Gen. David Arendts, with the idea of having Air Guardsmen teach the Starbase at-risk children. The military personnel could demonstrate the use of STEM in their everyday work and be role models. The program received federal government funding in 1993.
At the Central Oklahoma Chapter meeting, Kirk told the audience that the Sooner State has the largest program participation in the nation—counting students, as well as nine classrooms in seven cities. It also holds teacher workshops.
The 137th Air Refueling Wing hosts two Starbase classrooms at Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport. The AFA chapter's donation will buy model rocket-building supplies for them. Last school year, more than 800 students went through this ANG base's program, according to the Starbase Oklahoma City Web page.
How Can We Tie This to AFA?
In California, the Charles Hudson Chapter strives to increase its community presence through tie-ins, as President Shawn Steward describes it.
In November, to cite the latest example, the chapter for the first time set up a membership booth at the annual Military Vehicle and Tribute show. The event took place at the Kern County Museum. It featured more than 40 vintage pieces, among them restored World War II jeeps, tanks, half-tracks, artillery equipment, a staff car, and an aircraft tug that had been in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941—billed as "a Pearl Harbor survivor."
Local ABC affiliate KERO TV covered the event and posted the video on its website. The news clip shows in the background some of the 20 tents set up in between the vehicles, by organizations such as the Coast Guard, Highway Patrol, and the Hudson Chapter.
Steward partnered with the local Civil Air Patrol unit—"a double bang for our buck," she said—to run the AFA display at the day-long event. She reported that she and chapter officer Emily Golleher handed out at least two boxes' worth of back-issue Air Force Magazines, AFA brochures, and lollipops. The candy would attract the kids, she reasoned, and they will always have an adult—a potential chapter member—in tow.
Steward explained that she keeps track of events planned for Bakersfield, particularly at the museum, and always asks herself: Is there a way to tie the chapter to it?
A Stand Down To Aid Vets
Red Tail Memorial Chapter members took part in a stand down to help homeless military veterans in the Ocala, Fla., area in January.
Stand Downs take place across the nation to provide homeless veterans and their families with health screenings, benefits counseling, and referrals to agencies offering services. In Ocala, a group called Workforce Connection planned the regional stand down, with some 20 organizations such as the Red Tail Memorial Chapter pitching in.
Chapter members led by President Michael H. Emig, who is also Florida Region President, collected "car loads" of clothing and nonperishable items and raised more than S300. Nearly a dozen chapter members, including VP Howard Burke and Secretary Jerry Deese, distributed the donations during the Saturday stand down, held at Ocala's National Guard armory.
A local newspaper reported that Florida has 4,000 homeless veterans, at least 500 in the three-county region around Ocala.
Members of the Thomas B. McGuire Jr. Chapter in New Jersey donated more than $4,700 to the local Operation Warm Heart program, run by the First Sergeants Council at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
"When 360 called, you answered!" Chapter President William J. Horay Jr. proclaimed in the group's newsletter, referring to the chapter by its numerical designation.
The USAF-wide Warm Heart program helps airmen with cash or food, and as Horay wrote, everyone's gift counted. The chapter donations came from more than 100 members, each adding anywhere from $10 to $400 to the pot. Horay said he prompted this outpouring by first mailing out 450 letters—eliciting the best response—and following up with an e-mail to all members, numbering just over 400.
The McGuire first sergeants used the chapter donation to buy gift cards for airmen in need.
William M. Cuthriell Jr. (1930-2012)
Longtime Tidewater Chapter President William M. Cuthriell Jr. died Oct. 28, 2012, after an accidental fall and injury at the Atlanta Airport. He was 82.
Born in Deep Creek, Va., in April l930, retired Lieutenant Colonel Cuthriell had served in the Air Force from 1959 until 1979 and, along with a tour in Iceland, counted an assignment with the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing, Bitburg, West Germany, as among his most memorable.
Cuthriell held several chapter-level offices over the years and had been state AFA chaplain since 1983.
Red Tail Memorial Chapter members helped carry out the veterans Stand Down program in Ocala, Fla. L-r: Steve Spires, Bob Votolato, Howard Burke, Mike Emig, Jerry Deese, Jim MacMillan, Gary Strickland, Ben Langer, and Rob Thomas
Rick Buschelman (left), of the Central Oklahoma (Gerrity) Chapter, speaks to the chapter, as Pamela Kirk looks on. The chapter donated funds to the Starbase Oklahoma program, directed by Kirk.
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