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It Took 2 Years – But The FASF Has its NM Historical Marker!

Thanks to the untiring efforts of our 1st VP, Jason Adams, the FASF now has its own local NM State Historical Marker firmly planted near our historic 1916 Airfield, which, as Columbus Mayor Bruce D’Salas’ official business card proudly states:  is “The Cradle of American Air Power.”

Let’s take a photographic look at the sequence of actual physical events that took place before the two-year long process of obtaining state approval for the Historic Marker was successfully completed.

The entire lengthy process took place under the jurisdiction of the New Mexico Department of Culltural Affairs. The Department’s web pages describe the process involved: “The markers happen through a strong partnership among the Historic Preservation Division, the Cultural Properties Review Committee, New Mexico Department of Transportation – and the public.” 

All of these agencies and groups must have been queried and counselled in order for such a Historical Marker to be approved, and then finally contructed for the site it represents.  As you might imagine, Jason had a big task in hand to get this objective reallized, and it took no small amount of patience to weather the long process involved in the achievement.  But, today, we now have this marker in place, with its own highway tourist/visitor pull-off parking area so that passing motorists can conveniently pull off state Highway 9, right in the town of Columbus itself, to safely read both sides of the sign’s historical inscription.

Remember: Just click on any photo below to see it in full-size and hi-resolution!

L to R: Miguel Garcia, of Deming, NM, and Baltazar Granados, who actually  hails from Columbus, are with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (DOT), and did the original site survey work for the new FASF Historical Marker.

Miguel and Baltazar pose by their truck before commencing the survey work. The FASF billboard marking the 1916 airfield is behind them to the left.

Here is Baltazar measuring the dimensions for locating the new Marker Sign. Highway 9, in the forefront, has a steep drop-off shoulder closer to the Airfield, so these men had to find the nearest place where the shoulder was relatively flat, so that passing motorists might easily park their vehicles when they go over to read the Marker Sign. These men began this stie work almost exactly one (1) year ago!

Here we see the men from the P&M Sign Company Team working to erect the new sign, which was made by their firm under contract to the state of New Mexico. P&M makes most of these historical marker signs for New Mexico.  They are located in picturesque Mountaiinair, NM.  This work was completed by them this past September

Here are the actual text portions of the two-sided Marker, which clearly point out the historical information regarding the location’s importance.  This sign is heavy-duty and completely weather proof.

The P&M team halfway through to completion. L to R: Larry Archuleta of Las Vegas, NM, Marcos Tavera ,Charles Padilla, and Andrew Lopez, all three from Mountainair, NM

Here is the front side of the sign, with page one of the story facing to the West.

And here, above, is the back side of the Marker, facing East towards El Paso, Texas. You can see by the construction of the Maker that this ediface is both sturdily made – and situated.

L to R: FASF celebrants of the new Sign’s Official Dedication: Columbus Mayor Bruce D’Salas, Airfield Director, Bob Wright; Long-time FASF member and just-retired Manager of the nearby Pancho Villa State Park, John Read; FASF Treasurer, Alma Villezcas; Bill Madden, Airfield Site Chairman; Fritz Wagoner, Airfield Survey & Artifact Team; and Historical Marker Committee Chairman, 1st VP of the FASF, Jason Adams, and his daughter, Chloe.  All four of the FASF members on the right side of the sign are from Las Cruces, NM.  At the left in photo, The Mayor and Bob Wright are from Columbus, and John Read and Alma Villezcas are both from Deming, NM.

Black Sheep Squadron Graduates 8 New Viper Pilots at HAFB

8th Fighter Squadron Logo

The 8th Fighter Squadron (Fighting Patch at left) has been with us since November of 1940, when it was first organized at Selfridge Army Air Field, in Michigan. Decommissioned for a while, it is now back in the front lines of our Air Defense against any would be adversaries.  This weekend saw its first graduating class of new F-16 Viper pilots since its arrival last year at Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamagordo, NM.  According to the Squadon’s commander, Lt. Colonel Mark Sletten, each of the evening’s graduates’ training has cost the Air Force about eight (8) million dollars.

The squadron is best known as the Black Sheep Squadron of World War II fame and  for one of its commanding officers, Colonel Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, one of WWII’s top USMC fighter Aces, whose memoirs inspired the 1970s television show “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron, which dramatized the squadron’s exploits during the war.

Although the original “Black Sheep” group was composed of USMC pilots, their Squadron no longer exists, so it’s been reborne, but this time as a USAF Fighter Squadron, not a USMC outfit. (This clarification the suggestion of Capt. Robbie Ritchie).

“These guys get to be a part of a very special fraternity and we have absolutely trained them up well to go out and be a part of that fraternity, the combat arms we know and love,” said Lt. Col. Mark Sletten, 8th FS commander.    “For them to be a part of the  greatest nation, the  greatest
military, greatest service and of course the greatest platform – the F-16, leaving here tonight as qualified F-16 pilots makes us all proud.”

Getting all of the people shown below properly identified could not have been done without the indispensible assistance of the Daedalian Leadership Awardee, Captain Robbie “Ramm” Ritchie,* who made sure we properly identified all those shown. Prior to this specialized fighter training with the 8th, Captain Ritchie had been an instructor pilot.  The name used for such already experienced new Basic students is FAIP, which stands for: First Assignment Instructor Pilot.   This prior duty assignment helps account for Robbie’s rank of Captain.

Remember: Click on any photo below to show it in hight resolution and full-size.

L to R: Lt. Col. Mark Sletten, Commander of the 8th Fighter Squadron, Colonel Bob Pitt and his wife, Julie.

L to R: Col. Pitt in conversation with Captain Ely Smith, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies

L to R: Roger Nichols, son of the WWII Ace after whom the El Paso Flight is named, Julie and Col. Pitt, and Dr. Bryan Harris, USAF Colonel, Retired.  Col. Harris, now a contractor,  is in charge of all the F-16 Viper Maintenance for the 8th Fighter Squadron

All long-time FASF members, Roger Nichols, immediate past Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, looks over the evening’s coming program with the Pitts

L to R: Julie and Col. Pitt with Roger Nichols

Many families attended the graduation and wives and girlfriends of both the 8th’s staff as well as graduating students, busily used their phones to record the celebration.  Above, to the the right of the Pitts is the wife of flight instructor, Major Jared Aschenbrenner, collecting memories of the event on her phone camera

Colonel Jeff (“Tank”) Patton, FASF Member, and Commander of the 49th Operations Group, poses with Nichols and Pitt.

View of part of the Dining Hall in the Holloman Club, at which the event was held

Colonel Jeff Patton and his wife, Tracy.

Photo on one of the several large projection screens, showing this Viper Fighter Class’ Students on an F-16’s wing

New Fighter Pilot Graduate, Captain Nicholas Atkins, gets the festivities underway

One of the classes’ distinguished graduates, Robert “Ramm” Ritchie, presented the award for the “Most valuable non-commissioned officer” to Master Sergeant Cope on behalf of its recipient, Sergeant Merril

L to R: Captain Ritchie presented the most valuable Flight Instructor award to Major Nathan “Stuka” Lightfoot

L to R: Colonel Bob Pitt describes the history of El Paso’s Flight 24, Order of the Daedalians and its Namesake, General Nick Nichols to the audience as 2nd Lt. Seth Bolon and Colonel Mark “Tyson” Sletten, Squadron Commander, look on.  Lt. Bolon is a member of the new incoming 8th Fighter Squadron class.

L to R: Capt. Ely Smith, MC, 2nd Lt Seth Bolon, look on as Col. Bob Pitt presents the General Nichols Daedalian Leadership Award to Capt. Robbie Ritchie, while Squadron CO., Col. Mark Sletten congratulates him on the achievement. Captain Ritchie will head to Shaw AFB, South Carolina for his next duty assignment.  His classmates are going to all corners of the globe for their new pilot assignments.

Colonel Pitt hands the Daedalian Award to Captain Robert Ritchie, as the 8th’s Commander, Col. Sletten, proudly poses beside the new awardee. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kindra Stewart).  Lt. Bolon in background

L to R: Colonel Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, with River Rat Awardee, Lt. Scott Lafferty, and fellow River Rat member, Colonel Jeff Patton. This award is given to the student of each class with whom his or her fellow pilots would most prefer to fly in combat.

L to R: Lt. Seth Bolon, looks on as Col. Sletten poses with Daedalian Trophy Winner, Capt Ritchie, as they hold his Graduation Certificate, while Captain Ian “Bear” Lee and Captain Allison “Bandit” Romanko, 8th Fighter Squadron Instructors, look on.  Eight Viper pilot students graduated from the 8th FS’ first F-16  B-Course, nearly eighty years since the squadron’s induction on Nov. 20, 1940.

All eight graduates line up on stage for their class graduation portrait. R to L:  Captain Daniel Rule, Captain Robert Ritchie, Captain Reese Black, Captain Bradley Beninati,  1st Lt. Evan Wade, 1st Lt. Scott Lafferty, 1st Lt. Kent Greer, and Captain Nicholas Atkins.

L to R: FASF and Daedalian Members, Ric Lambart, Roger Nichols and Col. Bob Pitt, flank Leadership Trophy winner, Capt. Robbie (“Ramm”) Ritchie

Roger Nichols discusses his father’s and his own USAF career with Leadership Awardee, Capt. “Ramm” Ritchie

Below, is the the class video, 11 minutes long, which shows many clips taken from the months of fllight and fighter training the eight members of this first graduating class of the 8th Fighter Squadron experienced in their work with the Viper Fighter.  Aside from a few inserts of actual wartime footage target anihilation (taken in the mideast), the video content was primarily taken by the students or HAFB Public Affairs videographers during their training activities.  The video gives the viewer and unique insight into the experience these young men went through this past year at Holloman. 

The film uses a number of special effects for the dramatization of some of the student experiences, such as refueling practice and of the TDY (Temporary Duty assignment) to Louisiana’s Bayou country.  The video was produced by class member, Lt. Evan Wade, and also shows, quite graphically, to where each of the graduates will be going for their front line fighter assignment.  This video can be seen best when your monitor is set to full-screen mode. Lt. Wade garners some top-gun kudos for his excellent production.

* Here is part of the official HAFB Public Affairs Office news release concerning Daedalian Award Recipient, Capt Robbie Ritchie:

This class’ recipient of the coveted Daedalian Flight 24 Leadership Award this
year, was Capt. Robert Ritchie. The Captain, one of the 8th Fighter Squadron F-16
Basic-Course graduates, always knew he wanted to be a fighter pilot.

Ritchie’s father is a retired Air Force pilot who flew C-130s and T-38s, before
flying for a commercial airline out of Minnesota.

I was one of those kids that built model aircraft and hung them from the ceiling,”
said Ritchie. “My childhood bedroom was one big aerial battle.”

Ritchie graduated with an undergraduate degree followed by a Masters of Science in
aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota, before leaving for Officer
Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Of the eight Viper pilots to graduate from Class 18-CBF, Ritchie was one of five who
were First Assignment Instructor Pilots “FAIP” trained on another aircraft before coming
to Holloman.

On behalf of Class 18-CBF, I can honestly say our experience training here on Holloman
Air Force Base has been one of the most professional experiences that we have ever been
involved with,” said Ritchie. “From the jets, to the instructors, to the maintainers,
to the air traffic controllers, how the base is run and everything in-between.”

FASF-Daedalians Bid Farewell to Flight Captain, Roger Nichols

The speaker scheduled for this last Spring meeting fell ill and couldn’t make the luncheon, so the El Paso General “Nick” Nichols’ Flight 24 simply turned its focus back on its own members, and towards making sure its most recent past Flight Captain, Roger Nichols (General Nichols’ son), had a proper send-off.

Roger will soon leave to be near his children and grandchildren in Oklahoma.  Because the Flight had some extra time, because of the absence of the scheduled speaker, it turned its attention towards gaining a more detailed insight into each of the member’s individual careers, both in the service, and in their later civilian lives. Here, below, are the photos of today’s event – and of each member sharing some of their unique personal history.

Today’s luncheon was also one to which the member’s wives and/or guests were invited.  Because Flight Captain, Colonel Mario Campos, was out of state, Vice Captain, Ric Lambart presided.  He shared a group of photos which were taken over the weekend during the regular annual “Dining Out” celebration held at New Mexico State University (NMSU) by the local Air Force ROTC Detachment 505.  Many years ago, flight Provost Marshall, Alan Fisher, had actually commanded that same AFROTC unit.

Both Mario and Ric had been invited to attend AFROTC event.  Colonel Campos, once an AFROTC cadet himself, was the featured speaker.  He shared what the cadets might expect during their own upcoming USAF assignments based on his own experiences.

(All of the below photos may be seen full-size and in High Resolution, by clicking on them)

L to R: Mayre Sue Overstreet and Julie Pitt.

L to R: Col. Norm Rice and Roger Nichols.

L to R: Mary Barnes arrives with Flight Chaplain, Roger Springstead.

L to R: Bob Pitt, Virg Hemphill, Pete Brandon, Mary Barnes and Roger Springstead. Col. Norm Rice‘s  is seated in the foreground.

L to R: Mayre Sue Overstreet, Mary Barnes, and Julie Pitt

L to R: Mayre Sue Overstreet, Melissa Fisher and Mary Barnes, speaking with Julie Pitt (back of head to camera)

L to R: Flight Adjutant, Colonel Bob Pitt, engrossed in conversation with past Flilght Captain, Roger Nichols

L to R: Alan Fisher speaking with Virg Hemphill. Ulla Rice is in the foreground

L to R: Roger Springstead and Ric Lambart give a thumbs up to photographer, Jerry Dixon

L to R: Virg Hemphill, Mary Barnes, Pete Brandon, Alan and Melissa Fisher, Norm and Ulla Rice, with Charlie and Mayre Sue Overstreet just off camera to the right.

L to R: Jerry Dixon describes his USMC pilot experience as Virg Hemphill and Roger Springstead look on.

L to R: Virg Hemphill listens as Roger Springstead shares his Naval Aviator career, while his friend, Mary Barnes listens

L to R: Mary Barnes listens as Pete Brandon describes his extensive USAF and Northrup-Grumman careers

L to R: Virg Hemphill talks about his USAF Fighter Pilot and Airline experiences as Roger Springstead and Mary Barnes listen

Alan Fisher shares his own USAF experiences along with his current active engagements as a pilot with the Civil Air Patrol

L to R: Melissa Fisher talks about her own USAF career as both a RN and her later teaching years

L to R: Colonel Norm Rice relates his own Fighter Pilot experiences in the Air Force – and how he and his wife, Ulla, met, when he was stationed in Great Britain

                                        Larry Spradlin tells of his own USAF aviator experiences

L to R: Charlie Overstreet describes some humorous experiences as both an Air Force Pilot and also during his later 2nd career, piloting for the DEA, as his wife Mayre Sue enjoys the memories.  Julie Pitt is at the right.

L to R: Julie Pitt listens and her husband, Colonel Bob Pitt, tells of his experiences over Viet Nam, flying both the F-101 and F-4 fighters, while Roger Nichols take it all in

           Ric Lambart describes some of the photos taken at this past weekend’s AFROTC “Dining-Out” event at NMSU

L to R: Ric Lambart, Roger Nichols, and Bob Pitt pose, after Roger was presented with a special going-away gift from the Flight

 

EAA Young Eagles Go Airborne From War Eagles Air Museum

The first EAA Chapter 1570 YOUNG EAGLES FLIGHT for 2019 was sucessfully completed this past weekend.  As usual, it was conducted at the Doña Ana County International Jetport in Santa Teresa, NM.  The participants enjoyed the fine facilities of the War Eagles Air Museum (WEAM) for the entire operation.  After the event wound down, the volunteers had a lunch and defriefing in the Executive Meeting Room of the Museum.

Most of the young first-time flyers were able to enjoy the many WEAM exhibits after their flights.  Chief Registrar, Melissa Keithly, reported that the morning session saw 55 new Young Eagles take to the skies for their first introductory airplane flight.

[To view any photo in high-resolution, simply click on it – Videos can also be seen full-screen]

Melissa Keithly busily registering Young Eagles for the day’s first-flights.  By the noon deadline she had booked 55 young people for their first personal airplane flight adventure.

Bob Dockendorf and Tomás Peralta surveying the activities as they get undersay.  Tomás was the event’s Organizer.

L to R: Tom Holmsley, EAA Chapter 1570 President, John Keithly, chatting with Fritz Gatlin.

L to R: Juan Brito and Chapter VP, John Singnorino, in discussion before the flying started.

L to R: John Signorino, Juan Brito, Marcia McNamee and Melissa Keithly at registration table as a parent signs up.

Melissa Keithly describing procedure for signing up the children . . .

L to R: Charles Crawford, Tomás Peralta, and Laura Dittlevson, going over the flight line procedures . . .

L to R: John Signorino and John Orton returning from the Fllight-Line . . .

L to R: Kathyn and WEAM Operations Manager, George Guerra, at work behind the WEAM Gift Shop counter.

Pres. John Keithly kicks off the program with his Young Eagle Co-Pilot, Yessenia Cano, in his WT-9 Dynamic Aircraft

John briefs Yessenia on the aircraft controls and instruments, explainnng how they work and why they are important to fully understand.

Yessenia and John taxii out for her first flilght

John and his next Young Eagle, Alondra Tinajero, are ready to taxi out to the runway.

A happy new Young Eagle, Alondra Tinejero, and her EAA Pilot, John Keithly, are all smiles after her first demo flight

John Keithly explains sleft wing aeleron flight control to his nextg Young Eagle, Marco Talamontes

John helps Marco arrange and fasten his safety harness.

Marco gives the thumbs up signal that shows he is ready to fly!

Pilot and his Co-Pilot are ready to start . . .

Marco proudly poses with Mr. Keithly after his inaugural Young Eagle Flight.

Ready to become another Young Eagle, Alfredo Vargas, is all smiles wth Pilot John Keithly.

While Allan Yapor’s father stands by, John Signorino (sitting at right) completes the new Young Eagle’s Fllight Logbook entry and fills out his Official EAA Young Eagles Certificate of Accomplishment, attesting to Allan’s 1st Flight Adventure.

Allan Yapor stands proudly next to his pilot, John Signorino, who is a former Army Combat Aviator and Vice President of the 1570 Chapter.  John owns and manages the security locksmithing firm, Pop-A-Lock, in El Paso, Texas.

John Signorino taxis back from his flight with his new Young Eagle, Vincent Hardy, whose lucky father, Philip, went along in one of the Cessna 182 Skylane’s back seats.

New Young Eagle, Vincent Hardy, is alll smiles after his first Flight Adventure as John Signorino’s Co-Pilot.

L to R: Ground Crew volunteer, Laura Dittevson, Vicent Hardy, John Signorino, and Philip Hardy pose beside the Cessna Skylane.

Back down to Mother Earth for the Pritchetts.

L to R: John Signorino, the proud new Young Eagle, Nicholas Pritchett, and his father, Virgil, pose with the newly made out EAA Achievement Certificate and Young Eagle Log Book.

L to R: John Completes new Young Eagle, Riley Franco’s Logbook, as his father, Ruben smiles with satifaction.

Certificate in hand, Riley and his Dad, Ruben Franco, are all smiles, as is their Pilot, John Signorino.

L to R in cockpit of former Army Helicopter: Mike McNamee and his Young Eagle adventurer, Oliver Oropeza.  Mike is explaining the controls and instruments to his awestruck Young Eagle.  Mike also has a fixed wing Cessna 182 Skylane, which he generously contrtibuted to the event’s group of  working aircraft.

Mike sets the rotors in motion as he warms up his chopper for takeoff.

And, straight up, off they go!

Pilot, John Orton (long-time Advisor and former Trustee of the FASF) helps his Young Eagle, Justin Walters, safely and comfortably secure his seat belt and shoulder harness.  John is both a former army and Air Foce veteran.  His airplane is a U.S. manufactured Diamond DV20, used by the USAF to provide pilot-training for Air Force Academy Cadets.

Final adjustments to the now fastened safety harness, and they were soon aloft.

The new Young Eagle, Justin Walters, poses with his happy Mother, Danielle, and Father, Mike Fisher.

John Orton explains, to his next Young Eagle, Kristopher Zapata, how to use the Headset and mic.

John explaining the instrments and controls to Kristopher.

L To R:  Chapter Ground Crew Volunteer, Charles Crawford and Mrs. Zapata, watch as her son, Kristopher gets briefed by John Orton . . .

Kristopher watches as John Orton goes through the startup checklist . . .

John watches as his next Young Eagle, Daniel Rayos, gets into the cockpit.

John explains to  Daniel the use of the headset and microphone.

Daniel waves adios as John begins to taxi outfor takeoff. The following short (3 min) video shows the start and departure for their takeoff.

El Paso Judge, Alex Gonzalez, just took Larissa Rodriguez (left, standing) up on her Young Eagle Flight in his Cessna 172.  Her parents sat in the rear seat. Ground Crew Volunteer, Laura Dittevson, helps by holding open the passenger door.

L to R: Clearly, Larissa’s father, Andres, enjoyed the experience as much as did Judge Gonzalez. The following short (51 seconds) video is of their return to pick up Larissa’s Young Eagle Certificate and Logbook.  The second, one (1) minute video, is  their discusion of the flight experience.  Jim Foster and his Young Eagle are at the end of this video, too.

Professional Instructor Pilot, Jim Foster, poses by the Cessna 172 in which he just initiated Young EAgle, Amna Noor, to the thrill of flying.

Amna and her father look on as Jim finishes up the paper work.

Jim Foster poses with his Young Eagle Co-Pilot, “RJ” (Ruben) Franco, whose brother, Riley, also obtained his Young Eagle award, earlier, from John Signorino.

EAA Young Eagle Certificate and Logbook in hand, “RJ” poses with his mentor, Jim Foster, and his Mom, Lisa.

German Air Force (Lufwaffe) specialist, Dominic Austen, from chapter 1570, chipped in and did his part, too.  His first Young Eagle of the day is seen above: Zion Hernandez.

Jada Gaton is now a Young Eagle, and her mother, Arecely poses by her, as Pilot, Dominic Austen, approvingly looks on.

Andrea Rayos eagerly moves the control yoke in the Cessna 182 Skylane in which she achieved her Young Eagle status, as did her brother, Daniel, who flew with John Orton earlier. Dominic watches from the door.  The short (11 second) video below shows Dominic and Andrea as they start the engine to taxi to the runway.

His Young Eagle securely belted in, Andy Werner, gets ready to start up his A240 Aerotek Light Sport Aircraft for their flight.  His Co-Pilot is already properly uniformed in his flight suit and aviator’s sunglasses.

L to R: Yound Eagle to be, Michelle Hernandez’ mother, Adriana, takes photos of her daughter, while Volunteer, Charles Crawford looks on, while Michelle poses and Andy Werner describes his Chech built Light Sport airplane to Michelle’s Dad.

FASF Daedalians at HAFB Fighter Squadron 314 Graduation

This weekend’s FASF-Daedalian Graduation Event at Holloman Air Force Base, Alamogordo, NM

< Just cllick on any photo below to view it in higher resolution and larger size>

L to R: Colonel “Spud” Caldwell, Graduation Speaker, MJ Tucker (who managed the Graduation Arrangements), FASF-Daedalian members, Roger Nichols and Col. Mario Campos.

Lt. Col. “Burn” Clapper, Commander of 314th Fighter Squadron, Captain “Titto” Hannah, who shepherded the Daedalians, and Col. “Spud” Caldwell.

L to R: FASF-Daedalians, Colonel Mario Campos and Col. Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, currently a civilan contractor at Holloman, discussing their combat experiences.

L to R: Colonel Jeff “Tank” Patton, Lt. Col. “Burn” Clapper, and Roger Nichols . . .

L to R: “Roger That” Nichols, LC Michael D. “Burn” Clapper (CO of the 314th Fighter Squadron), and Col. Mario Campos, Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, pose before “Burn’s” F-16 Fighting Falcon Jet.

L to R: Col. Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, USAF Ret., Roger Nichols and Col. Mario Campos, share a laugh.

L – R: Colonels “Cowboy” Crowell, Col. Jeff Patton, his wife, Tracy, Mario Campos and Roger Nichols enjoy Dinner.

314th Fighter Squadron personnel, parents and guests, applaud graduating students of class 18-HBB at HAFB

Colonel Mario Campos (R), Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, congratulates Lt. “Pickles” Mossing on his achievement in winning the coveted Daedalian Class Leadership Award.

L to R: Roger Nichols, Col. Mario Campos, Daedalian Leadership Award Recipient, Lt. Jason “Pickles” Mossing, Ric Lambart, ColonelsCowboy” Crowell and “Tank” Patton, Commander, 49th Operations Group at Holloman AFB

Colonel Dean “Spud” Caldwell Commencement Speaker, shares what’s ahead for the new Fighter Pilots

L to R: Colonel “Cowboy” Crowell, and the “River Rat” awardee, Lt. Doug “Magnus” Clark, and Colonel Jeff “Tank” Patton are all smiles. Lt. Clark also won the Distinguished Student Award in his class, which was the 314th Fighter Squadron’s Class 18-BBH.  The River Rat award is given to the student that the other pilots would most want on flying on their wing in combat.  The River Rat designation came from the Vietnam conflict and is named after the Red River Valley (Association) of the Vietnam war, an organization to which many pilots who flew in combat over North Vietnam belong.  Both of the above Colonels are active members in the FASF.

L to R: Col. Mario Campos, Captain “Tucky” Durbin, event Master of Ceremonies, his wife, Stephanie, and Roger Nichols.

L to R: (Taken by Stephanie Durbin) – Col. Mario Campos, Capt. “Tucky” Durbin, Ric Lambart, and Roger Nichols. The two-finger salute being given by Mario and Tucky is that of the 314th Fighter Squadron.

All thirteen (13) new F-16 Viper Fighter Pilot Graduates pose before their Commander’s Fighter.

 

 

Last Aviator From Doolittle Raiders Flew Into the West Today

The Following story is courtesy of the Air Force Times

A B-25 Mitchell takes off from the aircraft carrier Hornet for the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo April 18, 1942. (Courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio)

Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders who rallied the nation’s spirit during the darkest days of World War II, has passed away.

Tom Casey, president of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association, confirmed to Air Force Times that Cole died Tuesday morning in San Antonio. His daughter, Cindy Cole Chal, and son, Richard Cole, were by his side, Casey said.

Cole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Casey said. Memorial services are also being scheduled at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas.

Cole, who was then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the No. 1 bomber during the daring 1942 raid to strike Japan, was 103.

The Doolittle Raid was the United States’ first counterattack on the Japanese mainland after Pearl Harbor.

Eighty U.S. Army Air Forces airmen in 16 modified B-25B Mitchell bombers launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet, about 650 nautical miles east of Japan, to strike Tokyo. While it only caused minor damage, the mission boosted morale on the U.S. home front a little more than four months after Pearl Harbor, and sent a signal to the Japanese people not only that the U.S. was ready to fight back but also that it could strike the Japanese mainland.

Cole’s influence is still very apparent in today’s Air Force, and he remains a beloved figure among airmen. In 2016, he appeared on stage at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference to announce that the service’s next stealth bomber, the B-21, would be named the Raider. Hurlburt Field in Florida in 2017 renamed the building housing the 319th Special Operations Squadron the Richard E. Cole Building.

And when he turned 103 last Sept. 7, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, called him to wish him a happy birthday.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole, co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the April 18, 1942, Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, sits at the controls of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas, in September. (Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Air Force)

Cole was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. In a 2016 interview with HistoryNet.com, Cole said he first became interested in flying as a kid, when he would ride his bicycle to the Army Air Corps test base McCook Field and watch the pilots fly. He said he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November 1940 because “it was a good job,” especially in the midst of the Great Depression, and after finishing training went to the 17th Bombardment Group at Pendleton, Oregon.

He was transferred to Columbia, South Carolina, in early February 1942, where he saw a bulletin board notice seeking volunteers for a mission. His entire group put in their names.

Cole, who was then 26 years old, trained at Eglin Air Field in Florida for the secret raid.

“We were confined to base, in isolated barracks, and told not to talk about our training,” Cole told HistoryNet. “We knew it would be dangerous, but that’s all.”

The B-25 typically needed about 3,000 feet to take off, Cole said, but they trained to get airborne in 500 feet. And when future Navy Admiral Henry Miller started teaching them how to take off from a carrier, they guessed they were headed to the Pacific to take the fight to Japan.

Then 2nd. Lt. Cole became Doolittle’s co-pilot by chance, when the pilot he had been training with fell ill. Doolittle’s intended co-pilot also became unable to fly.

The B-25s were stripped of all excess equipment, including their bombsights and lower turrets, and loaded up with extra fuel tanks that doubled capacity to about 1,100 gallons. They left port from Alameda, California, on April 2, 1942, and two days later were told they would strike Tokyo.

“We were pretty excited — above all, happy to know what we were going to do,” Cole said. “Things quieted down as people began to realize what they were getting into.”

After the Navy ran into a Japanese picket ship, Navy Adm. William “Bull” Halsey decided to launch the mission earlier than planned. Conditions were rough, Cole told HistoryNet — water came over the bow, and the planes started to slip around the deck. But the wind about doubled the carrier speed of 20 to 35 knots, which helped the planes get airborne.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell similar to the aircraft he co-piloted. (Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Air Force)

They reached Japan after a little more than four hours, flying at an altitude averaging roughly 200 feet, Cole said. When Doolittle and Cole neared Tokyo, it was bright and sunny. Doolittle pulled up to 1,500 feet, and bombardier Fred Braemer — then a staff sergeant — dropped the bombs. Cole said they “got jostled around a bit by anti-aircraft” fire, but didn’t think they got hit.

Doolittle’s crew intended to land in Chuchow, China, fuel up, and continue to Western China, but they hit a snag. They ran into a severe rainstorm with lightning. Cole said the Chinese also heard their engines and thought they were Japanese, so they turned off the electric power to the lights. The crew had no choice but to fly until they ran out of gas and then bail out, he said.

Cole’s parachute got stuck on a pine tree, 12 feet above the ground. After freeing himself, he walked west to a Chinese village. Cole rejoined the rest of the crew, who also bailed out successfully, and they were picked up by Chinese troops.

He continued serving in the China-Burma-India Theater until June 1943, and then volunteered for Project 9, which led to the creation of the 1st Air Commando Group.

Cole said that Doolittle feared his audacious mission had failed, because all planes and some of his airmen were lost. Three airmen died bailing out, and eight others were captured by the Japanese.

Airmen with Crew No. 1 (Plane 40-2344), 34th Bombardment Squadron, U.S. Army Air Forces, were among those who conducted the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942. They are, from left: Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Staff Sgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; Lt. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot; and Staff Sgt. Paul J. Leonard, engineer-gunner. (Air Force Photo)

But in 2016, Cole said the raid was “a turning point in the war.” Though the 16 bombers didn’t cause much damage, their actions prompted the Japanese to pull back its forces from Australia and India to shore up the Central Pacific, he said, and they transferred two carriers to Alaska, where they thought the raid had originated, which evened the odds for the Navy at Midway.

“Japanese naval forces were at a disadvantage from then on,” Cole said.

The raid also had two other goals, Cole said: First, to show the Japanese people who despite what their leaders told them, Japan could be bombed from the air. And second, “to give the Allies, and particularly the United States, a morale shot in the arm.”

Cole and the other Raiders received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and Doolittle received the Medal of Honor.

“He deserved a lot more,” Cole said of Doolittle. When asked what he thought of his commander, Cole said, “the highest order of respect from one human being to another.”

When Cole retired, his list of decorations included the DFC with two oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. In 2014, President Obama presented Cole and three other Raiders the Congressional Gold Medal at the White House.

But Cole said the Raiders didn’t feel like heroes.

“We were just doing our job, part of the big picture, and happy that what we did was helpful,” Cole said.

David Lauterborn of HistoryNet.com contributed to this story.

Rio Grande Aviation Council – Kickoff Organization Meeting

Organizational Meeting Title on Display Screens at WEAM

The brainchild of two local aviation leaders, Bob Dockendorf and John Keithly, The Rio Grande Aviation Council (RGAC) was put into motion this past weekend at the executive office meeting room of the War Eagles Air Museum (WEAM) at the Doña Ana County International Jetport.

Incidentally, the above photo is of the actual large LED Display screens that were mounted in the War Eagles’ meeting room, but the Rio Grande part was inadvertantly misspelled, leaving the “e” off at the end of Grande.

The two organizers recognized that there was no central or nexus organization through which the area’s many public-interest aviation groups and organizations might express both their legitimate public interests in their common industry, or to work more efficently to help collectively protect those same interests.  In short, the new council would provide a more unified voice for the West Texas and SW New Mexico areas in respect to aviation related issues and interests.

Accordingly, Bob invited the area’s numerous public-interest and non-profit aviation groups to meet together at the WEAM.  At least one or more representatives of each of the local (within a 100 mile radius of El Paso, Texas and Santa Teresa, NM) aviation groups appeared on Saturday, the 6th of April, to help organize this new organization.

Bob and John recommended that the new organization be somewhat amporphous in nature and purposely not be formally structured, rather that it operate without any specific permanent officers or heirarchy.  Its main functions would be to provide a sounding board, brain-storming platform, and a clearing house for the member organizations’ interests.  It would, additionally, help provide a unified collective voice for the members’ common aviation interests.

Attending were: Both the El Paso (215) and Las Cruces (24) Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Squadrons; both the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Air Force ROTC and AROTC units from the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP); The El Paso Daedalians Flight; The El Paso Aviation Association; the El Paso Chapter of the Ninety-Nines (International Organization of Women Pilots); both chapters of the EAA, from Las Cruces (555), and Santa Teresa (1570), NMThe First Aero Squadron Foundation (FASF); the Las Cruces Aviators Club; The several local area High School Junior ROTC units; Air Force Association; the United States Air Force Academy and USAFA Alumni Chapter (USAFA)City of Las Cruces International Airport and the Doña Ana County International Jetport Airport; The Academy of Model Aeronatics; the El Paso Radio Controllers (EPRC – RC Model Airplane Club); The Dust Devil Flying Club, the new UTEP Four Year Aviation and Space Program; and the local Quiet Birdmen (QB).

The representatives of each group discussed their particular assets and current principal needs and goals.

Several other aviation groups were invited, but couldn’t make this intial organizational meeting, but will hopefully participate in future conferences.  Such future gatherings will be held at the WEAM on a quarterly basis.

The following photos show some of those who attended as representatives of their respective aviation groups:

(Any of the below photos may be seen in full high-resolution by simply clicking on them)

Mrs. Mary Dockendorf registers John Adams of the EL Paso Composite Squadron 215 of the CAP.

President Wes Baker of the Las Cruces EAA Chapter 555 parks his Cessna 140 on the ramp in front of the WEAM.

L to R: Col. Mario Campos (Daedalian Society), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC Club), and Tom Holmsley (AMA)

L to R: Todd Parsont (Franklin HS JAFROTC), Ana Donahue (Drone Pilot for the Elephant Butte Irrigation District-EBID), Squadron Commander, Travis McKenzie and Col. Alan Fisher (CAP Squadron 24) line up to sign in for the meeting.

L to R: Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Presidents Wes Baker (EAA 555) and John Keithly (EAA 1570), Col. Mario Campos (hidden behind) Juan Brito (EPAA).

L to R starting with those sitting with backs to the windows: Travis McKenzie and Mike LeGendre (CAP), Rick King (Santa Teresa Flying Club), Col. Alan Fisher (CAP), Malcolm White (USAFA), John Adams (CAP), Ana Donahue ((EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker and John Keithly (EAA Presidents), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC), Tom Holmsley (AMA), (three people with their backs to camera, and L to R) Elliott Werner (EAA), Bob Dockendorf (WEAM) and Didi Shaffer (Chair of the El Paso Chapter of the 99’s).

R to L clockwise: Rick King (Sta. Teresa Flying Club), Col. Alan Fisher (CAP), Malcolm White (USAFA), John Adams (CAP), Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker and John Keithly (EAA), Mike McGee (UTEP), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), Mary Dockendorf (WEAM), Juan Brito (EPAA), and Fritz Gatlin (EPRC).

L to R: Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (RAFROTC) and Wes Baker (EAA)

L to R: Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker and John Keithly (EAA).

L to R clockwise: Ana Donahue (EBID), Todd Parsont (JAFROTC), Wes Baker (EAA), John Keithly (EAA), Mike McGee (UTEP), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC).

Clockwise R to L: (only part of his back to camera) Mike McGee (UTEP), Mario Campos (Daedalians), Juan Brito (EPAA), Fritz Gatlin (EPRC), Tom Holmsley (AMA), Tania Privette (LCA), Andy Hume (Las Cruces Int’l. Airport), Didi Shaffer (99’s), Bob Dockendorf (WEAM), Elliott Werner (EAA), Javier Caraveo (USAFA & AFROTC), Travis McKenzie and Mike LeGendre (CAP), and Rick King (Santa Teresa Flying Club).

L to R: John Keithly (EAA 1570), Dr. Mike McGee (UTEP), Col. Mario Campos (Daedalians), and Juan Brito (EPAA).

L to R: Andy Hume (Las Cruces Int’l. Airport), Tania Privette (LCA), and Didi Shaffer (99’s).

                                      Didi Schaffer (Chair of El Paso Chapter of the Ninety-Nines).

Meeting Chairman, Bob Dockendorf, principal organizer of the Rio Grand Aviation Council

USAF ROTC Cadet Captain Ammber Valverde explains the UTEP/NMSU ROTC programs.

RGAC Organizational Meeting Representatives – L to R: John Keithly, Ric Lambart, Travis McKenzie, Mario Campos, Alan Fisher, Mike LeGendre, Mike McGee, Rick King, Elliott Werner, Tania Privette, Andy Hume, Didi Shaffer, Ammber Valverde, Ana Donahue, Javier Cavaveo, Juan Brito, Wes Baker, Todd Parsont, Tom Holmsley, Fritz Gatlin, John Adams, Malcolm White, and Bob Dockendorf.