The Journal of the First Aero Squadron Foundation
Inside the FASF
By President Bill Wehner
I am happy to report that FASF is still ‘on the grow’ and that enthusiasm for the immediate future is running high. With elections in the offing, I hought it appropriate to give you some insight into how we run as an organization. Administration here has two tiers: the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Board. Most of the day- to-day matters are handled by the Trustees who meet 10 to 12 times a year to make and implement policy. The nine trustees serve two year terms (four elected this year, five next). Immediately after the annual elections, the trustees elect officers from their group.
The Advisory Board keeps us on track by acting as an idea source and sounding board. In many cases, the Advisory Board pitches in to help with projects, as did Lyn Benedict, Pete Adolph and Tom Willmott during the runway dedication. Most everyone on the Advisory Board has been helpful at one time or another.
As President of the outfit, my job is to coordinate efforts, keep things moving and to try to maintain contacts, not always as successful as I might like it in this day of instant communications. Probably the most important single office is that of Treasurer Martha Skinner who collects the money and pays the bills. She works hand in hand with James Efferson, our resident accounting genius who actually keeps the books and files the reports. While we are presently without an official secretary, Debbi Evans does a terrific job of keeping the minutes of various meetings.
First Vice President Ric Lambart, shown on the left, is local press liaison. He has arranged for several of the speaking programs offered to the public, the most recent being the one given at the conclusion of the NM Centennial Flight at Santa Teresa.
Second VP Ken Emery shows up regularly on these pages with his well researched accounts of parts of the First Aero history. Speaking of these pages, you have no doubt noticed how much better the Aerodrome has been the last several issues. Those improvements are entirely due to the efforts of Immediate Past President Gene Valdes, who, in spite of our urging, has yet to put his name on the masthead. Over the next year we hope to expand the newsletter to a bi-monthly publication.
Jim Davis is retired from the FAA where he last served as the head of their Rapid Response Team. He splits his time between Columbus and the DC Area where he can most often be found hip deep in someone’s historic aviation files. It would not surprise us if he slept at the National Archives.
Scott Schmid lives in Deming, 30 miles north of Columbus. He is fairly new to the board and as such gets assigned some of the more onerous odd jobs. Most recently, he succeeded in having one of our damaged information signs repaired in time for the runway dedication, a task that had previously had several of us baffled.
We recently welcomed Bud Canfield (on the left) to our Board. Bud, a native Wisconsinite, has been locally involved for several years with the Historical Society, President of the Friends of Pancho Villa State Park, and as a former Village Trustee. Bud was deeply involved in the actual physical preparations at “zero NM zero” (the new runway’s official FAA designation), including getting the hole dug for the new windsock mast.
John Orton has just been appointed most recently to the Board. He brings us a strong legal background and is an active pilot as well as one of the Santa Teresa Airport Commissioners. Bud, John and Scott are appointees who are now running for their own two-year terms.
Where to Next?
The dedication of the “new” runway on October 6th of this year marks a milestone for your Foundation. While we now own 60 acres of the historic site, have signage, and a permanent windsock, there is still a great deal to do. First and foremost, we must retire the balance owed on the property, still $45,000. While donations have been generous this past year, it would appear that we will not have quite enough to pay the planned $5,000 installment to Mrs. Pat Walsh, the seller. Until this point, Mrs. Walsh has not been charging us interest on her $15,000 loan. We have, of course, paid the note down to $10,000, but we need to pay the rest. We have sponsored several historical programs this past year. We need to expand that program and develop a classroom teaching series. We need to start planning the memorial and lay the plans for an active airport operation. Then, of course, there is the flightline recreation, purchase of additional portions of the historical site, museum design, and on and on.
I look back now with no little amazement at how the dedication weekend came together. On Thursday afternoon, Advisory Board co-chair Tom Willmott arrived with wife Cathy from Santa Fe, both of them saying, “Put us to work.” They were followed shortly by Ad Board co-chair Pete Adolph of Albuquerque with his wife Christine, and by Floridians Lee and Jeanne Plant (the late Jim Greenwood’s daughter), all with the same line – “Put us to work.” We did.
On Friday, my wife Mary had planned to cook dinner for the Advisory board, but it soon became obvious that our sun porch would not hold the multitude, so dinner was moved to the dining room at Treasurer Martha Skinner’s Martha’s Place Hotel (Thanks. Martha!) where Mary, Cathy and Christine whipped up lasagna with an antipasto and all the trimmings. They fed over two dozen, including Board of Trustees couples and four slightly bewildered young truck drivers who had just checked into Martha’s.
Saturday – the big day – dawned bright and clear and a bunch of our people kicked things off with an excellent breakfast at the American Legion. Some time after 10 AM, the annual Columbus Day Parade cranked up from the Old School led by an ancient 6 X 6 and including a band, folk dancers and just about all of the village emergency rolling stock. There is nothing quite like a small town parade. Somewhere around 11 AM I had the privilege of introducing Paul Salopek, our speaker for the day (pictured to the left). Paul and his professional artist wife, Linda Lynch, are restoring and live in the nearby historic Hoover Hotel, which figured heavily in the story of the Pancho Villa raid on Columbus in 1916. Paul, who has been awarded two Pulitzers for his work at the Chicago Tribune and National Geographic, told us about his next project for the Geographic and other sponsors. He is planning to walk around the world!
Beginning early next year, he will walk the route of Homo Sapiens (man) out of Africa, through the Middle East, into Asia and then to the Americas. He plans to walk approximately six months out of each year and to take seven years to complete the project. Walk through Syria? Iran? China? “We will see when I get there,” he said. Paul held the standing-room only crowd in the Columbus American Legion Hall spellbound. Keep abreast of Paul’s greak trek here.
The actual runway dedication took place at 2 PM in front of the new windsock and mast made by Larry Benedict’s skillful hands and installed that morning. With the American Flag donated by James Efferson flying behind her, Jeanne Plant parted the ribbon held by a group of First Aero volunteers. The 50 or so onlookers then recited the Pledge of Allegiance led by Jim Davis, and then broke into cheers and hugs all around. To the left are President Bill Wehner and Jeanne Plant, the late Jim Greenwood’s (Jim was our first FASF Advisory Board Chair and the man who virtually made the “Learjet” a household word) daughter, following the ribbon cutting.
I am also happy to report that the weekend resulted in additions to the FASF treasury. The noon serving of subs with the trimmings actually came to within a couple dollars of breakeven, and sales of tee shirts, patches, decals and the like amounted to several hundred dollars more.
“It’s that time of year again”
As the year end approaches, please keep your Foundation in mind. There are a lot of deserving causes out there, and after you have written the checks to them, if you have a buck or two left, consider sending some our way. We need to get this land paid for and we can’t do it without your help. How about this for a serious memorial for someone deserving: the Trustees have offered runway naming rights to any donor of ten thousand or more!
And finally, if you find yourself traveling down our way this winter, give us a holler – we’d be pleased to show you around.
FASF Sponsors Author
John Deuble at Fly-In
By First Vice President Ric Lambart
John L. Deuble, Jr., (on the left) noted author and historian, made a special presentation to the New Mexico Pilot’s Association’s Centennial Fly-In celebration at Blue Feather Aero, Santa Teresa Airport, on September 29, 2012. Santa Teresa, NM is about 70 miles east of Columbus on the Texas border. Deuble was sponsored by the New Mexico State Historical Society and the First Aero Squadron Foundation.
Deuble, an Environmental Scientist and Engineer, has been a life-long history buff. Since he retired and moved to New Mexico, he has become an expert in the history of his new home state, with a special interest in its numerous military installations and the many mining camps that have existed throughout its colorful history. His forthcoming new book, “Camp Furlong 1912 through 1926” was the focus of his presentation to the visiting pilots gathered at Santa Teresa. Deuble spoke primarily about the famous “Punitive Expedition” launched from Columbus by General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, in March of 1916. The Expedition was a response to the surprise raid against both Camp Furlong and the adjacent town of Columbus on March 9th of that year. The attack by Villa’s forces of several hundred revolutionaries left 18 Americans dead, mostly civilians. In retaliation, President Woodrow Wilson ordered Pershing to launch his “Punitive Expedition,” which quickly saw U.S. Army troops pour across the border at Columbus in pursuit of the infamous Villa.
Historian Deuble not only described in vivid detail the exploits of the U.S. Army troops, but also illustrated his talk with numerous photographs taken at the time of the action. These photos included many of the famous First Aero Squadron’s pioneering aviators, along with their supporting ground crews and equipment. The famous but notably unairworthy Curtiss JN-2 and JN-3 “Jenny” biplanes flown by these aviators were the first airplanes ever deployed by the U.S. Army in combat. Deservedly, the tiny border town of Columbus, where the planes were based, has become known as “The Cradle of American Air Power.” Deuble also displayed a number of archival photos of the numerous ground vehicles dispatched in that enterprise, including both cars and trucks, which also represented the first use in actual combat of mechanized vehicles by the U.S. Army.
The speaker also described in some detail how a number of those early intrepid First Aero Squadron pilots became the backbone of the American Air Forces when America entered World War I in early 1917. General Pershing’s commanding officer in charge of the First Aero Squadron’s operations at Columbus, Captain Benjamin Foulois, went on to become the commanding General of the U. S. Army Air Corps, retiring under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. A former plumber from Connecticut, Foulois first enlisted in the Army, after lying about his age, as a foot soldier. He soon worked his way up from an enlisted man to become a commissioned officer—all without a college education.
About fifty guests, members and pilots attended the Fly-In celebration and historical presentation at Santa Teresa, some from as far away as Indiana.
Looking for a Grant Writer
The FASF is looking for someone who can research and apply for grants related to the Foundation’s mission and goals. It isn’t necessary that such a person with grant writing experience be a member of the FASF although we would certainly welcome a member who would like to take on this task. It could be someone in the member’s household or other acquaintance. The nice thing about this job is that you can do it from home. If you are interested or know someone with grant writing skills who might be interested, call Bill Wehner at (575) 531- 7044 or email him at email@example.com.