July 2013

The Aerodrome is the Journal of the First Aero Squadron Foundation

Aerodrome Masthead with Info Block for July 2013 - 001

            President’s Report

                More Land Becomes Available

Bill Wehner - July 2013 Red Shirt

We have been notified that our neighbor to the east has listed his 160 acres for sale.  He has held this tract for about 30 years as an investment, but has decided to cash out.  Purchase of this parcel would complete our possession of all the historic land associated with the First Aero Squadron and allow us to extend the Zero NM Zero runway to near its original length of about 4500 feet.  As of this writing, FASF personnel are in negotiations but the problem, as always, is money.  The cost of this quarter section is $35,000, less than $250 an acre, which is a fair price.

The sticky problem that remains, though, is that we need to complete our payoff schedule to the owner of our first purchase. We have to raise some serious money in the next few months in order to meet current obligations. At the same time we are pretty well obligated to try to acquire this new parcel.  We are looking for ideas and suggestions from everyone. 

Sex Sells

After he read the last issue of The Aerodrome, member John Moore, St. Louis, emailed us: “The tee-shirt model is perfect.  We all know that sex sells.”  The model, whose pictures appear on Page 5 and 6 wearing the new First Aero Squadron tee, is Gene Valdes Sr., WWII vet and father of our immediate past president.  Senior, who will be 96 in August, probably appreciated the comment as much as anyone!

The shirts are Hanes Beefy Tees and are available in M, L, XL & XXL for 25 bucks plus two dollars P&H.  We can get size S, but it takes a couple weeks longer to do so.  These are a darn good investment and each sale puts $10 into debt retirement.  I expect to gift them to my relatives this Christmas.

In thinking about returning to a relatively carefree retirement at the end of this year, I have given a lot of thought to what the next president of this outfit will be dealing with.  There are several aspects of the job that I will miss: meeting members when they drop in to visit, or chatting on the phone about a myriad of subjects (Least missed?  Twisting arms for money); the sense of excitement when we get a new member or a donation; and just simply working with the team, your board, on projects like the airfield restoration.

Tucson attorney Michael Owen dropped in on us a few years ago to attend a downtown Columbus activity.  We enjoyed the visit and Michael has since contributed valuable ideas.  Another visitor, Steve Owen (no relation, but these Welshmen do seem to get around) has been instrumental in the restoration of an airways beacon and FSS in Grants, NM.  Our Jim Davis says that Steve has been a tireless worker on that project and advises that a visit to Grants is well worth while.  Another Steve has been a regular visitor – Steve Watson, who is the archivist at Kirtland AFB Albuquerque, has been a guest speaker and has added greatly to our store of First Aero lore.  We have enjoyed visits by historian John Deuble, also from Albuquerque, who was largely responsible for finding the location of the aerodrome and who also has been a guest speaker.  I can’t abandon this topic without mentioning the visits of Jeanne and Lee Plant, Green Valley AZ.  Jeanne is the daughter of the late Jim Greenwood, our first Advisory Board Chair.  She was the ribbon cutter when we opened the airstrip last October.

Recent Contacts

Most recent visitors were Lt. Colonel Steve Rodriguez, immediate past commander of the First Reconnaissance. Squadron at Beal AFB, CA and his family.  Col. Rodriguez was in the process of moving his wife and two young sons across country to a new assignment and, fortunately for us, decided to drop in to sample Columbus hospitality.  This is the hundredth anniversary year of the forming of the First Aero Squadron; it is fascinating to realize that we’ve gone from Wright bi-planes to the U-2 and the Black Bird in just 100 years.

A couple of weeks ago, we managed to screw up a member’s merchandise order.  We try not to have that happen often, but we do drop the ball once in a while, I’m sorry to say.  So I called Bob Louderback in Cincinnati, (one of my ol’ hometowns) to apologize and make sure we had finally got it right.  It turned into a delightful conversation.  Bob is a teacher who had retired, then volunteered at the National Museum at Wright-Patterson for 17 years.  Advisory Board member Lyn Benedict, Dexter NM, and I chat once a week or so.  She and husband Tom are old friends who were instrumental in our move to the Land of Enchantment.  Lyn’s inputs have been invaluable as we grow the organization.

Let us hear from you, whether by email or phone call (we don’t twitter).  This Foundation is run by its members – that’s you – and we need to hear your voice.  I’m available most days at (575) 531-7044, or wehner@vtc.net .  At the last meeting of the trustees, we voted to move ahead with three planning committees: Financial and Debt Retirement; Site Planning; and Education and Public Relations.  Here is where you educators out there can lend a hand: we are developing curricula to be used to teach the impact of aviation on local history as well as aviation history in general.

How about submitting ideas for a permanent memorial to the officers and men of the First Aero?  It could be a part of a planned interactive museum or completely separate structure of some sort.  And if you have money raising ideas or a rich uncle, or maybe know a company that would be interested in sponsorship, let’s hear from you.  No idea is too crazy, by the way, to be considered.  An awfully lot of folks here thought that we were all nuts when we kicked off the whole First Aero Foundation concept, anyhow.

Office Trailer

The board voted to accept a generous donation from the aforementioned John Moore – that of a 30×10 office trailer.  John had bought it from a construction company intending to turn it a hunting cabin in rural Missouri.  He now figures he’ll never have the time to do that, so First Aero is the beneficiary.  We have not selected a site, but it probably will reside on one of the commercial lots we own until we can spot it at the aerodrome.

At that same meeting two guests were present, Dr. Kathleen Martin, Deming NM, and Cathy Myers, president of the New Mexico Pilot’s Association.  It was an evening of lively discussion and both guests contributed.  The next meeting of your board of trustees will be September 9th, 5 PM at the American Legion Hall (across from the Post Office), in Columbus.

Bill Wehner



Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, the FASF applied for a national award from the American Association of State and Local History. Our entry was the only one from New Mexico.  While the award went elsewhere, we plan to reapply in the future. In the course of preparing our entry, we received endorsements from prominent local historians for our efforts in protecting and preserving the 1916 Aerodrome. The following commendation is from Jon Hunner, chair of the History Department at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces:

FASF NMSU Letter 002 Dr. Jon Hunner

Welcome New Members

The FASF Board of Trustees welcomes all our new members as they join in our efforts to protect and preserve the historical legacy of the First Aero Squadron’s groundbreaking combat missions from their base in Columbus, NM in 1916-17. The more recent new members include:

  • Lt. Colonel Steve Rodriguez, immediate past commander of the First Reconnaissance Squadron (ie First Aero Squadron) at Beal AFB, CA.;
  • Cathy Myers, President, NM Pilots Association;
  • Brooks Hindes, Commander of the Las Cruces Composite Squadron of the NM Wing Civil Air Patrol;
  • Suzanne Azar, 1st woman mayor (and the only one thus far)  of El Paso, Texas and owner of Blue Feather Aero, an FBO/Flight School in Santa Teresa, NM;
  • Major Jason Adams, Commandant of Cadets, NM State University, Air Force ROTC;
  • Dr. Kathleen Martin, Cultural Anthropologist whose grandfather served in Columbus during the 1916-17 Punitive Expedition;
  • Colonel Alan Fisher, ret. Air Force Academy graduate and former Commandant of the Air Force ROTC at NM State University;
  • Richard Cochran, Grants, NM
  • Jacob Panter, Nevada City, CA

With these new members, the FASF now numbers 160 members, including trustees and advisory board members. The growth is remarkable considering the organization got its start and is still headquartered in the tiny border village of Columbus, New Mexico. All of us on the Board of Trustees are delighted to see that so many people are interested in preserving a valuable legacy in American History. We appreciate everyone’s support and look forward to an ever-growing membership.

Back on Track!

As some of you know, we had a recent “personnel” change. Our many thanks go out to James Efferson who, for several years, kept our financial records in perfect order and sent out reminder and thank you letters to new and renewing members. Since James’ departure, we have been catching up on all the paperwork he did for us. All new or renewing members should, by now, have received a thank you letter acknowledging their dues and donations.

We appreciate your patience during this transition period. And, if you have not yet renewed your membership, please do so today! Your membership is very important to us and the funds we generate from our membership dues are what sustain us on a day-to-day basis.

If you have questions about the status of your membership, please contact immediate past president Gene Valdes at (505) 660-1112 or adolfostr@aol.com, Thank you again!

Internship to Become Available at the FASF

Many educational institutions require students to acquire practical experience in their individual field of study as part of their degree program. Such practical experience is often structured in the form of internships with outside entities. Within the next few weeks, the First Aero Squadron Foundation will be sending out formal invitations to selected educational institutions inviting them to consider the FASF as a placement for a student internship. Students enrolled in an advanced degree program in history, a non-profit management program, or other academic program aligned with FASF mission and goals will be especially encouraged to apply. A student intern or “Managing Associate” at FASF will be organizing fundraising appeals and nurturing relationships with prospective donors. He or she will also be doing grant research/writing and event planning and community engagement. The Managing Associate will not have to reside in Columbus but can do most of the work from their home. He or she will be required to come to Columbus on a semi-regular basis and for that an apartment will be available. Initially, this is a part-time volunteer assignment but there is potential for it growing into a part-time paid position. As noted above, the full detailed proposal will be out in a couple of weeks but if you have comments or questions in the meantime, contact immediate past president Gene Valdes at (505) 660-1112 or adolfostr@aol.com.

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