HISTORY OF CHAPTER
Formation of Twin Cities Area United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates (TCA).
On November 16, 2010, Tom Wilson (USAFA 1961) began a series of communications with Stella Grayson, Graduate Support Specialist, USAFA Association of Graduates to establish and regenerate an Association of Graduates chapter centered in the Twin Cities. Ms. Grayson provided a list of graduates in the area and disseminated a survey to determine graduate interest. She also provided a Chapter Handbook containing vital information regarding formation of such a chapter. Ms. Grayson’s successor, Ms. Natalie Ryan (USMA 2008) sent out an e-mail to all graduates within a 60-mile radius of the Twin Cities regarding the initial organizational meeting. Fourteen graduates expressed interest in being a part of the leadership team.
This group agreed to conduct the initial organizational meeting of the Minnesota Chapter on May 18, 2011. Ms. Ryan also attended the meeting.
Family Picnic – September 2011
Our first gathering, a picnic at Bush Lake in mid-September, included over 30 of us but not a single formation or inspection. The range of graduates included classes from almost The Beginning to the class of 1996. There were singles, couples and a few children enjoying the grilled fare, potluck and sunshine.
Whereas I would prefer to speak with one person for three hours, I forced myself to mingle and was rewarded with meeting kind people with unexpected stories and creative ways of viewing the world. Conversations ranged from off-grid living to optimal brat (the food) grilling to an honor scandal to the glory days of Air Force football.
We were on the same side regardless of past or current status, enjoying a shared spirit of goodwill and fellowship that will always be with us.
Military Bowl Football Game – December 2011
Our second gathering, a viewing of the Military Bowl between our Birds and Toledo at a sports bar, included over 50 of us. What an exciting game! Although the outcome was not what everyone wanted, a good time was had by all including no shortage of cheering and groaning.
Most importantly, there was lots of hand shaking and business card exchanging as grads, Air Liaison Officers, members of the Air Force Association, and our families got to know each other.
The two most common questions were:
What squadron were you in?
What did you do after graduation?
There were many great stories. Not only had our attendance increased to over 50 people (thanks to making direct calls to grads in the area), but the range of classes went from almost The Beginning to one on leave from the class of 2015 who led a few in post-score push-ups, accompanied by older grads and the young son of a grad. Once again, there was a range of experience there from non-rated to navigators, fighter pilots, transport pilots, refuelers and even a 6-time NASA shuttle pilot.
Some grads commented upon the sense of fellowship. At least one witnessed this in the eyes of a content group.
First Founders Day Dinner – March 31, 2012
What a night! The first annual TCA AOG Founders Day Dinner, held March 31,2012, was a resounding success! There were several factors that led to such a wonderful evening. First of all, our featured speaker was none other than the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Norty Schwartz ’73. Secondly, the TCA AOG Founders Day Dinner Committee was astute enough to listen to and act upon the advice of Brigadier General (retired) Denny Schulstad, whose experience conducting such events is immeasurable. Finally, and most importantly, was the “I know a guy, can do,” spirit and attitude of the members of the TCA AOG.
Highlights of the evening guided by chapter VP, and the evening’s MC, Joe Rodwell ’64, were General Schwartz’ passionate and inspiring remarks describing how far we’ve progressed as Academy graduates and what the future holds for future graduates. The national AOG CEO, William “T” Thompson ’73, spoke about the “connectivity” of the AOG and praised the progress of the TCA AOG in one short year. National AOG Endowment CEO and President, General (retired) Steve Lorenz ’73, in his humorous introductory remarks, described General Schwartz as a cadet and how his classmates always knew “Norty” was going far.
One highlight of special note was Brigadier General (retired) Denny Schulstad’s extremely generous donation of his painting by Bryan Moon of General Doolittle’s aircraft to William “T” Thompson and the USAFA AOG. This painting is autographed by General Doolittle and a piece of his aircraft is attached to it. General Schulstad is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, former Commander of the Minnesota USAFA Air Liaison Officer Group, and was instrumental in bringing the USAFA football team to Minnesota for the opening game at TCF Stadium against the University of Minnesota. He is also a lifetime member of the AOG.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by the Metropolitan Boys Choir. After intermission, they sang all four service songs. Members in the audience stood during the rendition of their service’s song. One member stood for all four songs. He was eighty nine year old General “Jack” Vessey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was seated as a most honored guest at General Schwartz’ table. Another honored guest was Colonel (retired) Jerry Driscoll ’63, a Vietnam War POW for 7 years.
The first annual TCA AOG Founders Day Dinner was an event those of us privileged to participate in and attend will never forget. Our thanks go out to General Schwartz for his gracious acceptance of our invitation, to all those who volunteered their time and efforts to make it a successful event, the Hotel Sofitel, and most importantly, to the attendees, sponsors, and donors, whose contributions enabled us to host this great evening.
Air Force Hockey Reaches NCAA Tournament – March 24, 2012
The Air Force Falcons hockey team made another appearance in the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament this spring. Strong goal tending and tight defense carried the team to a regular season title in the Atlantic Hockey conference with a 15-6-6 record. However, with only one berth to the tournament coming to the winner of the conference tournament championship, the Falcons needed 4 playoff victories just to earn its way into the NCAA Tournament. The Falcons defeated Connecticut by winning 2 of 3 games, followed by victories over Mercyhurst and RIT to win the conference playoff title. This set up a match up against top seeded Boston College, winners of 15 straight games coming into the tournament.
We had a great group of folks joining us to watch the game out at Poor Richard’s in Bloomington. Board Members Joe Rodwell, Dave Reiner, Rick West, Carol Kilbride and Zach Turcotte were all in attendance. Cadets Clay West and Eric Soderberg (the kicker for the football team) were also in attendance. Eric actually chose to come home for spring break during his final year at the Academy in order to prepare himself for an upcoming physical fitness assessment for Special Operations forces. He figures Las Vegas can wait another year for him…. Also in attendance were former Academy hockey standouts Gordy Curphy and Tom Zupancich. Gordy is the President of Curphy Consulting, Tom is the head of the St. Thomas ROTC, and both have agreed to come aboard with our new Strategic Business Planning Committee. They should make welcome additions to an already tremendous group.
As for the game itself, Boston College scored an early goal just 7 minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead, but for the remainder of the game, the Falcons more than held their own against the nation’s top rated team. Some timely saves from the BC goaltender kept the Falcons off the board and a late, questionable penalty led to a second BC goal with just over a minute left in the third period to bring the final tally to 2-0 for the Eagles. Air Force should be very proud of its efforts. In the games that followed, Boston College thumped its opponents with ease in going on to win the national championship which included a 6-1 rout of the Minnesota Gophers. The TCA AOG can be especially proud of this squad as nearly half of its roster is made of players from Minnesota. Congratulations, Falcons on another great season. Thanks to all our members who made it out for the event. A good time was had by all!
Ongoing Chapter Events
Since these inaugural events, we have continued to hold like events annually. In addition, we have and continue to offer a wide variety of other events including dinners at various locations in the Twin Cities area, river cruises, summer happy hours, LinkedIn seminars, Scotch tastings, viewing parties for USAFA football games and other televised sporting events and the monthly East-side(2nd Fridays) and West-side (1st Fridays) Academy Breakfasts. Knowing that we all have favorites when it comes to social and/or professional events, we prefer offering a wide range of events in the hope of reaching more local graduates. Attendance may be small at many of them, but all who do attend join with smiles, having enjoyed their time with fellow and like minded grads.
We invite all grads to join us for future events of your choosing, shown here and in our Facebook Group. We actively solicit ideas for new events that might be of interest to our members.
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