Seeing Our Future: AFA Leaders Participate in AFROTC Convention 

May 31, 2024   |   By Linda Aldrich

Under unexpectedly rainy and cold skies, nearly 700 Arnold Air Society (AAS) and Silver Wings (SW) members, along with the Board of Trustees and many distinguished visitors, traveled to San Diego, Calif., for San DCON, the annual gathering for these AFROTC-affiliated services organizations held March 29 through April 1. The weather didn’t dampen any enthusiasm for the event; it just changed the scheduled pool party into an indoor dance for the cadets and students. 

Attendees experienced an amazing array of guest speakers throughout the event, including Joanna Doolittle, granddaughter of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle; Robert Arnold, grandson of Gen. Hap Arnold; Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, USSF (Ret.), the first Chief of Space Operations; Gen. Jackie Van Ovost, U.S. Transportation Command/CC; Group Captain Pete Warmerdam, Air Attaché, Royal Air Force; Col. Corey Ramsby, AFROTC/CC; Larry Litton, Office of the Secretary of Defense; Vanessa Wyche, NASA Director, Johnson Space Center; and Heidi Grant, Boeing CEO for Defense, Space & Security. After each distinguished speaker, the lines were long at the microphones on both sides of the room, as cadets and students came up with question after question until time ran out for each session. 

All AAS and SW students are also members of the Air & Space Forces Association. The interaction these cadets and students had with other AFA members gave them an opportunity to spend time with a diverse group of attendees from all over the country, including AFA’s Vice Chair of the Board for Field Operations Chris Canada; AFA’s Vice Chair of the Board for Education Stephen Gourley; AFA’s West Area Director Bobi Oates; Colorado representative, Linda Aldrich; and a contingent from the AFA Cardenas Chapter in San Diego, led by Dick Jeffreys. 

Gourley and Aldrich are on the AAS/SW Board of Trustees. Gourley was key to the AFA-sponsored luncheon, at which he presented AFA Life Memberships to outstanding AAS and SW members. He was also a featured speaker at the Space Domain Panel alongside Gen. Raymond, Wyche, and astronaut Col. Mike Fincke, USAF (Ret.). 

A panel at Arnold Air Society/Silver Wings’ San DCON. Left to right: Gen. John W. Raymond, USSF (Ret.); Ms. Wyche; Col. Mike Fincke, USAF (Ret.); and AFA’s Vice Chair of the Board for Education Stephen Gourley.

Special recognition was given to the long-serving AAS/SW Executive Director Daniel P. Woodward and Co-Director Maggie Woodward. They have devoted a huge portion of their retirement years after Active duty to building the sponsorship and membership of AAS and SW. The incoming Executive Director is newly retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jimmy Canlas. 

Interacting with these cadets and students was a gift and an inspiration—attendees were able to see who the future leaders of the military and of our country will be. The doors that are opened to these young guests through their interaction with AFA leadership is what the mission is all about, as our members shared how they Advocate for, Educate, and Support this newest generation entering Active duty and the civilian community.