State of the Unit
A Message from the Wing Leader
In January 2017, I set two main goals for the unit to focus on. First, to increase our paid membership and second, to increase our community footprint. Some of you have heard me talk of the vicious circle we are in… we need to have members to be at the events to promote AG1 and its mission… and we need to be at these events to recruit members!
We have been moving toward those goals and have recruited some great new volunteers and have a some very interested recent prospects.
As 2019 begins, the Air Group One staff is continuing to move the Wing forward. We welcome two recent Elected Officer additions; Steve Sheldon is our Safety Officer and will also be responsible for training new members, and Roy Whisenant is our New Development Officer. Along with searching for sponsorships, he will also be working on recruitment. We have several new members that are enthusiastic about volunteering with the Wing and have some great ideas. We welcome them all to AG1 and with their help, we hope to accomplish some good stuff this coming year.
Our Educational programs were revived and presented last year. AG1 sponsored several youth events in 2018 and Ricardo Sevilla already has several Youth and Adult Aviation related classes on the schedule for early this year. One of his main goals for 2019 is to expand our Cadet program and schedule a day each month for a Cadet meeting and activity.
AG1 members participated in several large events last year including many event flyovers, Chino and Miramar Airshows, several events on the U.S.S. Midway, and many local events as well. We were invited to others but staffing them is always a challenge. If you would like to volunteer at any of our events, contact Debbie English or Megan English. They handle volunteer scheduling as well as our PX sales and inventory.
In April 2018 we held our 1st annual Warbird Expo and we have received very positive feedback from the community. The event saw over 20 aircraft on display as well as classic cars and a few commercial vendors. One of the highlights was the WWII Swap-meet. The first-time event drew almost 1000 visitors. The Warbird Expo is planned for Saturday April 13, 2019 on the west transient ramp and is already shaping up to be bigger than 2018.
Last year our staff worked for months to convince Commemorative Air Force’s Mesa Arizona Wing to include El Cajon on their tour stop. The B-17 Sentimental Journey spent a week in October at KSEE giving tours and rides from the Terminal Building.
Our monthly meetings/BBQs there were well received presentations by Tuskegee Airman Nelson Robinson and Mike Tsosie. Mike is the Son of Navajo Code Talker Sam Tsosie.
Some of the presentations this year include Nelson Robinson at our February 23rd BBQ. On March 23rd we will have a short presentation on the history on the B-29 Superfortress, followed by a presentation by Retired Brigadier General Bob Cardenas.
Be sure to mark your calendar for Saturday April 13th when we will see the Warbird Expo. Volunteers will be needed to help make the event a successful fundraiser for us. Information on helping at our events are on our website. We always encourage volunteers to come out to all of the events. This promises to be another fun day at the airport.
Also, in the works is an encore presentation on the Navajo Code Talkers and a presentation on the “L Birds” and their roles on WWII.
Restoration of the L-5 is progressing nicely. It is being worked on at another location due to the room and logistics. Mike Dralle, Bob Simon and Vicki Moen have been working very hard on it. The “tail-feathers” are mostly completed and one of the wings is almost completed and will be ready to cover and paint very soon. Some parts were misplaced during hangar moves and they have been slowed somewhat be having to fabricate new parts. We are excited about the L-5 being in the air by 2020.
Hangar space has held up the restoration of our mobile AT-6 educational display. Work has progressed much slower than we had hoped. Recently we have several volunteers that have an interest in getting it moving again so we are exploring a way to make that happen. I have also very recently started discussions with a USAF Reserve maintenance unit at March AFB to perhaps work on the fuselage restoration as well.
AG1 has acquired a WWII Link Trainer from our Missouri Wing. The logistics of getting it to KSEE is an obstacle that we are currently working on. There is good chance that we will be able to get it here by early March. It needs some TLC, but we feel it will be a great project that members can work on in the hangar. We are planning to have a scheduled work day once or twice a month starting late Spring or early Summer
AG1 has also been offered an almost life-size wooden SBD Dauntless that was professionally made for display. So as cool as it would be to have, the staff would string me up if I came home with another item… so due to the non-hangar space available, we will have to pass on it.
Led by Darrel Cook, members completed the annual on SASSY in record time in January.
2018 also saw the retirement of two of our dedicated members. Now living in Nevada, Warren Thomas was a member for over 31 years and spent several days each week talking with museum visitors. Jim & Jan McGarvie also decided to retire and move to Arizona. Jim had been a member for over 18 years. Both Jim and Jan have held several Elected Officer positions over the years. Even though we hated to see them go, we wish them good health, happiness, and good luck in their post-AG1 years.
We continually review our website to see if we can improve it. Chris Van Stelle works on keeping it current. The best way to keep up on AG1 events is to check the website often as changes happen often… or better yet, come to the meetings and GET INVOLVED. Any member that would like to help develop a newsletter, rehab our scale plastic aircraft models or has ideas on how we can improve our efforts, please contact any staff member.
We still have a small core group that gets involved in almost everything, which includes not only the events… but also planning and organizing them, staffing them, setting up and taking them down, as well as the day to day operations of the unit. This can lead to member burnout. I encourage everyone to get involved in AG1 events… and I challenge anyone to recruit new members. Currently, members that help at 10 of our events are then awarded a ride in SASSY. Staff is currently discussing an incentive program for AG1 members that recruit new members.
I want to take a moment and remind members, both new and old, of why we are here. AG1 was started at Gillespie Field in 1981 as the “San Diego Squadron” and later formed, as a then, “Confederate” Air Force Wing, and renamed Air Group One. We have been a proud part of the Gillespie Field community for 37 years. Those years have seen many members walk through AG1’s hangar doors, including the only original WWII hangar left on the field located over in the SW corner. Earlier in our history AG1 had about 200 members. Planes have come and gone which include a Cessna AT-17 “Bamboo Bomber”, A North America F-82 which is a twin Mustang… and a Grumman F4F Wildcat.
The Commemorative Air Force has over 12,000 members in 88 different Wings/Squadrons/Units and we are a proud part of that organization. We can all read the Commemorative Air Force mission and goals but its summed up in part as: “acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans”, but we all have a different motivation for being a part of AG1. Some of us just want to fly these tough old warbirds, some focus on the restoration and maintenance aspect, some have a nexus to WWII perhaps a parent or grandparent that served, and there may be some that just like WWII history and want to be around this stuff. Whatever the reason,
AG1 has a place for everyone to become involved.
Please help promote AG1 and get others involved even if it is just to bring them to the monthly BBQ. If you know of veteran’s groups, scout troops or youth organizations that would like to attend the BBQs and tour the aircraft, please invite them and let a staff member know. We try to have interesting speakers at the BBQs, however that is sometimes not always an easy task. If you know of a potential presentation or speaker, please let us know.
I encourage all of you to get involved, invited friends to get involved and let’s continue to make AG1 grow and thrive.
Air Group One
B-29 Flight Crew