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P.O. Box 691616
San Antonio, TX 78269-1616

Our association enjoyed another annual reunion weekend of events in September. The weather was favorable, allowing us to complete a set of activities that combined remembrance, recognition, recreation and camaraderie. This year's reunion took place during an AIA Commanders Conference and SENSOR OLYMPICS competition, which allowed "alumni" of the command to meet and get to know their successors now serving on active duty.

For the first time, the reunion golf tournament took place on two courses (Kelly and Lackland) simultaneously, speeding up play and allowing for more fellowship time at the barbecue event that followed at Stapleton Park on Security Hill. Joe Hurst did a great job in planning and executing the tournament and meal that followed.

The remembrance ceremony held at the EC-47 memorial in front of AIA headquarters provided everyone who attended a chance to reflect on past events and associations with colleagues present and absent. AIA Commander Major General Paul Lebras delivered another moving address on the importance of the command's mission, the dedication of its people, and the need to preserve a sense of heritage that connects our past with current operations. The ceremony included a great performance by the Alzafar Shrine Highlander Pipe Band and an F-16 flyover. As has become the custom, FTVA members called out the names of fallen eagles who died during the past year, followed by a 21-gun salute fired by the AIA Honor Guard. The association very much appreciates the cooperation and efforts by the command staff to make this event a success.

The picnic that followed the remembrance ceremony was a fun event for the several hundred who attended. As has been the case for so many years, Grover McMakin was the driving force behind making the afternoon so enjoyable. A combined FTVA-AIA team had re-habbed the dozen or so booths used to provide food and drink to picnickers, and the booths look good for a few more years of service. The membership table had a beefed-up staff and did its usual brisk business in signing up members for another year and selling command-related mementos. Our DJ, known as Illegal Productions, provided an afternoon of good "picnic music."

Saturday's events began with the Hall of Honor induction ceremony that added four distinguished members to its roll. Next, Major General Lebras provided an update on the command's organization and operation, with emphasis on the role AIA is playing in IRAQI FREEDOM and the global war on terrorism. These annual updates provide an outstanding linkage between how things worked in the past and the evolving command mission and tools in use today. We are deeply indebted to Major General Lebras and his staff for the time and care that are expended in preparing these presentations. Following the command presentation, a brief FTVA business meeting announced the election of new officers and concluded with reports from several association officers.

The AIA anniversary banquet held on Saturday evening at the Lackland Gateway Club was enjoyed by the nearly 400 people who attended. Following dinner, the AIA Anniversary Cake was cut jointly by Lieutenant General Michael Hayden, Director, NSA and former AIA Commander, and Major General Lebras. In his after-dinner speech, General Hayden gave a fascinating account of the performance of the U.S. SIGINT System and intelligence in general in IRAQI FREEDOM and the global war on terrorism. Once again, the association owes a large debt of gratitude to Grover McMakin for orchestrating a mountain of details associated with a large dinner. Well done, Colonel Mac!!

Each year, the annual reunion marks a time of transition in our association as new officers take their places on the association's board of directors. This year's turnover was saddened by the sudden death of Chief Master Sergeant (Retired) Cliff Koonce two weeks after the reunion weekend. Chief Koonce, a Hall of Honor member, served the association as secretary for the last two years, and did so in an outstanding manner. Chief Koonce has been replaced by Chief Master Sergeant (Retired) Bob Crabtree.

As the incoming president, I want to recognize my predecessor, John Worthington, for his first-rate leadership performance during the 2001-2003 period. He will be a hard act to follow. Our new vice president is Colonel (Retired) Chris Cook, who recently completed his Air Force career as AIA's Director of Staff (formerly known as Chief of Staff).

Two other significant FTVA transitions are underway. Chief Master Sergeant (Retired) Bob Sherwood has replaced Colonel (Retired) Bill Ballard in guiding the efforts of our Hall of Honor committee. This is my opportunity to publicly recognize and thank Bill Ballard for his dedication and diligence in guiding Hall of Honor activities for many years. Secondly, the board agreed that it was time to reward Grover McMakin for his many years of outstanding, truly "above and beyond" service as our social chairman by finding another horse to pull the very heavy load that the social chairman's job generates. Colonel Mac, words are truly inadequate to thank you for the enjoyment your work has brought to the thousands who have attended our annual reunions in recent years. Well done! We'll select a successor shortly.

Over the next two years, I will work to make FTVA an even stronger organization than it is today. My hope is to bring the organization into even closer relationship with AIA as a means of attracting a steady infusion of "new blood" in the form of active duty and recently retired/separated people who share our association's values. I urge every FTVA member to join in this endeavor. As we approach the holiday season, best wishes to you and your families. As the war on terrorism rolls on, let us join in thoughts and prayers for the safety of all Americans, particularly those wearing our country's uniform. Remain in touch, Grover Jackson

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Freedom Through Vigilance Association
PO Box 691616
San Antonio, TX 78269-1616

File last updated: March 21, 2013 8:18:16 PM CDT