Thanks to all who were involved in the Sailor of the Quarter/Sailor of the Year Awards Program at our last luncheon. I thought that it went off extremely well thanks to the participation of CDR Erik Franzen and George Del Gaudio. Hopefully those in attendance appreciated the efforts and accomplishments of the Sailors. The briefing on the Littoral Combat Ship was excellent and it was made even more appropriate when one of the briefers, ABHC (AW/SW) Shawn- Patrick Bland volunteered that he was at one time Senior Sailor of the Year for LHD8, PHIBRON 5, ESG 3, Third Fleet, SURFOR, and a finalist for PACFLT. That made it even more personal to the Sailors present. ABHC (AW/SW) Luke Willdigg was the lead presenter and he was very professional and knowledgeable. It was a great team presentation.
We need our current members to start recruiting new members. If nothing else, bring your friends or relatives, or even, a mere acquaintance to our lucheon and let them see what a great group of people we are and that we have awesome programs on a regular basis. Just to give you some marketing pointers: this month we have Captain Jon Spaner, USCG, who will brief us on flight operations of the Coast Guard in the Southern California area; in April we will have CDR Chad Falgout, USN, C.O. of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Three Five (HSM-35), the Navy’s first composite squadron with the MH-60R designator Seahawk and MQ- 8B/C designator Fire Scout (unmanned rotary-wing aircraft) for expeditionary missions; in May, as a change of pace, we will have photographer/author Mike Malak talk to us about his new book entitled “Wings of Angels” (look it up on the Internet); and then in June, Colonel Mike Naylor, USMC (Ret) will take us down memory lane with his stories about his duties as Presidential Helicopter Commander/MV-22 Operational Test Director and as Deputy Commander, Marine Corps Installations West, and any other things that comes to mind. Those programs should present enough diversity to excite some of your friends and to convince them to attend one of our luncheons.
Ray LeCompte and I attended a couple of functions over the last two weekends where we spread the news about Grampaw Pettibone Squadron. On Saturday, February 21, we attended the 95th birthday celebration for LtCol Bob Friend, USAF (Ret) who spoke at one of our luncheons last year. As you may recall, Bob is a former Tuskegee Airman and went on to a long an illustrious career in the Air Force. On Saturday, February 28, we were at NAF El Centro where we watched a couple of practice sessions put on by the Blue Angels. We also enjoyed a great steak dinner provided by the Imperial Valley Council of the US Navy League the night before and visited with some old friends in that area. Coincidentally, LT Matt Suyderhoud, Blue Angel #2 (Right Wing) graduated from the same high school that I attended in Honolulu Hawaii… a few years after me! If it works out, a photo the two of us will appear in this issue of the OpPlan.
A reminder: we need more volunteers to take a leadership role in Gramps (many of us have been on the staff for more than 10 years) and we need new blood, and relief. Give us a hand and sign up new members for the Association of Naval Aviation and get them to attend our luncheons