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Air Force Association helps tell AF story

Association boasts more than 120,000 members nationwide

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In April 1945, Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold saw a need for an independent civilian organization to argue the case for military preparedness and the importance of airpower.

A year later, the Air Force Association was incorporated in Washington D.C. with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, a noted aviation pioneer and Medal of Honor recipient at the helm.

Sixty-four years later, the association boasts more than 120,000 members nationwide, and about 3,000 of those people are members of Washington state chapters.

Operating on a $20 million national budget, the AFA is a civilian, nonprofit, educational organization focused on helping to educate the public on the for a strong aerospace defense force, said Rick Sine, the Washington state AFA president.

"We are not lobbyists," Sine said. "We bring in an independent view and we advocate for aerospace defense. The AFA is the only organization that advocates for the low-ranking enlisted man."

The local chapter, which operates on a budget of private donations, supports the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings, and has 130 community partners - making it the largest chapter for community partners, Tommy Carson, the local chapter president, said.

The mission of the AFA is to educate, advocate, and support, said Sine, who works as an aerospace consultant.

The AFA is important because of its advocacy for the Air Force mission, said Col. Kevin Kilb, 62nd AW commander.

"The AFA's work is telling our Air Force story," Kilb said. "And their support of that story is very much appreciated.  This local AFA is as good as I have ever seen."

Currently, the association's biggest single advocacy issue is fleet revitalization, Sine said.

"The age of our aircraft fleet is of great concern," he said. "Grandchildren of first pilots are now flying airplanes that their grandfathers flew.  And some day their children will be flying the same plane."

Although the organization provides a number of programs and support to active duty, guard and reserve airmen and their families, education is at the center of the AFA's mission.

The AFA offers grants to schools that do well in math and science, and they offer a number of grants and scholarships to students, educators and organizations.

AFA also educates Congress on issues important to aerospace defense, Sine said. Most recently AFA members have spoken before Congress on the tanker issue.

"Because we are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, we don't take a position on which tankers they should select," Sine said. "We just educate Congress and the public on the importance of getting more tankers in the fleet."

Veterans' issues are also important to the AFA, he said.  AFA members are currently supporting legislation on concurrent receipt. Under the current laws, an individual who has a VA disability and has retired from the armed services has an offset of their pay that allows them to receive no more than their retirement pay.

"We want them to receive both pays," he said.

Also, the AFA deals with active duty issues such as housing, and concerns about constant rotations into war zones. Other areas of advocacy listed on the national AFA Web site include: opposition to and effort to change TRICARE, cautioning Congress against nuclear weapon reductions, development of the next generation of cyber security experts and capabilities, investing in technical education, and continuing to expand national programs encouraging the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Most of all, the AFA is a support partner for the Air Force, said Maj. Dan Dobbels, an executive officer at JBLM-McChord Field.

"The AFA gives us support that allows us to do things that we were not funded to do," Dobbels said.  "Everything has a cost, and the AFA helps us pay for programs."

To make donations or join the AFA, visit www.afa-waregion.org

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