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McChord Air Force Association chapter looking forward to 2012

Chapter’s Pilot for a Day, Air Force JROTC and Civil Air Patrol scholarship programs continue to flourish

The McChord AFA chapter’s Pilot for a Day program gives sick children a chance to hang out at the base for a day of fun. /Tyler Hemstreet

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With an active group of more than 150 community partners, the McChord Field Air Force Association chapter already has a strong presence in the local military community.

The chapter hopes to continue to build on all its support programs in 2012.

New president Bill Striegel took the helm in Oct. 2011, and he's excited for what lies ahead in the New Year.

The 67-year-old Striegel, a Gig Harbor resident, served in the Air Force for more than 20 years on active-duty, in the Reserves and as a member of the Air National Guard. After retiring from the Air Force, the veteran worked as a commercial airline pilot, most recently retiring from Alaska Airlines in 2004 after flying for the company for 14 years. He's been a member of AFA since 1964 when he was enrolled in the ROTC program at the University of Idaho.

The chapter is currently in the midst of reviewing candidates for its yearly scholarship packages that it hands out to local Air Force JROTC and Civil Air Patrol cadets.

"We'll announce those awards in April," Striegel said.

In the past, the chapter has hosted an awards banquet of its own to honor the selected cadets, but the last few years it has made the presentation at each of the units' individual award banquets.

"That way we can make the presentation in front of their peers," he said.

At the wing level of support, AFA leadership has already met with commanders of various units on McChord to offer the chapter's support with whatever programs they might need help with.

The major support program for the chapter continues to be the Pilot for a Day program. Pilot for a Day is an Air Force program that enables challenged youth a chance to visit an Air Force base, becoming part of the team in the process. The participants are selected through a partnership with a community hospital or foster program.

"Our goal is to create an unforgettable day for them," Robert Branscomb, an AFA member who's on the board that selects children to participate in the program, said in July as the 4th Airlift Squadron hosted 9-year-old cystic fibrosis patient Evan Waara. "They're getting to experience what very few civilians can experience."

The chapter is in the midst of selecting a candidate for the next Pilot for a Day experience, while the 4th AS is gearing up to host the program after returning from a deployment just weeks ago.

The AFA chapter would like to host one child per quarter, or about four this year.

"We hope to do more," Striegel said.

On the fundraising front, the chapter is in the midst of putting the final details in place for its annual fundraiser golf tournament, set for August at either Whispering Firs or Eagles Pride Golf Course. The event generates funds for the scholarship program.

Chapter members will also be out in force this year at Air Expo 2012, educating people in the community on what AFA does on a local and national level.

The chapter holds its monthly meetings at noon on the second Tuesday of every month at the McChord Clubs and Community Center.

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