The Golden Eagles Continuing History 2017

This Historical Summary is compiled by RADM J.A. Campbell, USN (Ret),
assisted by Web Master CAPT J.R. Davis, USN (Ret).

This Continuing Historical summary covers the period from the Golden Eagles Reunion of 21-25 April, 2016 held at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel and Spa, Orlando, FL, to the Golden Eagles Reunion of 27-30 April 2017 held at the Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego, CA.

Golden Eagles Flight Activities

Northeast Flight: Flight Leader ‘Black’ Adkinson submitted the following:

-A group of NE members attended the funeral service for Bobbie Simpson (Hap’s wife) in early January.
-A church service for Sam Hubbard was attended by about 15 members; his interment occurred on June 12 at Arlington with a fly-over and HPB’s in attendance.
-Twenty members served as HPB’s at Arlington for John Glenn’s funeral, weathering a torrential rain storm.
-The planning committee for the 2018 reunion met twice; the event is planned for the Lansdown Resort near Dulles airport.
-The “wingman” program (adopted last year) has proven to be quite effective.

Southeast Flight: Flight Leader Bill McCamy submitted the following:

-The Flight conducted a very successful 2016 reunion in Orlando; the ‘after action’ report is available for future planning.
-Kent Ewing participated in an ‘around the world’ flight of six EPIC LT aircraft from 6-16 July 2016.
-52 members and guests attended a Mini-Reunion 24-26 October in Blowing Rock, NC at the Green Park Inn. Activities consisted of a cocktail party hosted by the Van Gysel’s and the Amos’, dinner at the Inn, golf, tours, lady’s “Tea”. It was announced there that Jerry Johnson and Marsha McDonald were about to be wed.
-Fred Lewis and some NE flight members attended memorial services for Jack Dewenter in Richmond, VA.
-Ed Clexton coordinated services for John Tierney at Arlington on 2 February.
-Bob Crippen spoke at the February ANA luncheon at NAS Jacksonville about his ride in STS-1; the audience of 100 was spellbound.
-Three SE members were on the ‘binnacle’ list: Stan Arthur, Duke Hernandez and Possum Terrill.

Central Flight: Flight Leader ‘Ras’ Rasmussen submitted the following:

-A Mini-Reunion was held in December in Biloxi that was fairly well represented.
-The Pensacola “mafia” gets together about every other month at the Naval Aviation museum.
-The flight welcomes Bill Wheat and Chuck Tinker as new members.
-A Flight Leader change of command occurred on 25 May with Jim Ryan assuming the role.

West Flight:
Flight Leader ‘Duster” Rud submitted the following:

-The planning team for the 2017 reunion has been busy preparing for this grand event, 3 anticipating 160 members and over 300 attendees.
-Two Mini-Reunion Luncheons were held; 80 attended the October event and 70 in February.
-Several members attended the celebration of life service for Jack B. Davis on 18 March.
-A memorial service for Jim Service (LTO on 10 February) was held at Rosecrans National cemetery on 3 April.
-New members to West Flight include: Dick Kiehl, Jim Hickerson, Fred Baldwin and George Dom.
-West Flight lost seven members since the 2016 reunion and three wives; all will be missed.

The Golden Eagles 2017 Reunion

The Golden Eagles San Diego Reunion, held 27-30 April, 2017, had 165 Regular, Emeritus and Honorary members registered, along with 4 widows; however, due to illness and travel complications, 14 members had to cancel. Flight Leader Gil Rud coordinated an extremely well-executed Reunion at the luxurious Westgate Hotel, located in the heart of downtown San Diego. The success of the Reunion was due to the effort of a team of local volunteers that included: J.R. Davis (Ready Room), Mary Buonaguidi of Conference Direct (Welcome Receptiont and pre-Banquet Reception and Banquet), Riley Mixson (Memorial Service), Bob Butcher (Leatherneck Aviation Museum Tour), Chuck Shroeder (USS Midway Museum Tour), Carol Rud (Ladies Tea), and Dennis Irelan (Golden Eagle Golf).

Welcome Aboard Reception

The Welcome Aboard Reception was conducted on the outdoor mezzanine of the Westgate Hotel, with 274 in attendance. The setting offered a view of downtown, with Horton Plaza and the U.S. Grant Hotel in the background. There were three carving stations with Standing Roast Beef, Grilled Turkey and Smoked Ham, along with assorted other heavy hors d’oeuvres and three hosted bar stations. Although 2 of 4 elevators were inoperative as the evening commenced, all were able to partake and enjoy a clear, warm evening.


Leatherneck Aviation Museum Tour: Bus transportation and POVs saw 66 members and guests attend this event at the museum on base at MCAS Miramar.
USS Midway Museum Tour: This extremely popular venue was attended by 111 members and guests, including lunch. All agreed it is a highlight of any visit to San Diego.

Golden Eagles Golf

The annual golf tournament was held at the Admiral Baker North course with 49 golfers participating.

The Memorial Service

The Memorial Service was held at the Old Chapel at the former Naval Training Center, now transformed to “Liberty Station.” The traditional setting included the outstanding media presentation by Jerry Zacharias, with assistance by his on-the-job-trainee, Winston Copeland. There were 285 in attendance, filling the Chapel to near capacity.

Ladies Tea

The Westgate Hotel is known for hosting elegant special events, and Flight Leader Gil Rud’s wife Carol, with the assistance of Mary Buonaguidi, planned this afternoon High Tea in the Le Fountainebleau Room for the Golden Eagle Ladies. The timing coincided with the annual Members Meeting, and was attended by 69 Golden Eagle spouses.

Ready Room

We obtained all three of the available suites on the top floor of the hotel.
Although individually they were not as large as we would have liked, using all three
of them did offer a great opportunity for folks to break out into smaller groups for
socializing opportunities. The event planner, Mary Buonaguidi had an office in the main suite, which we used for late registration and other administrative activities. Bar Tender in Chief, J.R. Davis ran a well-oiled Ready Room Team, providing snacks, mixed drinks, beer, wine and soft drinks in the main suite with beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks in the other two. Donor jars with a recommendation of $20.00 per Golden Eagle per day worked out well.

General Membership Meeting

The annual membership meeting was called to order at 1400 on Saturday, 29 April in the Versailles Ballroom, by Pilot, Howard DeCastro.


Pilot’s Opening Remarks: Pilot Howard DeCastro called the meeting to order at 1400. He announced the new members of the Board of Governors and thanked the outgoing members for their service.

He then thanked West Flight Leader Gil “Duster” Rud, and his team for the excellent planning, communication, and preparation in putting this year’s reunion together. He complimented the team for making this reunion so wonderful to this point, and looked forward to the Banquet tonight. Great job!
He then thanked all of the Members of the Flight Deck and the Members of the Board of Directors for their support and advice during the year and for their prompt concurrence on transfers to Emeritus.

Pilot also thanked the Flight Leaders for their hard work during the year to coordinate funeral arrangements, communicate the status of their Flight Members, provide input for inclusion in the Quarterly Reports, and for arranging their mini reunions and luncheons.
He conveyed a special thank you to the Flight Leaders for establishing the “Wingman” program. It allowed the Association to pick up two Golden Eagles who had made their Last Take Off in previous years and it is keeping us informed of other Emeritus Members in a timely manner. Rabbit Campbell gets credit for recommending the “Wingman” program and therefore deserves another thanks and pat on the back. We have had a lot of transfers to Emeritus and every time we make a transfer it requires selection of another Wingman.

Pilot then welcomed the 16 new Golden Eagle Members and encouraged all members to seek them out and welcome them to the Association.

Chief Pilot’s Remarks: Chief Pilot Bill Knutson complimented West Flight and Flight Leader Gil Rud for organizing a successful Reunion. He gave praise to Pilot DeCastro for his communication to the membership and for working so hard to keep everyone informed throughout the year.

Co-Pilot’s Report: Co-Pilot John Mazach thanked the Chief Pilot for his remarks and repeated the thanks to the Pilot for keeping the lines of communication open and keeping the membership well informed.

“Tommy Tomlinson” Award announcement: Pilot DeCastro introduced Don Boecker and asked him to report on the presentation of the annual award. Don Boecker reported that he presented the annual “Tommy Tomlinson” award and wrist watch to LCDR Will A. Nuse, USN. LCDR Nuse was the lead Development Test Pilot for the P-8A aircraft to include Aerial Refueling, flutter tests, stalls, crosswind landings, and he worked on high risk dynamic minimum controllability airspeed tests which required engine shutdown at maximum thrust.

Navigator’s Report: Navigator Jay Campbell addressed the Minutes of the 2016 Membership Meeting, held on 23 April 2016 in Orlando, FL, reminding they were posted on line on the Association website, and requested any corrections or modifications be made prior to acceptance.

He then made the following report:

• The Golden Eagle Membership now includes:
o 199 Regular Members
o 47 Emeritus Members
o Three Honorary Members

• During the Year:
o Sixteen members were accepted into the Golden Eagles
o Seventeen Members (fifteen Emeritus and two Regular Members) made their Last Take Off (Col. Paul German, Emeritus, will be included in next year’s Memorial Ceremony so his wife, Lola, can attend.)
o Fifteen Members transferred to Emeritus
o Five Golden Eagle Ladies passed away

At the Pilot’s request a motion was made to accept the Minutes of the 2016 Membership Meeting and the Navigator’s Report. The motion was made, seconded, and passed.

Radio Officer’s Report:
Radio Officer Gary Vangysel presented the Financial Report covering the period from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.

• All IRS reports and accounting were submitted for 2016.
• Annual dues were collected from all Regular Members, netting $10,125 to the treasury
• The Tomlinson Award wrist watch was purchased at a cost of $266.75
• West Flight collected a total of $17,500 to help defer member cost for this year’s reunion.
• South East Flight turned in $6,700 as proceeds from the 2016 Orlando Reunion.
• As agreed at the 2016 Reunion, a total of $20,000 will be provided to North East Flight to offset the cost of the rooms at the Lansdown Resort for the 2018 Reunion.
• Receipts exceeded disbursements by $12,000.
• The treasury finished the year with $72,329.62 in all accounts and with 211 miniature wings worth $10,128 the total net worth is $82,457.62, up from $59,959.42 on 1 April 2016.
• As directed by the Board of Governors, the Association will contribute $2,500 to the National Naval Aviation Museum, and $2,500 to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in the coming fiscal year.
• Radio Officer Vangysel requested that all Flight Leaders provide detailed reports of all Industry contributions to The Golden Eagles, both to maintain an accurate record and to allow him and the Pilot to thank the contributors.

At the Pilot’s request, a motion was made to accept the Radio Officer’s Report. The motion was made, seconded, and passed.

Engineer Officer/Historian Report: Engineer Officer Robert Shumaker reported that this was our 57th Regular Reunion. There also are Mini-Reunions listed in the Membership Directory, conducted in 1974 and 1977 at Patuxent, Pensacola, and San Diego; and 1979 at Oceana and San Diego.

He reported that this year there were originally 169 members/widows signed up to attend the 2017 Reunion, 11 members having cancelled after signing up. At last count, 145 regular , 7 Emeritus members and 4 widows are in attendance and currently, there are 303 total guests scheduled to attend tonight’s Banquet. The requirement for attending at least one of the last four reunions has been met by all members at this 2017 Reunion.
• There are no Members who will be in violation if they do not attend the 2018 Reunion.

He also reported that 194 biographies of our members have been collected, with 6 yet to be submitted: four by members only recently selected, and two by members who have been regular members for over a year.

Nominating Committee Report: Committee Chair Don Boecker provided the following list of candidates for service.

Board of Governors
• VADM Marty Chanik, USN (Ret), Northeast Flight
• Colonel David T. Seder, USMC (Ret.), Northeast Flight
• Captain Lonny K. McClung, USN, (Ret.), West Flight
• VADM Michael L. Bowman, USN, (Ret.), West Flight

These four new members replace the following Board Members who have served their two year terms:
• MGEN Joseph T. Anderson, USMC (Ret.), Northeast Flight
• RADM Joseph J. Barth, USN (Ret.), Southeast Flight
• Captain John R. Davis, USN (Ret.), West Flight
• Captain Larry L. Ernst, USN (Ret.), West Flight

Flight Leaders
• Captain Dennis W. Irelan, USN, (Ret.), West Flight Leader
• Captain James W. Ryan, USN (Ret.), Central Flight Leader
• Captain William C. McCamy, USN (Ret.), extended as Southeast Flight Leader
• Colonel Larry Adkinson, USMC, (Ret.), extended as Northeast Flight Leader

Membership Selection Committee report: Committee Chairman Fred Lewis reported that the Membership Committee selected nine Navy and three Marine Corps nominees for induction into The Golden Eagles as slots become available. He thanked Committee Secretary Jack Batzler for his “well organized” process that helped the committee come to a decision quickly.

Chairman Lewis stated that this year there were 34 USN and 12 USMC candidates, and that after selecting 12, there were 6 candidates who had been in the nominating pool for 5 years who would be dropped from further consideration, leaving only 28 total now in the pool for further consideration, the lowest number is recent years. He requested that the membership submit some strong well-written nominations to augment the pool in the coming year.

Lastly, he reported that a procedure has been established in which the Membership Selection Committee Secretary or the Pilot will contact the nominator and seconding nominator, so they can inform their nominee that he will no longer be considered for membership.

Site Selection Committee Report: Flight Leaders

• Northeast – Colonel Larry Adkinson provided a briefing on the status of the 2018 Reunion at Lansdown Resort and thanked the Board of Governors and members for the vote to support the Reunion with funds to offset the cost of rooms.
o He then related the details of the Arlington funeral for Col John Glenn in which the Northeast Flight Honorary Pallbearers were personally recognized in the ceremony by the family. He stated that the Honorary Pallbearers have a wonderful reputation and strong relationship with the personnel at Arlington National Cemetery.

• Central – Captain Rasmussen was unable to attend, but future Flight Leader Jim Ryan indicated that the 2019 Reunion is most likely to be planned for the “Cradle of Naval Aviation,” Pensacola, FL.

• Southeast – Captain Bill McCamy started his remarks by acknowledging a common theme, “please, no more Orlando.” He indicated that the Southeast Flight is considering
sites such as Savannah, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Nashville for the 2020 Reunion. He stated that searching for an affordable venue is the key pacing issue.

• West – Captain Gil Rud deferred to the incoming Flight Leader, Denny Irelan, for the 2021 Reunion, but “tongue in cheek” offered the Marmont Hotel in Olangapo, P.I.
Old Business:

Pilot DeCastro reminded that last year, Chief Pilot Jerry Zacharias recommended that The Golden Eagles add a Dissolution Clause to our by-laws and that recommendation was approved by the Board of Governors. The wording was researched and recommended by Radio Officer Vangysel, approved by the Board of Governors, and will be added to the Association by-laws in the 2017-2018 Membership Directory as a separate Article XII, titled “Dissolution Clause. The current Article XII, Amendment, will be renumbered Article XIII. This issue is closed.

Almost every year the Association discusses our contributions (Naval Aviation Museum, Navy/Marine Society, and the Tommy Tomlinson Award) and reconfirm our approach. Pilot DeCastro opened the floor to any discussion regarding contributions. No further discussion was offered. This issue is closed.

Pilot DeCastro reported that the Board of Governors once again addressed the issue of women as regular members, citing that many have reached or are approaching 60 years of age. He reported that the Association policy confirms that any candidate, male or femaile, nominated and selected by the MSC will, in turn become a regular member. This issue is closed.

The Pilot solicited recommendations to be sure we are made aware of the passing of Golden Eagle wives. It is especially difficult to maintain appropriate contact and continue to keep track of widows after their husbands have made their Last Take Off. Discussions followed, with some likely procedures, but no decision was reached. This issue remains open.

New Business:

Pilot DeCastro reported that members had suggested it may worthwhile to recommend having one of our Annual Reunions aboard a cruise ship out of Galveston or Orlando. The following points were the result of research into the possibility:
o Four day cruises are available from Port Canaveral and Galveston and a three-day cruise is available from Port Canaveral to Nassau.
o Rates range from $406.35 per person for a double occupancy interior cabin to $664.43 per person for a balcony cabin.
o Everything is included in the price except alcohol which must be purchased at standard prices. Each individual is allowed to bring one bottle of spirits or wine on board but those may only be consumed in the private cabins.
o There is an auditorium that holds 290 people that is available for a Memorial Service.
o It is possible that one of the several bars on board could be set aside as a Ready room but that would have to be negotiated.
o There will be approximately 2,900 guests aboard those cruises which means we would represent about ten percent of the total.
The membership agreed that the expense was high and the venue did not provide the accommodations they would desire.

Pilot DeCastro mentioned the Memorial Service as a key activity for each Reunion, and cited the lack of a bell at this year’s Memorial Service to toll after each eulogy. Member Jerry Breast stated that he has a ship’s bell from a decommissioned Battleship that he will donate to the Association.

Member Roger Carlquist mentioned that the single list of attendees posted in the Ready Room was difficult to access and read. He made a recommendation that a list of attendees be included in the registration package for everyone at all future Reunions. By consensus of the membership, it was agreed that future Reunion registration packages will include a list of attendees.

Member Bill McCamy announced that he had a number of Vietnam Veteran lapel pins available for those who may want them, and briefed the membership on the mobile Vietnam Memorial.

Member Tom Hayward provided the membership with an update on the health of member Duke Hernandez, who is suffering complications from Parkinson’s Disease. He praised Southeast Flight Leader Bill McCamy for stepping up to help Duke’s wife Sherry get VA medical assistance after she had difficulty arranging for it.

Pilot DeCastro introduced member Smoke Wilson who gave the brief for Flight photographs.

Adjournment: Pilot DeCastro called for a motion to adjourn, the motion was made, seconded and passed at 1452.

2017 Golden Eagles Reunion Reception and Banquet

The pre-Banquet Reception was held in the Le Fountainebleau Room and Bar in the Westgate Hotel. A mix-up with communication had the 3 bar stations initially charging for cocktails, wine and beer, but quick action by Pilot Howard DeCastro assured hotel personnel the bar was hosted and lines quickly diminished as libations began to freely flow.
The Banquet, attended by just over 300 members and guests, overflowed the Versailles Ball Room, affording spirited members and their wives three “Dirty Shirt” tables at the entrance doors, which as expected, provided raucous behavior envied by all in the main room. Billie Cash led us all in singing the National Anthem and the Color Guard was from the University of San Diego NROTC Unit, joining us for the meal. At the conclusion, Pilot DeCastro individually recognized all the new members and their wives who had joined during the period since the 2016 Reunion.


The wrap-up to the year was summarized by Pilot Howard DeCastro, quote:

“The 2017 Reunion, in San Diego, California, was outstanding! Many folks said they thought it was one of our very best. Duster and his Team of West Golden Eagles did all they could to make the reunion enjoyable for all who attended. The Ready Room was filled to overflowing much of the time, and many folks found solace and had quiet talks on the other side of the 19th floor in the back-up Ready Room.

The Memorial Service was appropriate in all respects with a full chapel, excellent music, a short, but appropriate sermon, respectful remembrances of the Golden Eagles who had made their Last Take Off and spouses who died during the year, and an excellent rendition of Taps.

The Westgate Hotel, with its Versailles décor was beautiful, well located, and as good as advertised in all respects. The tours of the Leatherneck Museum and USS Midway got excellent reviews. The golf was great fun on a fine course in perfect weather.

The “High Tea” was enjoyed by all who attended. I ventured to the door to see if it would be appropriate to say a few words to the ladies. When I looked in and saw them in full dress including hats, with champagne flowing, vibrant talk and laughter filling the room – I went back to the Ready Room.”