Air & Space Forces Association
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (November 2010)
|Formation||February 4, 1946|
|Founded at||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|Type||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
Chairman of the Board
|Gerald R. Murray|
|Bruce "Orville" Wright|
The Air & Space Forces Association (AFA) is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit, professional military association for the United States Air Force and United States Space Force that educates the American public on air and space power, advocates for the Air and Space Forces, and provides support for Airmen, Guardians, and their families. It is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
AFA publishes Air Force Magazine and the Daily Report. It also runs the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and conducts social networking, public outreach, and national conferences and symposia. It sponsors professional development seminars and has an awards program. AFA has a scholarship program for Air Force active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve members and their dependents. It also provides grants to promote science and math education at the elementary and secondary school level.
Founded in 1946 as the Air Force Association, the organization renamed itself in April 2022. It continued to use the abbreviation AFA.
The Air & Space Forces Associations' mission is "to educate the public about air and space power, to advocate for the world's most capable, most lethal, and most effective Air and Space Forces, and to support Airmen, Guardians, and their families."
Advocating for air force independence
Even before the end of World War II, General of the Army Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces, was beginning to consider establishing an organization for the three million airmen under his command who would become veterans after the war ended. This organization was not only intended to serve as a veterans' organization, but also be an advocacy group for airpower.
In August 1945, Arnold asked Edward Peck Curtis to build the Air Force Association. Currently an executive at Eastman Kodak, Curtis retired from the Army Air Forces in 1944 as a major general and was a World War I flying ace. The first meeting occurred on 12 October 1945 in New York City. Aside from Curtis, the twelve founders were John S. Allard, Everett Richard Cook, who retired from the Army Air Forces in 1945 as a brigadier general and was a World War I flying ace, Jimmy Doolittle, who was a Army Air Forces lieutenant general and Medal of Honor recipient for flying the Doolittle Raid, W. Dearing Howe, Rufus Rand, Sol Rosenblatt, Julian Rosenthal, James Stewart, an actor and Army Air Forces colonel, Lowell P. Weicker, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, an Army Air Forces colonel, and John Hay Whitney, an Army Air Forces intelligence officer.
- Air Force Legion
- Air Force League
- Air Force Veterans Association
- Air Force Council
- Air Force Veterans Federation
- Air Force Veterans Alliance
- National Legion of Air Force Veterans
- National League of Air Force Veterans
- National Association of Air Force Veterans
- National Federation of Air Force Veterans
- National Fraternity of Air Force Veterans
- National Council of Air Force Veterans
- United League of Air Force Veterans
- United Federation of Air Force Veterans
- United Association of Air Force Veterans
- United Council of Air Force Veterans
- United Alliance of Air Force Veterans
- American Air Force Veterans
- American Veterans of the Air
- American Veterans of the Air Force
- Air Force Alumni Association
Consensus quickly formed that Jimmy Doolittle should be the first president, and in a January 1946 press conference, Doolittle announced the establishment of the Air Force Association. The Air Force Association was to be organized on a grass-roots structure, composed of local, state, and regional affiliates. AFA also would publish a national magazine on airpower topics and sponsor educational programs to inform the public on airpower developments.
The Air Force Association was incorporated on 4 February 1946 in Washington D.C. While the association did not have significant cash reserves, relying on additional donations from members, it had a significant platform, being featured in The New York Times and other news media. In August 1946, the Air Force Association organized a coast-to-coast radio broadcast featuring Jimmy Stewart, who was made a vice president of the organization, and Ronald Reagan, who was a Hollywood actor and Army Air Force captain and AFA charter member.
The Air Force Association made good on its promise to publish an airpower magazine in July 1946, when the Army Air Forces transferred ownership of Air Force Magazine, its official journal, to the association. While Hap Arnold was Chief of Information for the Army Air Service, he was the editor of the service's monthly newsletter which grew into Air Force Magazine. As commanding general of the Army Air Forces, Arnold ordered "a first-class, slick-paper magazine—highly readable—the best of its kind—with worldwide circulation" be produced for its airmen.
Public outreach was also made a priority, with Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Carl Spaatz telling delegates at AFA's first national convention in 1947 that "public support is as essential to effective airpower as industries, airplanes, and airmen." By the end of the Air Force Association's first year, it had incorporated 152 local squadrons, or chapters, in forty-five states.
On 18 September 1947, the Department of the Air Force was established and the Army Air Forces became the U.S. Air Force. Air Force Magazine declared that it was "The Day Billy Mitchell Dreamed Of." At its first AFA National Convention in Columbus, Ohio, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower declared "the creation of the United States Air Force as an independent entity recognizes the special capabilities of airpower."
The Air Force's advocate
Despite independence, however, the Air Force's place was not assured. Following Allied victory, the U.S. Armed Forces began post-war demobilization and their strength began to draw down. In their first statement of policy in 1948, the Air Force Association warned "while recognizing that peacetime airpower is expensive, we know that wartime airpower is far more costly" and began campaigning for a seventy-group Air Force, which was also called for by a special presidential commission.
Dwindling budgets also increased interservice rivalry. In 1946, leadership of the U.S. Navy attempted to kill the Convair B-36 Peacemaker strategic bomber, instead advocating for carrier aviation. In part due to the advocacy of the Air Force Association, the Revolt of the Admirals was unsuccessful and the B-36 Peacemaker went into full service.
The Air Force Association maintained a very close relationship with Hollywood, which enabled it to directly communicate the need for airpower to the public. At AFA's second national convention, it held "Operation Wing Ding" at Madison Square Garden and featured the talents of its own vice president Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne, Clark Gable, Dinah Shore, Jack Dempsey, Jerry Colonna, Jane Froman, Carmen Miranda, Margaret O'Brien, Walter Pidgeon, Herb Shriner, Gypsy Rose Lee, Joe E. Brown, Jinx Falkenburg, and The Rockettes. The performance was lauded as "the greatest show ever put on in Madison Square Garden" by John Kilpatrick, the president of the venue.
In 1950, the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps' Arnold Air Society honors society affiliates with the Air Force Association and in 1953, the Air Reserve Association merges into the AFA. In May 1959, right before the first graduation at the United States Air Force Academy, AFA sponsored its first outstanding squadron dinner, which would later become a highlighted event for the association.
The Air Force Association embraced the arrival of the jet age, sponsoring four national Jet Age Conferences starting in 1956. The same year, Air Force Magazine published an article on Strategic Air Command which got national attention when Arthur Godfrey told his primetime audience on CBS to read it. On 1 May 1956, the Air Force Association Foundation, soon renamed the Aerospace Education Foundation, is established to manage its education programs.
At its 1956 National Convention, the Air Force Association, in partnership with the Air Force, inaugurates its Outstanding Airman of the Air Force program to recognize enlisted airmen. This level of cooperation continued with the 1957 "Golden Anniversary" issue of Air Force Magazine, which marked fifty years since the establishment of the Army Signal Corps' Aeronautical Division in partnership with the Air Force Historial Research Division.
The Air Force Association marked 1959 with the World Congress of Flight in Las Vegas. Featuring aircraft from fifty-one foreign nations, the World Congress of Flight was the first international, and the largest, air and space show in the United States and was televised by NBC to over forty million viewers and covered in Life magazine.
In 1963, the Air Force Association became the focus of ire from the Department of Defense when it adopted a statement of policy opposing the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, infuriating Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Under political pressure, Secretary of the Air Force Eugene M. Zuckert withdrew from his attendance at the AFA National Convention, however Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay still attended.
The following year, in 1964, the Air Force Association's Airmen's Council asked the Air Force to establish a "Sergeant Major of the Air Force," mirroring the position of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps as the senior enlisted advisor, but is turned down. However, in 1967 the Air Force establishes the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force to serve in the same role. In 2020, less than a year after its established, the U.S. Space Force creates the Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force to advocate for enlisted guardians.
In 1967, the Aerospace Education Foundation and the United States Office of Education test using Air Force technical training courses in Utah public schools. Project Utah's success paves the way for the Community College of the Air Force's establishment. The two organizations also hold the first National Laboratory for the Advancement of Education.
In October 1969, Air Force Magazine publishes "The Forgotten Americans of the Vietnam War" as its cover story, generating national awareness of the issue of Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. The article was republished as the lead in Reader's Digest, read on the floor of the United States Congress, and entered into the Congressional Record six times. AFA's advocacy resulted in its national president being a special guest at the White House's tribute for returning prisoners of war in 1971.
In 1988, the Air Force Association and Aerospace Education Foundation publish a series of two white papers, "Lifeline in Danger," followed by "Lifeline Adrift" in 1990," raising concern about issues with the United States defense industry. In 1991, the Aerospace Education Foundation and USA Today jointly run the "Visions of Exploration" program to educate public school students on twenty-first century issues.
In 1992, the Air Force Association establishes the United States Air Force Memorial Foundation, however construction will not begin until 2004 and it will not be dedicated until 2006. The dedication is attended by President George W. Bush, a Air Force veteran.
In 1994, Air Force Magazine publishes a special report on the National Air and Space Museum's plans to display the Enola Gay B-29 Superfortress bomber, which dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on Hiroshima. AFA accused the National Air and Space Museum's display plans as politically rigged, lacking balance and historical context. The outcry from Congress, the news media, and public forced to National Air and Space Museum to modify its display plans.
The Air and Space Forces' advocate
While supporting the Air Force, the Air Force Association also advocated for its space and cyber programs.
In 2009, AFA established the CyberPatriot program to prepare high school students in careers in cybersecurity or other STEM fields. In 2013, CyberPatriot becomes an international program, expanding to the United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.
In 2014, the Secretary of the Air Force requested that the Air Force Association create a similar program to CyberPatriot that was space-focused, with AFA creating the StellarXplorers STEM education program built on orbit determination, spacecraft design, and launch vehicle operations.
In 2013, the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies was renamed the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and in 2016, the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference was renamed the Air, Space, and Cyber Conference.
Following the 2019 establishment of the U.S. Space Force, the Air Force Association positioned itself to continue supporting the new service, updating its mission statement to include the USSF and Guardians in April 2020. On April 7, 2022, the Air Force Association renamed itself the Air & Space Forces Association to better represent the United States Space Force.
Following the Space Force's establishment, the Air Force Association called for the Department of the Air Force to rename into the Department of the Air and Space Forces, integrate the National Reconnaissance Office into the U.S. Space Force, and called for the development of crewed and uncrewed combat spaceplanes for the new service.
AFA is divided into three geographic areas, comprising 14 regions, each led by a region president.
Predominantly a volunteer organization, the association has more than 200 chapters in 49 states (Maine is the only state without a chapter) and other countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Okinawa, and the Republic of Korea. As of 30 June 2010, AFA had a membership of 117,480 of whom 37% (43,954) are life members (permanent membership), organized into local chapters. There has been a 23-year trend of declining regular membership, but increasing life membership. AFA membership in 2010 included 15% on active duty military and 70% retired or former military.
As part of its education mandate the association publishes Air Force Magazine and the online electronic news brief Daily Report. Air Force Magazine began in September 1918 as the D.M.A. Weekly News Letter, originally published by the Information Branch of the Division of Military Aeronautics, and changed names several times, becoming Air Force Magazine in January 1943. The Air Force Association assumed responsibility for its publication and content beginning in October 1946.
AFA hosts professional development conferences which feature speakers, workshops, trade shows and presentations by Air Force and national defense leaders. The organization has a public policy and research arm, the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies run by director Dr. Rebecca Grant. AFA runs CyberPatriot, a national youth cyber education program that promotes student interest in cyber security and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career fields. The "Visions of Exploration" program has its members distribute educational materials to schools and concerned citizens. This is done in part through a joint multi-disciplinary science, math and social studies program with USA Today.
The Arnold Air Society is a university level arm of the organization.
As part of its support programs AFA provides more than $1.5 million in scholarships, grants, and awards. AFA's educational programs and scholarships are intended to encourage Air Force members to continue their education, provide funds to Air Force spouses working towards a degree, and administer grants that develop programs promoting math and science skills among young people.
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- "AFA Changes Name to the Air & Space Forces Association". 7 April 2022.
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- "Home". Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
- "Daily Report". Air Force Magazine.
- "The Mitchell Institute". The Mitchell Institute. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
- "AFA Changes Name to the Air & Space Forces Association". Air Force Magazine. 7 April 2022. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
- "AFA Rebrands to Become the Air & Space Forces Association | Air Force Association".
- "Fifty Years of AFA" (PDF). Air Force Magazine. Air Force Association. 1996. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
- "AFA History | Air Force Association".
- "Fighting and Winning in Space with Our New U.S. Space Force | Air Force Association".
- Air Force Association (September 2010). "AFA Almanac" (PDF). Air Force Magazine. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
- Air Force Association (November 2010). "Visions of Exploration – Sponsored by the Air Force Association". USA Today. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
- Air Force Association (February 2010). "Awards, Scholarships & Grants". Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
- Air Force Association (2010). "AFA to Support Memorial Operations and Activities". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2010.