Thursday, April 8, 2004

First-ever Air Force charity ball held at Bolling

The Air Force Aid Society was the big benefactor as Airmen of all ranks and top active duty, civilian and retired Air Force leaders came out in full generous force at the first-ever Air Force charity ball April 3 at the Bolling Officers Club.

"This is a great night for Air Force aid, a way for the Air Force family to help other members of the Air Force family," said Ellen Jumper, honorary chairperson for the ball, as she and her husband, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, greeted scores of guests to the first annual Air Force charity ball. "We're so pleased with all the support."

From senior Airmen to four-star generals, the stream of guests included a veritable Air Force "Who's Who": chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Gen. Richard Myers), former chiefs of staff of the Air Force (retired Gens. Michael Ryan and Ronald Fogleman), senior leadership at the Pentagon, major command commanders, the current chief master sergeant of the Air Force (Chief Gerald Murray), the 11th Wing commander (Col. Duane Jones) and the 11th Wing command chief master sergeant (Chief Master Sgt. Jonathan Hake).

The evening's event also featured Secretary of the Air Force James Roche; F. Whitten Peters, former SECAF; former Secretary of Defense William Cohen; and foreign attaches among the 700 guests.

"Tonight's event is coming together beautifully," said Secretary Roche. "This is the brainchild of John Jumper. It's something the Jumpers have wanted to do for a long time."

"The layout of the club is fabulous," the secretary added, referring to the two ballrooms set up on both levels of the BOC that provided the backdrop for the historic event.

The AFAS comes to the rescue to meet special family problems or needs the government can't fund, such as airline tickets during emergencies or car repair. The AFAS is especially stressed at this time because of all the unanticipated needs that have arisen from the service's heightened operations tempo, said the chief of staff.

"We do this for our great Airmen serving around the world, and we do plan to make this an annual event," General Jumper said in his twice-delivered opening remarks, which he made on both levels of the officers club. "There's never been a time of greater need in our Air Force than we have right now."

By the end of the evening, the charity ball raised more than $270,000 for the AFAS from individual and corporate contributions, said General Jumper -- well surpassing his original goal of $200,000.

"None of this would've been possible without the vision and efforts of the Jumpers," said retired Lt. Gen. Mike McGinty, Air Force Aid Society chief executive officer. "This will enable us [AFAS] to help troops and their families around the world wherever, whenever and however they need it."

Planning for the ball started nine months ago when the charity ball committee, chaired by Air Force Officers Wives Club member Valerie Keys, formed and began working with the 11th Wing to organize the event.

"The 11th Wing pitched in to make this happen," General Jumper said. "They're strapped for people due to deployments and deeply involved in activities around Washington, but they threw in to help us put it together."

Overall, approximately 250 people from units across "The Chief's Own" were involved, including services, security forces, civil engineer, communications, logistics readiness, mission support, wing staff, medical, the U.S. Air Force Band and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard.

"The 11th Wing team performed superbly," said Christine Bickel, 11th Wing director of protocol and the wing's liaison with the AFOWC charity ball committee. "A huge portion of the credit goes to the BOC management and staff who served a four-course meal to 700 people seated at 70 tables on two floors.

"All the unit representatives I worked with were pleased and proud to be helping with this history-making event and to support the AFAS," she added.

For example, the 11th Security Forces Squadron maintained inner and outer security and controlled the flow of parking.

"Everyone [11th SFS] did their jobs," said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Pierce, the noncommissioned officer in charge of police services for the wing. "There were absolutely no problems whatsoever."

Several Band ensembles performed during the course of the evening, including the Strolling Strings, Singing Sergeants/Diplomats combo and High Flight. The vocal performances upstairs and downstairs both featured an original song called "Pay it Forward" composed by the Band's chief arranger, Senior Master Sgt. Larry MacTaggart, in honor of the AFAS.

The lyrics included the words, "With every act of kindness that we do, the world's a better place." If that's the case, the charity ball at Bolling did exactly that.

"I learned a lot more about the AFAS than just the information on their Web site and in brochures," said Col. Catherine Chilton, who was in charge of publicity for the ball. "The stories that some of the Air Force family shared with me put names and, the night of the ball, faces to Airmen and their families that the AFAS has helped."

Preparation is already under way for next year's charity ball, slated for March 2005.