2006 FAC Association Convention  Report
4-8 October 2006, Dayton, OH    (By Jay Barnes)



Approximately 460 members of the FAC  Association met in Fairborn/Dayton, for their 4th Convention & Reunion. The weather was perfect, and the well-planned series of events went very smoothly. Expecting a total of four Jake FACs , I was quite surprised that a few more came out of the woodwork as the Convention progressed; by the end of the week, we had a total of eight Jakes. More on that later.

Day one started with registration, the opening of the Hospitality Hootch, and a meeting of the Association Board of Directors, which I was invited to attend. This meeting primarily laid out the game plan for the FAC Association General Business Meeting on Friday. This was followed by a heavy hors d'oveurs reception (which doubled as dinner for most of us).

Thursday about half of the group, including most of the spouses, headed off for a Dayton City Tour and shopping expedition, while the rest gathered at the National Museum of the USAF (less than 10 minutes' drive from the hotel) for an all-day symposium on the FAC mission, past, present and future. Professional powerpoint/AV presentations from a WW II Grasshopper FAC, a Korean War T-6 FAC, all varieties of SEA FACs, and Project Welcome some took us up to three modern-day presentations: the FACing by UCAVs, the F-16 FAC-A's (FAC – Airborne), and the A-10 Rustic FACs from Pope AFB, SC (the modern-day equivalent of the Jakes' mission).

Following this very full day, we all proceeded outside the Museum to the Memorial park, for the moving dedication ceremony of the Dayton FAC Memorial. Gen. Ed Eberhart, an O2A Covey in Pleiku in 1970, emceed the dedication, which was presided over by the Association's President, Denny Crouch.

The memorial itself is truly beautiful: Five large, black granite slabs, two in the shape of dog tags, mounted on a base of over 300 nickels permanently laminated into a structural base for the tags. Several Jake nickels are part of the collection. Engraved on both sides of the main vertical slab are the names of all 263 FAC crewmembers (all ranks) who were KIA in SEA. With continuous overhead fly-bys of two O1F's, a lone O2A, a T-6 (flown by fellow Jake Grant Lannon) and a T-28, the name of each KIA was read. At the completion, as we saluted our fallen brothers, the A-10 flight flew A Missing Man Formation overhead

One particularly touching part of the dedication was the story of Stacey Hanson. While on a back-packing vacation to Southeast Asia, Stacey stopped to look at some souvenir trinkets in a Vietnamese village shop, and found a bowl of dog tags for sale. She bought them all to bring home. As she continued from village to village, she continued to purchase every dog tag she could find, with this quest replacing her original backpacking plans. For the complete story, visit Stacey's website, www.vietnamdogtags.com.

One of the dog tags belonged to Capt Rick Meacham, a FAC KIA in 1970, and was presented to his daughter, Mindy, who was four months old when her dad began his tour. Mindy wore that dog tag throughout the entire reunion, and will probably never take it off. I spoke with her at the Hootch afterward – she and her husband are a delightful couple, and she is as dedicated to the FACs as anyone.

Following the dedication, we all adjourned into the museum for a wonderful buffet dinner under the wing of a B-52, with all the aircraft of the SEA era either parked or suspended overhead the area immediately adjacent to the dining tables. It's probably the most moving setting for a heritage dinner you could find.

With another optional full-day tour of Dayton's and the Wright Brothers' aviation heritage to start the day, Friday's highlight was the business meeting. During this meeting, a number of resolutions broadened the membership base beyond FACs of SEA, to include the WW II, Korea, and modern-day F-16 and A-10 FACs. It was also reinforced that any veteran, regardless of rank, who either flew or supported the FAC mission was equally welcome as a member. While a small number of enlisted attended the Reunion, there is still a general perception that the FAC Assn is an officers' organization, and that simply is not true!

To drive this point home, when we got to the election of officers, I nominated Bob Green (AKA "Crew Chief Bob" on the FACnet) for Vice-President. He was elected unanimously, and I am very proud to have driven that effort! For the other positions, most of the incumbent officers were re-elected, including the President, Denny Crouch.


However, after six years as Assn Treasurer, George Ferkes asked to step down and take a break, although he agreed to stay on and help transition his replacement. Bob Gorman, Jake 44 and a FAC Website guru, was elected as our new Treasurer.

Not only that, but I ran for a Director position, and was also unanimously elected – of the nine voting members of the board, TWO of us are Jakes! I want to also mention that throughout the Reunion, the Jakes were mentioned by name in all sorts of business discussions  despite our small size, the Jakes are a definite presence in the FAC Association.

One other major item of business was the selection of a site for the 2008 Reunion. The winner is…. Colorado Springs in the fall of 2008, by overwhelming vote. While other groups (Ft. Worth, Phoenix) are vying for future reunions, it is most likely that the 2010 reunion will be back at our roots, in Ft. Walton Beach. But that will be decided at the 2008 business meeting. I will also mention that the Aussie FACs are having a reunion in Canberra in April 2008, and have invited all members of the FAC Assn to join them. As an interest count, over 70 have tentatively signed up. Sue and I are going to try to make it. Following another heavy hors d'oveurs reception, we headed off in smaller groups for a casual dinner.

Saturday was mostly a free day, with many of us returning to the USAF Museum for a more leisurely tour of this absolutely awesome facility dedicated to our AF Heritage. There is even a large display dedicated to SEA Party Suits. We later convoyed over to the WPAFB club for our banquet. There were a total of eight Jakes in attendance (not all in the picture): Bob Gorman, Mike Connor, Harvey Selger, Chuck Johnson, Grant Lannon, Rick =ettler, Bob Hammond, and me. I had not seen Rick since I left Tam Ky in Nov'70, the same month Rick arrived.


Interestingly, Bob Hammond did not FAC in SEA, he was squadron commander of the O2A's in Sembach, Germany. I knew that they had O2's at Sembach, but Bob informed me that after the Jakes left SEA in '72, and we left SEA in '74, the Sembach unit was given the Jake callsign from `74-'82. He tells me that they have a Sembach Jake database of around 400, larger than our SEA Jake database of just under 300. I offered an invitation through Bob for the Sembach Jakes to join us in Orlando next fall, and Bob is very interested.
We will have to discuss if we want to modify our C&BL and might care to invite them to join us permanently – if they are interested -but that wouldn't happen before Orlando.

The banquet was great – even the Club food was good (the Club also catered the Museum). A presentation by the commander of AFMC was followed by numerous other presentations. We were interrupted twice by an actual fire alarm and the first fire drills I remember participating in since elementary school. The conclusion to the formal banquet was a songfest by Jonathan Meyer,  and Dan McKay, who wrote and recorded many of the songs we copied from each others' cassettes during our tour. After a last swing by the Hootch for one last beer and many "see ya next time" goodbyes, the reunion came to a close.

I am beginning work on the Jakes' Orlando Reunion, with details to follow as they unfold. As we voted in Charleston, the timeframe will be a Saturday through Thursday in late September or early October next fall. For the FAC Association, make a note of the Colorado Springs location for October 2008, and the Aussie Reunion in April of 2008, for those of you for whom that is a possibility.

 
I will sum up by saying that the Dayton reunion was a fantastic,
moving experience, and that those of you who have never attended a
FAC Assn. Reunion should make every effort to get to the next one.
You will not be sorry.

Jay Barnes
Jake 26, Tam Ky '70
President, Jake FAC Association