Big Sky Rendezvous
Great Falls, Montana – July 12-16, 2016
“After Action Report”
Is it over or was it a dream? There is a void in the Big Sky Country where a few weeks ago it resounded with talking and laughter from 150 old friends, new friends and even grandchildren.
The weekend before our reunion, there was unseasonably cool rainy weather with the high temperature on Sunday of 63 degrees, and this was July 10th. Monday it began to clear and by Tuesday we were back into the mid 70’s like it should be (or warmer). Mother Nature or the good Lord (I think they share a lot) smiled on us the rest of the week.
Some early birds arrived Sunday and Monday. Dick and Kathy Mulder helped to sort goodies and lay out the Welcome “Goodie Bags”. Monday evening, Chairman and host, K.V. Hall, gave the group for the pre-reunion Glacier National Park trip a short briefing on what to expect.
Tuesday morning – July 12: Wheels up at 0800 for 51 intrepid travelers heading for Glacier National Park. It was a long ride unfortunately made even longer by unforeseen road construction. (In Montana we have 4 seasons; almost winter, winter, still winter and construction.) But they persevered and still managed to have a great tour of the Park while being chauffeured on the ‘Red Bus Tours’. I think that those visitors now know why Glacier is called the “Crown of the Continent”
Wednesday – July 13: Registration Day at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel. Most folks arrived that day and went to the registration desk manned (or should I say ‘womanned” ) by Kathy Mulder and Pat Waters. OK, Dick and Bill helped too. Greetings and hugs were exchanged throughout the day. A welcome buffet of hors d’oeuvres was served that evening. Names were drawn for some door prizes. Roy Allen made some beautiful kitchen cutting boards from Texas mesquite. Skip and Rita Cowell donated some of their Kona coffee from Hawaii. K.V. Hall offered some books of western lore and other items.
Thursday – July 14: First full day of events. Due to number of members touring (131) the group was split with 80 on 2 buses going directly to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. A short video was shown of the Lewis and Clark Expedition which were the first white men to see the Great Falls of the Missouri. The party took nearly a month to portage around the five falls they encountered. This was the longest time they spent in any one place except for winter encampments. The 3rd bus with 51 on board went to Giant Springs and they then followed the first group through the Lewis and Clark Center.
Next stop was Ryan Dam and the Great Falls of the Missouri. Walking (or should I say staggering) across the swaying suspension bridge to the Ryan Island view point was an adventure in itself. A short narrative by K.V. on the pre/post ice age days, several thousand years ago the folks would have been under 600 feet of water and how the Missouri was turned from flowing north into Hudson Bay to flowing east to the Mississippi. We arrived at the Malmstrom AFB Main gate to be greeted by some of the young folks from the 40th Helicopter Squadron. They helped to expedite our entry and all arrived at the Sun Plaza Park for BBQ lunch. The 40th had provided a UH-1N on display for ‘show and tell” and we got to visit with those young pilots.
After lunch, a short stop at the Montana Veterans Memorial. The man responsible for starting his dream of a veteran’s memorial some 15 years earlier, Mike Winters, an Air Force vet, arrived to tell us about the memorial. I met Mike when we both worked for the Post Office in 1975. Mike stayed with the USPS for 36 years and had recently completed his 3rd term as Mayor of Great Falls.
Friday – July 15: One hundred thirty people boarded the 3 buses to the Gates of the Mountains marina near Helena, Montana, our capital city. “Trail bosses” George Livingston, Jim Wagner and K.V. Hall, on the buses gave narratives of things along the way. (George and Jim got on the same bus..) At 11:00 the group boarded the “Canyon Voyager” and “Sacajawea” for a 105 minute boat tour. (The Sacajawea was a movie star having been used in scenes in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” starring Clint Eastwood). A catered lunch followed the tour. When preparing to board the busses back to Great Falls, our friend, Royal Foster collapsed. Our 2 Registered Nurses, Kathy Mulder and Joanne McTasney administered CPR until the St. Peters Hospital ambulance arrived. But Royal had taken his “Final Flight”. It was a solemn ride back to the hotel.
Saturday –July 16: The reunion resumed because we were sure that was what Royal would have wanted.
08:15 – The members business meeting was held in the hotel meeting room. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by the members. Chairman K.V Hall asked for a moment of silent prayer for our lost comrade, Royal Foster. Announcements and subjects were discussed. Our guest speaker, Mr. Doug Stimpson, gave a presentation on accident investigation. Doug was a young helicopter mechanic in the 20th Helicopter Squadron “Pony Express” at Udorn, Thailand in 1968 while I was a pilot there. After the Air Force he went on to eventually start his own business, “Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Inc,” and flies his own Bell Jet Ranger helicopter. Mr. Stimpson was nominated and selected to be an Associate Member of the USAFHPA.
Bob Putlock offered to host the next reunion in Washington D.C. in October 2017.
While the business meeting was being held, the ladies enjoyed a trip to the local Farmers Market. When sending them off, I jokingly said,” Bring me brownie”. I not only received ‘a’ brownie, I got 6, and some sweet Flathead Valley cherries!!
Memory Book photos were taken in the afternoon. A cash bar opened the evening festivities. Bob Brubaker gave the Invocation followed by a posting of the colors by the Malmstrom AFB Color Guard and all singing our national anthem. Vice Chairman Allen Rosenbaum read the names of 22 members that had taken their “Final Flight” since our last reunion. Jim Wagner gave the ‘Missing Man’ presentation. After a great dinner served by the Hilton staff, announcements were made and door prizes were given out.
I think some folks from other parts of the country may be of the opinion that Montana is at the end of the earth but when they get here they realize that it is really only the beginning. It is hard to imagine the grandeur and beauty of Glacier National Park and the “Big Skies” of our state. The history of Lewis and Clark, the Great Falls, Gates of the Mountains and the art of our ‘adopted son’ Charlie Russell. And being helicopter pilots they had to visit the 40th Helicopter Squadron to once again touch the ‘Huey’ that many flew in war and in peace. And to visit the young men and women that are our legacy.
I would like to thank my board of directors and others:
Vice Chairman Allen Rosenbaum
Treasurer Bob Strout.
Bill Waters, Special Comm.
Don Van Meter, ADA Specialist.
Larry Burke, Email specialist.
Dale Potter, Hospitality chairman.
Bob Brubaker, Helicopter news
Jim Wagner, for the Missing Man presentation.
Doug Stimpson, guest speaker, for the informative briefing.
Rick Greenlee and friend, Paul Coons, for the great country/ western music Thursday evening.
Doyle Krauss, George Livingston, and all the gals that were willing to lend a helping hand.
I hope everyone enjoyed our beautiful country and the historic things that a little town in the middle of Montana had to offer. Thanks to everyone for coming to visit and come again any time. Happy trails to you, till we meet again.
Kyron “K.V.” Hall
Chairman, Board of Directors, USAF Helicopter Pilot Association
HERE’S SOME INFO FROM BOB PUTLOCK ON THE NEXT REUNION IN WASHINGTON D.C.-10/4-7/2017
The D.C. Reunion info will be coming out in the future “D.C. News Letter” (NL). Look for it. We’re staying at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport (washingtondulles.hilton.com) located 3 miles from the Dulles Airport (airport code- IAD ). Room rate is $109 +12% tax per night and includes breakfast for 2 each morning. Details on room registration will be in the NL. We’re working on the activities with Gatherings Plus, the planners who worked with us on the Branson Reunion. Contact Bob Putlock (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any recommendations for us to consider. There are lots to do and see in D.C. area.*** Yes, the hotel has 2 defibrillators with trained personnel.