Vance celebrates the Air Force’s 76th birthday with dinner, dancing and the 19th Air Force commander

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  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- More than 300 members of Team Vance and the local community packed the ballroom at the Stride Bank Center, Sept. 23, to celebrate the Air Force’s 76th birthday.

The evening included a barbecue dinner, keynote remarks by the 19th Air Force commander, the birthday cake cutting, and an evening of dancing.

Among the community leaders attending were current and former Enid mayors, the Enid military liaison and a state senator.

Also attending from Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, was Chief Master Sgt. Justin Apticar, command chief of 19th AF.

The evening began with the presentation of the colors by the Silver Talon Honor Guard, and the singing of the national anthem by Senior Airman Sarah McNeil-Petty.

Distinguished guests were introduced, toasts were made to the flag of the United States, the commander in chief, fellow service chiefs, all military members deployed in harm’s way, and all the people who make Vance and Enid a great place to live.

The Prisoner of War/ Missing in Action ceremony was presented by Honor Guard member, Airman 1st Class Carmen Hernandez. A small table was set with various items that honor American service members held prisoner during the nation’s wars, and those who remain missing.

Following dinner, the 71st Flying Training Wing commander, Col. Charles Throckmorton IV, addressed the gathering and introduced the guest speaker, Maj. Gen. Clark Quinn, the 19th AF commander.

Quinn was the Vance commander from 2014 to 2016. “I’ve been back a couple of times,” he said. “And there are always familiar faces, sights and friends.”

It is not every community that splits Air Force Ball attendance down the middle between military members and local civilians, he said. “That is clearly a recognition of the outstanding bond between the Enid community and Vance.”

The general then pointed out one of the rules for public speaking. “You can be funny, or you can be fast. I’ll try to be fast.”

Quinn told a story about a mission he flew during Operation Unified Protector, enforcing a no-fly-zone over Libya in 2011. He launched with a relatively inexperienced wingman for a 1,000-mile flight from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Libyan air space, a three-to-four-hour mission, and approximately two-and-a-half-hour return to Italy.

“This was my wingman’s first combat sortie, and it was at night,” said Quinn. “We were about three hours into the flight when it was obvious my radio was starting to fail.” He wasn’t worried yet since there are several back-up radios in the aircraft.

In an effort to clear up the static, Quinn unplugged the hose running from his helmet to the oxygen and communications connection on the aircraft dash. “It came apart. Now I have a cord with bare wires and a plug that needs soldering,” he said. He would not be making or receiving any more radio calls during the flight. Time to break off the mission and return to Aviano.

Quinn and his wingman would need to get gas from a couple of refueling aircraft on the 1,000-mile flight home. But since they were returning early, the tankers would not be in place without radio coordination.

His wingman took the lead and did everything right. “I had no idea what radio calls he was making. But I stayed with him, and he nailed it,” said Quinn. They refueled twice and returned to Aviano without incident.

“The take-away from this story is you need to be ready,” said Quinn. “Prepare for contingencies, especially those you think will never happen.” Be the expert others can trust, he said.

Following the general’s remarks, the desert was rolled out. The Air Force birthday cake is traditionally cut by the junior and senior member attending the celebration. This year, the junior member was Airman Alison Young with the 33rd Flying Training Squadron. The senior member was former Enid Mayor Bill Shewey.

The formal portion of the evening ended with the group singing of the Air Force song, followed by dancing to music provided by DJ Ian Eastin.

The colors were presented and retired during the ceremony by Honor Guard members Staff Sgt. Kody Eilers, Senior Airman Garrett Peacock, Senior Airman Krysnah Heady and Airman Alison Young.

Background music for the evening was performed by the Denman Quartet.