Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

497 RTG Reunion, Colorado Springs

UPDATED Apr 14, 2007
Updated Jun 14, 2007 - attendees only.
Updated Jun 16, 2007 - FINAL UPDATE - See bottom of post.

I'm going to keep this at the top of my weblog until July 7th, 2007, for everyone's information. This will save everyone's bandwidth, reduce the strain on the 497RTG Yahoo group list, and have the information readily available to anyone wishing to look at it. Please leave any comments, suggestions, recommendations, and other information you wish to share in the comments section of this article. I will update this post each time something changes, but will not change the date. It will remain at the top of my weblong until July 7, 2007.

This is an update, based on all the information that we've gathered over the past several weeks, working toward our summer reunion. I've deleted all extraneous material to cut down on bandwidth.

The first planning committee meeting was held Jan 13, 2007, at the Village Inn Restuarant, Academy Blvd. and Palmer Park Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO. Charles Sakai and I were the only ones present. We need at least three to five more members. Tentative membership in the planning committee has been extended to Dale Hutchinson, Joyce Donaldson (accepted), and Martha North. We've also invited Debbie Barnes to join us. We went over the following information:

Date & Time of the reunion meeting: June 30, 2007, from 9AM until 9PM. The Academy picnic area has been selected, and is only open from 9AM to 9PM. We MUST leave by 9PM. There are gates, and they get locked.

Eligibility: Former members and dependents of those assigned to the 497th Reconnaissance Technical Group, Schierstein, Germany, between 1952 and 1992, members of the two satellite squadrons at Ramstein and RAF Alconbury, UK, members of the computer squadron at Schierstein that supported us, and honored guests (selected by former RTG members). I have issued a special invitation to CMSgt Groves, a local retiree, who was a part of the unit at its founding.

Location: US Air Force Academy Picnic Pavlion #3. The Pavilion is opposite the road to the USAF Academy hospital (I.E., to the east), and just past the first curve, on the left. If entering from the North Gate, turn left at the crossroad leading to the Hospital, go about 100 yards around a shallow curve, and immediately turn left again into the pavilion parking lot. Entering from the South Gate, go past the football stadium to the next intersection, turn right, go about 100 yards around a shallow curve, and immediately turn left into the pavilion parking lot. There are spaces for about 100 cars in the lot.

Activities: The majority of the activities will be getting re-acquainted with other former members of the 497th Reconnaissance Technical Group. Additional activities will include cooking and eating. If anyone wishes to suggest other activities, please feel free to do so in Comments. Ideas that are accepted will be posted in this location. UPDATE: We will have horseshoes, a volleyball (the site has a net), and a soccer ball for the kids interested in soccer. I have a horseshoe set, and will bring it. Martha North is also threatening to bring water balloons. We're open to suggestions for other activities.

I will try to set up a tour of the Academy as part of the afternoon's entertainment. The MWR office is not helpful in this suggestion, but we will continue to work on it. I will also try to create a set of links to activities available in the Colorado Springs area for anyone coming from out of town and planning to stay more than Saturday. Activities for small children and teens who will be totally bored by the chatter of all the "old geezers" are especially solicited.

Food: The food available at most 497RTG 4th of July picnics included bratwursts, hamburgers, hot dogs, and whatever members thought to bring. We will try to recreate that atmosphere. I've made arrangements with the people at Sara's Sausages, Palmer Lake, CO, to buy 30 pounds of German Sausage/Bratwurst from them at $2.50/lb (I'll pay for these). I'll pick them up Jun 28th, and keep them until the reunion. We'll also need to buy hamburger patties, hot dogs, brotchen/rolls, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, charcoal & lighter, paper plates, napkins/paper towels, paper cups, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, chips and crackers, and whatever else people want for the picnic. I've talked my wife into making a large bowl of potato salad (enough for 8-12 people). Please let me know if you are willing to contribute something for the picnic, or donate funds to cover expenses. I will try to establish general costs and post them here as soon as possible. We also need local people to volunteer to keep these things at their homes until the day of the picnic.

Sam's Club has an excellent product (18 hamburger patties, 80% sirloin, for about $9/pkg). They also have rolls, buns, etc. Jean and I are members, and will be happy to purchase whatever is needed on behalf of the group.

Drinks: We want to have a variety of drinks, to satisfy everyone's taste. We will try to provide water, sodas, coffee, tea, kool-aid, and any other non-alcoholic beverage that anyone wishes. Those wishing alcoholic beverages should make arrangements to either bring their own, or to purchase them locally. We need to double-check any local restrictions on the consumption of alcoholic beverages at the Academy Pavilion. Anyone volunteering to provide non-alcoholic beverages should email me with what you are volunteering to provide, and in what quantity.

Accommodations: I've been talking to about a half-dozen hotels/motels about providing discount accommodations to those attending the reunion. I know that at least twelve people are
coming from outside Colorado. I do NOT know how long any of you plan to remain in the local area. I need that information. I've gotten some tentative offers of a standard 10% discount offered to active duty military, but many of these depend on having information and reservations in advance. I will post a list of hotels/motels and costs soon. UPDATE: There is an extensive campground at the Air Force Academy, near the pavilion where we're having the reunion. Reservations are first-come, first-served. There is space for tent camping, for RVs, and for other types of campers. Call MWR, 719-333-4753, between 9AM and 6PM, local time (Mountain Daylight Time).

Volunteers: We need between twelve and sixteen volunteers (either individuals or families) for the following:

* Set-up: Getting everything to the site, put down paper tablecloths, start cooking fires, spread out food, get drinks prepared, and whatever else has to be done. Joyce has volunteered to chair a setup committee. We need a few folks to volunteer to help her in setting up. This will involve putting tablecloths on the tables, putting out coffee and drink cups, silverware, paper plates, and whatever else we need to do for everyone to have a good time.

* Cooking: I would like at least three cooks per shift, and three shifts of cooks so no one is stuck with the detail during the entire reunion. There are two 3' x 5' grills at the pavilion, and 12 tables. Bratwursts take about 20 minutes to cook through, hamburger patties about 15 minutes, and hot dogs 6-8 minutes. Depending on how many people attend, and how much they eat, cooking could go on from about 10:30 until late in the afternoon.

* Clean-up: The Academy requires us to clean up after ourselves, or face an additional charge. They didn't say what that additional charge would be, but others have said it's in the range of $50-$100. We'll need four or five people to ensure that all the trash we generate is cleaned up and deposited where it belongs. I will provide trash bags.

Publicity: I'll do my best to get free publicity of the reunion as much as possible. That includes something in the Colorado Springs Gazette, possibly in each of the three local base newspapers, and anywhere else where I think the information will reach former 497RTG personnel.

We also need someone to try to get publicity of the event in Denver, also, as well as anywhere there might be a large group of former 497th members (Offutt? Beale? Langley? Washington, DC?) who might wish to attend. We need to start promoting the event NOW.

Attendance: I have commitments from the people listed below. If you plan to come, and your name isn't on the list, please email me as soon as possible at If you're coming, not active duty or retired, I'll also need to know that so I can forward your name to the USAFA Security Police. This will reduce any hassle getting on the Academy. The list below is alphabetical.

Ben Acre
Debbie Barnes
Mike & Bonnie Bekisz
Bill & Becky Cordell
Joyce Donaldson
Herb Flanders
Eileen Gleason
Jerry & Kay Heck
Chad & Rachel Howard
Jeff Hodson
Dale Hutchinson
Christina Knight
Tom Konzel
Richard Lang
Tim Meuret
Martha North
Charles Sakai
Brian & Marie Taylor
Mike & Jean Weatherford

Several others have emailed me, but I haven't gotten this list updated yet. I'll try to do that in the next couple of weeks. I especially need to know who will be coming from the local area. Don't get upset if your name isn't on the list. I haven't gotten the spreadsheet from Martha North with everyone she has listed, and you have another chance to submit your name in the comments to this entry.

Funding: I've agreed to pay for the bratwurst and several other items, but can't afford to fund the entire reunion. We will calculate an estimated total cost and accept donations toward meeting those costs after the next planning committee meeting.

Planning Committee Meetings:
The planning committee will hold regular meetings on the second Saturday of the month through May to discuss the status of the upcoming reunion. Meetings will be held at the Palmer Park Village Inn unless otherwise noted. Any additional meetings will be posted on the 497RTG Yahoo group site.

Mike Weatherford,, 719-597-0128, 1715 Clemson Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80909.
Charles Sakai
Martha North
Joyce Donaldson
Debbie Barnes -

The Academy may be open to all visitors this summer, depending on how things go. If not, we will have to have an attendance list at least a week in advance for those that do not have a current, valid US military ID card. I'll try to keep everyone informed on this.

I think everyone is planning on bringing a camera. I know I will, Joyce will, and Charles will. We want to have access to as many photos as possible, so we can post them online for others who weren't able to attend to enjoy. It'll also help remind all of us who we're talking to and about to have a mug shot to refresh the memory.

Here are some of the expenses we need to cover:

Pavilion Reservation $35.00Mike W
Set-up costs
Plastic tablecloths (10)
Paper plates (200) Debbie B
Styrofoam cups for hot drinks (50-60)
Plastic cups for cold drinks (100) Debbie B
Plastic silverware (200 sets) Debbie B
Charcoal (2-3 bags)
Coffee pot (rental?)
Paper Towels (3 rolls)Debbie B
Bratwurst (120)$75.00Mike W
Hamburger patties (60)
Hot Dogs (60)Debbie B
Potato Salad $ .00donated
Hot dog buns (60) Debbie B
Hamburger buns (60)
Sliced cheese
Dill pickles
Mayonnaise (1 lg jar)
Mustard (1 lg jar)
German-style mustard (2 sm jars)Mike W
Salt/Pepper (4 packaged sets)
Brotchen/Rolls (100+)
Vegetable tray?
Chips, etc.
Bottled water
Garbage sacksMike W
Paper towels (see "Setup") Debbie B
Spray cleaner Mike W
Something to clean grills

Several people have agreed to supply part of the requirements for things like chips, sodas, etc. If you're willing to add to the list, please let me know.

If anyone has any suggestions to this list, please email me with your suggestion, its approximate cost, and whether you wish to provide the issue. I'll try to go back through all the emails for prior suggestions.
Final Update:

Everything is set for the 30th. Jean and I will begin shopping this week, and make final purchases around the 27th or 28th. I've got two cooks lined up, and I hope more volunteer once they arrive. Charles Sakai and Debbie Barnes have been outstanding in their assistance, so please let them know how much you appreciate their hard work.

It looks like we'll have between 40 and 60 people show up on the 30th, counting wives, children, and other guests. That's a great turnout, and I hope everyone has a good time. If you know someone who's unaware of the reunion, or haven't yet made up their minds to attend, this would be a great time to contact them.

We WILL have to submit a list of names to the Security Police, but that's all they want. The list can be suplemented at any time up through the 28th. If for some reason you decide to come after that, just tell the gate guards you're there to attend the 497th RTG Reunion. You shouldn't have any trouble at either the north or south gate.

One thing that's become very obvious is the need for some type of "official" 497RTG Alumni Association. We could have gotten extra discounts from many places with official letterhead, and gotten much better coverage from local media. This is something to think about, and perhaps discuss at the reunion.