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Aviation legends visit AU for 38th annual Gathering of Eagles

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Charles Welty
  • Air University Public Affairs

Air University’s Air Command and Staff College hosted its 38th Gathering of Eagles, May 27-31, 2019.

The annual ACSC capstone event invites aviation legends to AU to engage in community outreach opportunities and make military heritage come alive for ACSC students and faculty.

“[The Eagles] provide the bridge from the academics we’ve been learning about all year,” said Maj. William Booth, ACSC student. “This is a chance for [us] to come in, unburdened by other studies, and listen to the firsthand account of these Eagles. These folks are living legends and they’re telling their stories through oral history. That’s a different mechanism by which to learn about the Air Force legacy, but also provides students with a well-rounded picture of the academics here at ACSC.”

Part of what makes this such a unique experience for the students is the fact that the stories they’re hearing aren’t widely known throughout the military.

“The Eagles aren’t exactly famous by Air Force history standards,” Booth said. “We did that intentionally, because these individuals have a story to tell, and if we didn’t capture it, perhaps nobody else would. There is value in finding those folks and getting their stories down in the published book that we’ve working on for more than 30 years. It’s about finding that story, those hidden gems that the history books often overlook.”

Although it’s hosted by Air University, the Air Force’s pinnacle educational institution, the Gathering of Eagles is beneficial to more than just Airmen.

“Think about who’s in the audience; it’s not just Air Force officers,” Booth said. “We have our joint partners as well as coalition and international officers. The idea is that if we can inspire or broaden the knowledge base of the audience, it preps for making a significant impact on not only our Air Force officers, but our joint and coalition partners, as well. Hands down, this experience taught me to think differently and to be a more broad-minded joint officer.”

Over the course of GoE week, the Eagles each had an opportunity to address the students directly and share their stories on stage. Additionally, they spent time signing autographs, visiting local schools and being recognized by off-base organizations, meeting with installation leadership and talking one-on-one with the current generation of Airmen.

“This has been an outstanding operation,” said retired Col. William Mol, who was selected as an Eagle because of his distinguished career as a pilot during the Korean and Vietnam wars. “I’m so impressed with the attitude of everybody, it was all helpful and everyone went out of their way to make this thing work. I’ve been retired for a long time, and getting back in the Air Force family was very exciting.”

The program can be traced to 1980 when ACSC invited retired Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets to share his experiences with students, with the first official GoE program in 1982.

The full list of this year’s Eagles and more information about the program can be found at the GOE website.

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