Col. (Ret.) Vic Vizcarra, a 24 year Air Force veteran, was commissioned through the ROTC program upon graduation from Loyola University of Los Angeles in 1960. A high ranking in his pilot training class allowed him to choose the F-100 from the list of available assignments. After completing F-100 training, he was assigned to the 31st TFW, 309th TFS at Homestead AFB, FL where he flew the "Hun" for 16 months. In 1963, he transitioned to the F-105 and served in Japan from where he participated in three deployments to Southeast Asia and flew 59 combat missions in the F-105D. During his third deployment, he was forced to eject from his disabled F-105D over North Vietnam and spent two hours on the ground evading capture before being rescued by a U.S. Navy helicopter. He later returned to fly 120 combat missions in the F-100D/F with the 35th TFW, 352nd TFS, at Phan Rang AB, Republic of Vietnam. In addition to the F-100 and F-105, Col. Vizcarra flew the F-5E and F-4E in follow-on assignments. Promoted to Colonel in 1981, he served as the 35th TFW Deputy Commander of Maintenance in his final assignment. Hun Pilot is the author's second publication and is a companion to his first book, Thud Pilot.
Speed & Angels Productions makes films that honor those who served. Award-winning filmmaker, Mark Vizcarra founded the production company to bring a fresh and unique perspective in producing entertaining content. His thousands of hours of flying the world’s most sophisticated fighters and landing aboard nine different aircraft carriers while serving in the United States Navy brings a level authenticity to a niche piece of commercially viable storytelling. Speed & Angels Productions’ slate of untold stories delivers spectacular aerial cinematography and dramatic story arcs that tap into a market yearning for aviation and historical content.
Captain Michael A. Vizcarra, first commissioned by the Navy in 1984, assumed command of MU’s Reserve Officers Training Corp Unit in August. Prior to being assigned to the post, he served as Commander of Fleet Activities in Okinawa, Japan.
“I am a Florida state resident but we’ve actually lived in Japan three times,” he said of his family’s many moves. “We wanted a small college town and we wanted a place where we could experience all four seasons. Not ever having lived anywhere in the Midwest, my wife Sherri looked online for information about Columbia, and everything she read about it, she really liked.
“Our kids are in high school, and I had a chance to look at the schools when I was here,” he said, adding that he liked what he saw. “Every person I talked to about Columbia said they came here, not necessarily intending to stay, but that it’s a great place and the people are great too. We haven’t looked back.”
Vizcarra became a Naval Flight Officer in 1986 and in his steady climb through the Navy’s ranks, he has accumulated over 3,600 flight hours piloting F-14s and F-18s with nearly 1,000 carrier take-offs and landings. “I’m glad I did it,” he said, “but I’m definitely glad to be spending time with my family now. I miss flying a little bit, but this way I can teach my kids to drive. I’m a family guy.”
He wholeheartedly believes that throughout his 30-year connection to the Navy he has been presented with great opportunities and that his experiences have led him to this job, serving as a mentor for young men and women starting down the same path.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Buzz” Patterson, United States Air Force (Retired), is a military combat pilot, distinguished White House military aide, bestselling author, leadership consultant, popular public speaker and former commercial airline pilot. Among Patterson’s literary efforts include two New York Times best sellers, Dereliction of Duty and Reckless Disregard.
His most recent books include War Crimes and Conduct Unbecoming.
Patterson was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Virginia Tech and a master's degree in business administration from Webster University.
Patterson served 20 years as a pilot on active duty in the United States Air Force and saw tours of duty world-wide including combat operations in Bosnia, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti.. From 1996 to 1998, Colonel Patterson was the Senior Military Aide to President Bill Clinton. During that time he was responsible for the President's Emergency Satchel. He retired in 2001 to pursue a career as a writer, conservative political commentator and commercial airline pilot.
He retired from Delta Airlines and is currently a candidate for Congress, running in the California 07 District. His website is Buzz4Congress.com.
As one of only a handful of women who have earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Melissa “SHOCK” May, a career Air Force F-16 pilot, was also in the first wave of women to fly fighter aircraft straight from Undergraduate Pilot Training. Her Air Force career got its start because her outstanding abilities as a competitive swimmer. Melissa was recruited to swim on the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) Intercollegiate team, which ultimately culminated in her induction into the USAFA Athletic Hall of Fame. Until her junior year at USAFA, the Combat Exclusion Law was in effect and women were not allowed to fly Air Force fighter aircraft, so the plan of becoming a fighter pilot was not even on the table.
Upon graduation, she went on to pilot training in Del Rio, TX and she learned then that a fighter was a possibility, but she would have to finish high enough among her peers to earn one. Melissa graduated first in her class and earned the Distinguished Graduate Award, the Flying Training award and the Air Education and Training Commander’s Award. After pilot training she went on to fly the F-16 and her assignments included bases in Korea, Japan, Italy, and two assignments as an Instructor Pilot at the F-16 schoolhouse in Arizona. She also returned to the US Air Force Academy as a Commander of a Cadet Squadron.
Melissa earned her combat time in Iraq in Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom, and in Libya in Operations Unified Protector and Odyssey Dawn. Her Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded during a night mission over Baghdad where her flight of 4 was under heavy fire from anti-aircraft artillery and guided missiles. The weather was extremely poor and her flight was tasked to bomb missile sites that were actively targeting them. At her side that night was one of the youngest wingman in the squadron.
SHOCK was also a founding member of the Chick Fighter Pilot Association, a group she and a few fellow F-16 pilots started when they realized the importance of female friendship and mentorship in a male-dominated career.
SHOCK served in the Air Force for 20 years and upon retirement, she joined a major airline where she now flies Boeing 737’s based out of Denver. Her husband of 21 years, also a retired Air Force F-16 pilot, flies at a major airline as well. They have two children and they are striving for a balance of work and maximum family time. If she’s not flying the friendly skies and bouncing around a new city or country, you can find her on the golf course, a hiking trail, mountain biking, or snowboarding in the winter.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. Since then, each subsequent president has issued an annual proclamation commemorating the third Friday in September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
A national-level ceremony is held on every National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Traditionally held at the Pentagon, it features members from each branch of military service and participation from high-ranking officials.
In addition to the national-level ceremony, observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans' facilities.
No matter where they are held, these National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies share the common purpose of honoring those who were held captive and returned, as well as those who remain missing.
Since 1999, the POW/MIA Accounting community has created a poster commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The 2020 edition of the poster, continues to honor this tradition.
Staff Sergeant Jon Cavaiani received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam War. After his platoon came under intense attack and organized his unit’s defense. During evacuation by helicopter, Cavaiani voluntarily stayed on the ground to direct the large evacuation effort. In the morning, there was another enemy attack where he ordered and helped provide cover for the remaining small group of men to escape. He was then captured and spent the next two years as a prisoner of war until his release in 1973 during Operation Homecoming. He remained in the Army until 1990, completing over 5,000 jumps from all over the world.
Colonel Donald Cook posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. He was wounded and captured by the enemy in December 1964. He was held as a prisoner of war where he assumed the role as the senior prisoner, even though he wasn’t. He volunteered to give other men his medicine and unselfishly put the overall health and wellbeing of his other prisoners above his health. He died from malaria three years later.
George “Bud” Day received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. He was a prisoner of war, not once but twice. He was forced to eject from his aircraft where he was immediately captured, interrogated and tortured. Day eventually escaped into the jungle, surviving on berries and frogs. After swimming across a river, he wandered aimlessly for days, lost. He was ambushed, recaptured and suffered from gunshot wounds. Day was placed back in his original prisoner of war camp and several near Hanoi, where he was beaten, starved and tortured. He shared a cell with future senator and presidential candidate John McCain. After five years and seven months as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war, he was released on March 14, 1973. He is the only person to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross.
Sergeant William Port posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. He rescued a wounded soldier and then used his body to smother the blast of an enemy grenade, protecting his fellow soldiers. After surviving the blast, he was captured by the enemy. Ten months later he died while a prisoner of war.
Captain Lance Sijan posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. Sijan was forced to eject from his aircraft and evaded capture by enemy soldiers for more than six weeks. Seriously injured, suffering from shock and severe weight loss, Sijan was captured by enemy soldiers. He was able to overpower one of his guards and crawl into the jungle, however, he was recaptured after a few hours. He was then transferred to another prisoner of war camp where he was held in solitary confinement, tortured and interrogated. He never complained to any fellow prisoners or divulged any information to his captors. He died as a prisoner of war at ‘Hanoi Hilton’.
Commander James Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. His plane was struck by enemy fire, forcing him to eject over North Vietnam where he was captured as a prisoner and beaten. He was held at the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ for the next seven and a half years and was one of the main organizers for prisoner resistance and was known as one of the eleven members of the ‘Alcatraz Gang’ and placed in solitary confinement. Stockdale’s wife, Sybil, formed The League of American Families of POWs and MIAs, where she personally made demands known to acknowledge the mistreatment of POWs at the Paris Peace Talks.
Lieutenant Colonel Leo Thorsness received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. While on a suppression mission, Thorsness engaged in a heroic air mission involving destroying multiple enemy cluster bombs and engaging the enemy in a turning dogfight. Eleven days after his Medal of Honor actions, he was on his 93rd mission and was forced to eject from his aircraft. He was captured as a prisoner of war and spent over six years as a prisoner, spending time in solitary confinement and enduring severe torture. He was released during Operation Homecoming.
Captain Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace received the Medal of Honor for his actions while a prisoner of war in Vietnam. With less than two weeks left of his volunteered tour extension, Versace’s unit was ambushed, he was wounded and captured in the process. The enemy separated Versace from the other prisoners and the last time they heard his voice, he was loudly singing ‘God Bless America’. He was later executed, and his remains have never been found.
Brig. Gen. Chad T. Manske is the 30th Commandant of the National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C. The mission of the National War College is to prepare future leaders of the armed forces, Department of State, foreign military officers and other civilian agencies for high-level policy command and staff responsibilities by conducting a senior-level course of study with emphasis on the formulation and implementation of national security strategy and policy. As the commandant, Brig. Gen. Manske is responsible for formulating academic policies, supervising curriculum planning, preparation and ensuring excellence in classroom teaching.
Prior to assuming his current position, Brig. Gen. Manske was the Deputy Commander, Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Region and Deputy Combined/Joint Force Air Component Commander for 1 Canadian Air Division, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Brig. Gen. Manske was commissioned in 1989 following his graduation from Michigan State University and has commanded at the squadron, group and wing levels. Additionally, he has deployed in support of ongoing operations in Central and Southwest Asia as an Air Expeditionary Group Commander, the Deputy Director and Director of the U.S. Central Command’s Deployment and Distribution Operations Center and as an Air Expeditionary Wing Commander for operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector.
Over the past few months, the airline industry has gone from pilot and mechanic shortages to extreme overstaffing. This turnaround was sharp and dramatic. Pilots, flight attendants and A&Ps are facing a harsh, undeserved reality. Their colleagues, or even themselves, may be furloughed.
A furlough can be an emotional rollercoaster. When being furloughed, it might feel as if your world were collapsing. Besides the loss of stability, structure, lifestyle, and colleagues, the sense of social utility and identity can be strongly affected. When dealing with grief, feelings of anger, sadness and frustration are common. Everyone experiences loss in their own way.
Grief is a term often linked to the loss of a loved one, but it is equally applicable to losing a job. The different stages of grief in the Kubler-Ross grief cycle can also be experienced when it comes to important life changes, such as a furlough. Understanding and applying the stages of grief on oneself, colleague, or spouse can help process the emotions that come with a furlough.
The following are the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief:
Stage 1: Denial
During the first phase, denial, it is difficult for one to face the dismissal. Denial can be the conscious or unconscious refusal to face reality. It is a natural form of self-protection. It helps determine at what rate the grief is allowed. This phase usually manifests itself through avoidance, confusion, shock, and fear.
Stage 2: Anger
When the truth is faced, anger occurs. In this phase, these angry feelings may be projected onto the boss or company who have failed them. It is also possible that the blame is passed onto colleagues. Anger helps in the grieving process since the feelings of guilt and grief are suppressed by focusing on the anger that comes with blame. Feelings of anxiety, frustration, irritation, and thoughts of revenge can occur during this phase.
Stage 3: Bargaining
At this stage, attempts are made to negotiate. One can try to deal with the loss of work by setting goals or making promises. For example, bargaining can be done by applying for myriad jobs or setting extremely high personal goals. During this phase, it might be difficult to find meaning, and it is particularly important to reach out to others for support.
Stage 4: Depression
When reality sets in, some may go into depression or show symptoms of stress. When one begins to accept reality, feelings of sadness, regret, fear, and insecurity emerge. Losses from the past resurface and one may need to express their sadness repeatedly. Underneath the sadness, feelings of anger remain. Suppressed anger is often a crucial cause of depression. Other feelings that might occur during this phase are helplessness, overwhelmedness and hostility.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Having had enough time to process the loss and go through the mentioned stages, it is possible to start accepting reality. It is time to let go. Letting go is not the same as forgetting. It is giving the loss a place in life and moving on. Only after acceptance can come a new perspective, actively moving forward, exploring options, and making new plans.
Dr. Eileen A. Bjorkman, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is Executive Director, Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. She serves as principal deputy to the AFTC Commander on all matters under the cognizance of the Commander. She has extensive authority for broad management, policy development, decision-making and effective program execution of the AFTC’s developmental test and evaluation mission. Her role as an Executive Director involves long and short-range planning, policy development, the determination of program and center goals, including those involving scientific and technical matters, and the overall management of the AFTC enterprise.
Dr. Bjorkman was commissioned through Officer Training School in 1980 and served nearly 30 years in the Air Force, retiring as a colonel. During her military career, she served as a Flight Test Engineer, Instructor and Test Squadron Commander. She was a Senior Non-rated Aircrew Member and flew more than 700 hours as a Flight Test Engineer in more than 25 different aircraft, primarily the F-4 Phantom II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-130 Hercules and C-141 Starlifter. She also held multiple staff and director positions involving modeling, simulation, analysis and joint testing, retiring from active duty as the Chief of the Modeling and Simulation Policy Division, Warfighter Systems Integration and Deployment. Dr. Bjorkman was appointed as a Senior Leader Executive in January 2010, and entered the Senior Executive Service in 2015.
Shannon Huffman Polson writes about courage and grit in her nonfiction and fiction. Her first book, the memoir North of Hope,
was released spring 2013 by Zondervan/Harper Collins. She released a short book of essays, The Way the Wild gets Inside, in December 2015. Her essays and articles have won recognition including honorable mention in the 2015 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize, and appear in River Teeth Journal, Ruminate Journal, Huffington Post, High Country News, Seattle and Alaska Magazines, as well as other literary magazines and periodicals. Her work is anthologized in “The Road Ahead,” “More Than 85 Broads” and “Be There Now: Travel Stories From Around the World.”
Polson’s business writing has appeared in Huffington Post and Forbes, and in 2016 she published three books profiling outstanding military women with a focus on leadership and grit (available on Kindle). Those profiles and others are available at Medium.com/@aborderlife, where Polson is a Top Leadership Writer.
After a childhood in Alaska, Polson studied English Literature and art history at Duke University. At graduation she was commissioned as a 2LT in Army Aviation and became one of the first women to fly Apache helicopters, serving on three continents and leading two flight platoons and a line company. In the midst of school and flying came skydiving, scuba diving, big-mountain climbing and long-course triathlons. To turn all that into something practical, she earned her MBA at the Tuck School at Dartmouth, and worked with some excellent people in the corporate jungle for a few years in the medical devices industry and technology. She then started an MDiv (part-time), and decided not to pursue it, returning to her love of words with an MFA.
Polson describes her writing as a way of wrestling with life by way of words to find its beauty and possibility. Current published and pending work is in non-fiction and some fiction, both journalistic and creative, but one day soon she hopes to start sharing work in poetry as well.
Polson is a leadership speaker, focusing on leadership and grit based on her years wearing the uniform and speaks to thousands of people in audiences around the country every year. She leads the board of the Friends of the Winthrop Public Library, working to cultivate community through a shared love of literacy and learning. She and her husband are co-founders of Methow Episcopal. Occasionally she procrastinates by reading, painting, classical choral performance, playing piano or heading out in the mountains with the greatest adventure of her life, her husband Peter and two young boys.
In 2009 Polson was awarded the Trailblazer Woman of Valor award by Senator Maria Cantwell.
Her websites are www.thegritinstitute.com and www.shannonpolson.com.