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Air Force Ball to celebrate anniversary of aviation

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Air Force Ball, to be held at the Rocker NCO Club Sept. 22, will recognize the birthdays of two key events in military aviation. 

"This year is the 60th anniversary of the Air Force and it also coincides with the 100th anniversary of military aviation," said Lt. Col. Peter Oertel, 18th Operations Group deputy commander. "It was back in 1907 when the Army created its first aeronautical division to investigate flight with the Wright brothers." 

According to Maj. Michelle Baxter, the chairperson for the event, the ball commemorates '60 years of Air and Space Dominance.' 

"The ceremony will celebrate the 18th Wing's contributions to the Air Force's 60 years of service that span from World War II to the War on Terrorism; from the beginning of air power to ousting a despotic regime in Afghanistan and to bringing about the first-ever free elections in Iraq," she said. 

One of the highlights of the event will be a 20 to 25 minute presentation that will tell the history of aviation beginning with the Wright Brothers and going through current events in the Air Force history. 

"The theme is 'higher, faster, farther,'" said Colonel Oertel. "You'll have some video, some music - both live and taped - and live actors. We'll have the Wright brothers there." 

"As part of our live presentation we are having folks in period costumes and uniforms within the audience," explained Col. Mark Henkel, 18th Operations Group commander.
The guest speaker for the 2007 Air Force Ball is Lt. Gen. Steven Polk, who retired last year as Inspector General of the Air Force. Prior to that assignment he was the vice commander of Pacific Air Forces. Among other achievements, he commanded the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base and the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB, both in South Korea. 

Cost of the tickets is $20 for E-6 and below and $30 for E-7 and above. 

To help offset the cost of bringing the guest speaker from the States and to reduce the price of the tickets for enlisted members, several fundraisers have been organized.
"There is a bowling tournament Sept. 14 at noon and we are currently selling 60th Anniversary Blankets for $40 each," said Major Baxter. "We have already sold out on over 1,300 60th Anniversary coins that we offered. We have held three car washes and two golf tournaments. Private organizations in the wing have given donations of money as well." 

Officials believe the base's observance of Air Force history will be a sold out event. Colonel Henkel said they expect about 875 people to attend. 

"We are filling up the Rocker NCO club, which means we're using all available space," said Colonel Oertel. "There will be people all over the place. For those that don't have direct sight of the stage, we'll have it on the monitors in the back rooms." 

Even with this large a crowd, there will still be many who will be unable to attend. 

"With 875 tickets and a base populace of 5,000-6,000, depending how you count them, there are unfortunately going to be a lot of people who'd like to attend that we won't be able to accommodate," said Colonel Henkel. "The tickets have been allocated out to the groups according to population. They are for sale by the groups. September 14, we will consolidate any tickets that have not been sold and redistribute those. We envision there being very few of those. This is a Team Kadena event, not just an 18th Wing event." 

Organizers for the Air Force Ball said they still need volunteers for both fundraising and for the event. To volunteer, call Major Baxter at 634-2566.