The history and evolution of the Hall of Fame are interesting -- and at times, controversial. The concept was started by recognizing a Founder’s Group of nine individuals that included the famous co-commanders of Project 9, (later officially designated as the 1st Air Commando Group) Philip Cochran and John Alison. In 1969, the Air Commando Association was founded by Brig. Gen Robert Cardenas and then Col Harry C. “Heinie” Aderholt. Leaders of the ACA decided to establish an Air Commando Hall of Fame (HoF) to recognize the outstanding contributions of Air Force commandos. There were 20 selected into the inaugural class. Some of the more familiar inductees included “Jumping” Joe Kittinger, “Hap” Lutz, Charlie Jones and “Heinie” Aderholt. Evidently it caused some controversy because it was another 25 years, in 1994, that the ACA resurrected the HoF and selected 32 more – presumably to “catch-up for lost years.” The following year, another 17 members were inducted. For the next 14 years, from 1996 to 2010, the number of selectees varied from none in 2006 and 2009 to 11 in 2000.
It is my opinion the process was ad hoc at best with the “good ol’ boy” network often having too much power and influence in deciding who was selected. Eventually, ACA leaders appointed a Hall of Fame Committee. They were asked to develop guidelines and procedures, cast their votes, and forward their recommendations to the Board of Directors who had final approval authority. As with any process, adjustments were made over the years. For example, new rules now state that nominees must have been assigned to Air Force Special Operations for at least three years and must be separated or retired from the Air Force for at least three years.
Following the ACA Annual Convention Banquet in 2010, the HoF Committee recommended a limit on the number of annual inductees. The previous year, ten inductees just seemed too many to properly honor each Hall of Famer. The Board of Directors agreed with that rationale and set the limit to no more than five. Last year was perfect. Each of the five inductees was presented their HoF plaque at the ACA Annual Convention Banquet while their citation was read, and each delivered a brief acceptance speech. The positive response from the audience, for each and every inductee, was overwhelming – as it should be!
I consider it a privilege to be on the HoF Committee and take this responsibility very seriously, as do the other committee members: Chairman Lt Gen (Ret) Mike Wooley, Col (Ret) Steve Connelly, Col (Ret) Jim Connors, Col (Ret) Dave Mobley, CMSAF #9 (Ret) Jim Binnicker, and CMSgt (Ret) Lamar Doster.
What do we look for during the evaluation process? We look at the whole person concept to include levels of responsibility held, major development of weapons systems or changes to tactics, techniques and procedures, total years served in special operations, deployments in harm’s way, significant awards and decorations, involvement in fraternal organizations, charities, assistance to our wounded warriors or support for the families of our fallen. We are not just looking to induct heroes. We look at those who made significant contributions to special operations while serving on active duty and have continued to contribute in civilian life. I highly recommend visiting the ACA website (www.aircommando.org) to read the list of Hall of Famers, and also consider submitting a package on a deserving Air Commando for induction in 2015.
The HoF is comprised of an elite group. Of the thousands of Air Commandos who have served in special operations over the past 70+ years, only 170 (117 officers and 53 enlisted) are in the Hall of Fame. Gen Duane H. Cassidy, former Commander-in-Chief, US Transportation Command and Military Airlift Command, once told me “Elite means…few; too many means…average.” “Average” does not have a place in special operations or in the Air Commando Hall of Fame.
-- Wayne G. Norrad, CMSgt, USAF (Ret)
Secretary, Air Commando Hall of Fame Committee
Former AFSOC Senior Enlisted Advisor