Air Force Association holds Chapter Awards Banquet in Vinton

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The Air Force Association held its annual Roanoke Chapter Awards Banquet at the Vinton War Memorial on May 6. Cadet Lt. Col. Jasmine Allinson from the William Byrd High School Air Force JROTC was named Cadet of the Year at WBHS. She is shown with Air Force Gen. (Ret.) John Jumper (left) and William Byrd’s Senior Aerospace Science Instructor Lt. Col. Jay Thompson.

The Air Force Association held its annual Roanoke Chapter Awards Banquet at the Vinton War Memorial on Saturday, May 6.

The Air Force Association (AFA) is a “non-profit, independent professional military and aerospace education association promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation. Its mission is to promote a dominant United States Air Force and a strong national defense, and to honor Airmen and Air Force Heritage.”

At the dinner, top JROTC cadets from William Byrd High School, Patrick Henry, Franklin County, and E.C. Glass were recognized.

The AFA also recognized the top Civil Air Patrol cadet, area Air Force recruiter, and Air Force ROTC, along with district and overall teachers of the year.

Cadet Lt. Col. Jasmine Allinson was named the JROTC Cadet of the Year from William Byrd. She is a rising senior who has been chosen to be the new Corps Commander for the 2017-18 school year.  She has been a JROTC member for three years and a member of the unit’s Raider team which placed fifth in the rope bridge competition in Georgia in November. She is also a varsity track athlete.

Randy Brinkley was named as District Teacher of the Year for the Salem City Schools. He just moved to the Salem school district last year and quickly made an impact there.  He was recruited from Botetourt County where he was their choice last year to nominate for Teacher of the Year and was the overall winner for Chapter Teacher of the Year.

Brinkley has worked hard at Salem to expand interest in basic architectural and engineering drafting to students interested in STEM careers. He utilizes various CAD software applications to create and transform work essential to success in engineering.  He has taught courses in robotics and mechatronics.

He has continued the after school work that he started in Botetourt with his robotics coaching. This year, students built a robot that weighs roughly 150 pounds and can perform numerous tasks. These tasks include climbing a rope, placing five-inch diameter balls in a goal, and hanging a 15-inch diameter gear on a peg. The goal of this program is to increase interest in STEM careers and teach skills that can be applied to these careers in a fun and exciting atmosphere.

His goal for the coming year is to have several teams compete in AFA’s Cyber-patriot program.

Botetourt County instructor Chris Shaffer was named AFA Chapter Teacher of the Year.

When Shaffer started teaching Computer Systems Technology in 2014 it was not a popular class at the Botetourt Technical Education Center. It only had 13 students and the certification rate was just 33 percent. The course was about on its way out until Shaffer turned the program around. The projected student enrollment for next year could nearly double the 100 seats he has per year and so far the certification rate is 100 percent.

Botetourt gave him a unique opportunity to teach computers the way he would want to be taught. On the first day of class, the students start building a personal computer they will use the entire time they are with him. It is not a very good computer, but that is the point. After the required classwork each day, there are challenges. These challenges are not required but will earn the students points.

Every two weeks they add up all the points and the top 5-10 get to choose upgrades for their machines. Halfway through the class some of the students have already replaced the entire machine and built something one-of-a-kind. Competition is key and the pride the students have over what they have created is not something you will see in most normal classes.

Their third year class is becoming cybersecurity next year and the sky is the limit. Students are pursuing certifications from all areas– Security Pro, Linux, Cisco, and Microsoft.

Signups have started for his new after school club starting next year with around 100 students anticipated. They will be competing in the AFA Cyber-patriot program, and opening career doors for the students involved.

The guest speaker at the AFA banquet was Gen. (Ret.) John Jumper, a 1966 VMI graduate and the 17th Chief of Staff of the Air Force (2001-2005). The general’s remarks included entertaining personal stories of his career including a short-notice trip accompanying Secretary of State James Baker to seek support from the Turkish president for the military offensive against Saddam Hussein.

Jumper told the audience that luck and timing often play a big role in people’s success, but he emphasized to the cadets that their involvement in the JROTC/ROTC/CAP programs would prepare them to assume greater leadership roles in the future.  The general underscored the fact that, considering the present world situation with threats such as ISIS and the North Korean dictator’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the country needs strong leaders now more than ever.

The AFA holds national symposia, publishes Air Force Magazine, and disseminates information through outreach programs. It sponsors professional development seminars and recognizes excellence in the education and aerospace fields through national awards programs. AFA presents scholarships and grants to active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members and their dependents; and awards educator grants to promote science and math education at the elementary and secondary level.