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September 15, 2009

Back From My First Tailhook Reunion and Symposium

As most of you know, a couple of years ago I took on the task of creating, writing, editing, and taking photos for the Tailhook Association’s blog, “The Tailhook Daily Briefing.”  In the two years I have been the editor, the blog has received over a quarter of a million hits and is regularly landed on hundreds of times daily as the number one return on various Google and Yahoo searches.  All very gratifying for me as I try to give something back the some of my greatest heroes, Naval Aviators.

Well, earlier this year I was informed I had been nominated for “Honorary Tailhooker of the IMG_0111Year” for my efforts.  I can never be nominated for “Tailhooker of the Year” as I am not an aviator, nor do I have any traps or cat shots to my name.  (Maybe someday…).  I was honored by the nomination, hell some of the past winners of the award are former Secretaries of the Navy for God’s sake!  Who wouldn’t welcome being included in such revered  company?

About a month ago, I was informed by “Tag” Ostertag (Naval Aviator Extraordinaire … and not just in his mind!) that I had indeed won the award, and that I was expected to be in Reno to receive my plaque at the Saturday awards lunch.  Again, I was floored!  And Honored! And humbled!


So come this past September 10th, Ginger and I fly out to Reno, to attend my first (Ginger’s too for that matter) Tailhook Annual Reunion and Symposium.  I am glad I went.

We met up in Reno with my long time friend and fellow Tailhooker, Ken Schoeni, (actually Ken has been a Tailhooker longer than I have).  Ken was kind enough to help me take care of a few awkward logistic issues as I would be unable to arrive until late on Thursday night, and would need our registration materials early Friday Morning as we headed off from Reno to see the Blue Angels perform at the September 11th Remembrance NAS Fallon Airshow.

The Airshow was fantastic, Severe Clear and Beer! No better way to see an airshow! 


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After the show, we boogied back in the bus to Reno to attend the Bug Roach Mixer.  A great cocktail party where Hawaiian Shirts and Flight Suits are the Uniform of the Day.  It is a great, cocktail fueled, party where one really has the opportunity to meet and greet the greatest pilots and NFO’s on the planet.

Seriously, I met up with dozens of old acquaintances and made an equal number of new friends at this year’s event.  I ran into a number of folks who are good friends of my Mom and Dad, as well as many familiar faces I had met at the Colorado Tailhooker parties Hans and Kathy Schmoldt have thrown at their ranch in Grand Junction.  Old Home week does not do it justice.

Every night is late night at Tailhook, after the scheduled events everyone regroups at the “Admin Rooms” to continue the camaraderie, the lie story telling competitions, accompanied by various bar games and the obligatory adult beverages!  I’m pretty sure one of the communities was serving up Cubi Cocktails AKA Radford Specials!  Wow, that’ll put hair on your feet!

We returned to our Hotel much much earlier than the young JO’s and somewhat older LCDRs in the crowd, leaving the olympic drinking events to those better able, and wanting… to deal with the after effects of such activities.  Even so it was well after midnight before we turned in. 

The next day after grabbing a few extra winks I headed back to the Nugget (we were staying in the Silver Legacy), but as I hailed a cab, at 10:00am mind you, who should get out but a LCDR and LT I had chatted briefly with at the Mixer the previous evening… they were just rolling in!  And were planning to return to forward battle area by noon!  IN—TREP—ID!

The warm up act before the lunch was the symposium session on “Pushing the Edge of the Envelope” which had current and former Blue Angels on one side pitted against Topgun Aviators on the other!  No better stories to be told than when on the opposing side is the “Oh Yeah?” gang.  I promise to post  few of those tails over at TDB in the future.

Next came the awards lunch, where all sorts of achievement awards were handed to the deserving flight crews, for bombing excellence, missile accuracy, most carrier landings (Traps), 1,000 trap milestones… etc.  And finally the Honorary Tailhooker of the Year.  There were two recipients this year, Mr. Woody Sales, a man who coordinated more Distinguished Visitors tours of carriers this year than anyone else, and insured that countless crewmembers of the USS Roosevelt received free passes to the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament last year!

And then me… 


Wow, what an honor.  I was presented the award by Vice Admiral Thomas Kilcline Jr., Commander, Naval Air Forces, COMNAVAIRPAC, RADM Jay Campbell, Capt Russ ‘Galdis’ Knight

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Seriously, I am humbled by the honor.  I love being a Tailhooker, and contributing where I can.  I may not be able to fly for this great nation but maybe I can contribute something on behalf of those who do. 

After the Awards Lunch, the Admiral’s Briefing followed, this is really the event to attend!  It is comprised of a number of Admirals in the Air Navy chain of command, and is the opportunity for a Honest “No Holds Barred” Q&A session of the Navy Leadership.  Cuts to the quick. 

And then the final event of the Reunion is the Formal Banquet.  Where Ginger and I sat with Hans and Kathy, and had the fortune to sit with the CO and XO of VAQ-140 charming men both, and Capt. “Sterls” Gilliam, one of the officers of Tailhook, and one of the most complimentary gentlemen I could have had the fortune of sitting next to.  It made for a great evening of stories and general conversation.

We stayed up late into the morning that night as well, and after Saturday merged into Sunday, and we managed to capture a few hours of shut-eye… not nearly enough… we bid farewell to Reno, and the 2009 Tailhook Reunion, promising to return for 2010’s shindig!

September 15, 2009 in Aviation, Biographical, Just Plain Cool, Military, Navy, Photo, Travel | Permalink


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I remember the phone conversation that started it all.
As we say in SE Okrahoma, "You done good !"

Congratulations !

Posted by: The Boss | Sep 26, 2009 5:26:30 PM

Well done John. BZ's your way in a. H U G E way !

As Tuna would say & he says it better than anyone on the planet

"You are a Great American."
Well done Sir.....

K. 'Sales' Woody / BBSOB
DVCCM CVN-71 (Ret.)
"Fly Navy"

Posted by: K. 'Sales' Woody HMCPO | Sep 23, 2009 10:52:19 PM

Congrats John. I am glad to see that all your hard work and commitment has been rewarded.

Posted by: Motorhead | Sep 19, 2009 10:39:22 AM

Bravo Zulu, J.Cas.
-KFS, Tailhook member since 1986

Posted by: Ken | Sep 16, 2009 11:45:38 PM


Posted by: Jeff | Sep 16, 2009 12:52:04 AM

Another great post! The "Honorary Tailhooker of the Year" award could not have gone to a more deserving individual. Congratulations, John!

Posted by: Big Gun | Sep 15, 2009 10:29:52 PM

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