It’s time to catch up with my friend Ken Coolidge and his progeny.
Seven years ago, I went on a fiftieth-anniversary shake-down cruise from Los Angeles to Mexico and Catalina Island.
It wasn’t quite their 50th anniversary, but with grandchildren about to leave home and go off to college and into the world; it seemed to them to be the last time they might be able to get the brood all together for a family photograph.
Front row: Harris Kingsley, Ken and Mariette Coolidge, Middle row: Maggie, Alex, Sharon (Coolidge) Kingsley, Col. Michael Coolidge, wife Kathy, James, and Elyse Coolidge, Back row: Col. Michael Kingsley, David, and Peter Coolidge.
Since this picture at Christmas, 2004, the march to college is well on its way with four graduations completed, three from son Michael’s clan:
Peter last year of Medical School at the University of South Carolina.
David is a graduate of the University of Southern California and now teaches English to Japanese businessmen.
Elyse Coolidge-Huey is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and in her second year of Medical School.
James is in his fourth year of five-year computer engineering degree at the University of California – Long Beach.
From daughter Sharon’s side of the family:
Maggie is a graduate of Florida State University in Tallahassee and is now an Emergency Medical Technician In Charlotte, North Carolina.
Harris will be a junior in High School and plans to attend the University of Virginia, studying education.
I have known the Kingsley’s better than Michael Coolidge’s family because when I met Ken and Mariette, Sharon was still living with them attending Eldarado High School and UNM, while son Michael was already in the Air Force. I photographed Sharon’s wedding and the Kingsleys later served a second tour at Kirtland Air Force Base.
On a road trip vacation in 2006, I stayed a couple of days in California while Alex was visiting his grandparents. Mariette and I went with Alex to the neighborhood skateboard park where I photographed him doing aerial stunts.
On June 22, 2008 Alex, right, became an Eagle Scout, as his father, center, watches on. Within a month, he entered the Air Force Academy.
Four Years later, May 23, 2012, he marched, as part of the long blue line, into Falcon Field at the Academy in Colorado Springs with 1,072 fellow classmates.
President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address, invoking the class motto; Numquam Hesitabimus, Numquam Deficiemus.
… It is that fundamental faith -- that American optimism -- which says no challenge is too great, no mission is too hard. It’s the spirit that guides your class: "Never falter, never fail."
Alex Kingsley, received his diploma, a salute and handshake from his boss, President Obama, a premature celebration begins with a salute to his classmate, then flying into his arms.
The graduates of the Air Force Academy class of 2012 are sworn in as Second Lieutenants, dismissed, their hats thrown in the air as the Air Force precision flight team, the Thunderbirds, streak past the stadium.
Alex Kingsley joined his family and friends and stood on the bleacher seats, which made him appear to be floating above the others.
He represents the third generation and fourth family member in the United States Air Force.
Second Lieutenant Alexander Michael Kingsley is congratulated by his grandparents, Mariette and Ken Coolidge, Lieutenant Colonel USAF Ret.
Ken was assigned to reconnaissance squadrons as a navigator in the Douglas RB-66 Destroyer and the GIB (Guy In Back) weapon systems officer in the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II. He did two tours in Southeast Asia, flying over North Vietnam. Among other tours, I recall he was in California and in England. After flying, Ken became Moody Air Force Base’s chief of police, in Valdosta, Georgia. His last assignment was at the Air Force Office of Security Police, headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base.
His uncle Colonel Michael Coolidge, retired this past year after a 30-year career. He was not an Air Force pilot. He was a rocket scientist assigned to Edwards Air Force Base. He attended the University of Washington, obtaining a Masters of Science and a Doctorate in Chemistry. Later he became the satellite traffic cop (page V) at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, Los Angeles Air Force Base. His final assignment was as USAF Defense Contract Management Agency commander at the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III final assembly plant in Long Beach, California.
Retired, he is now Principal Systems Engineer at Integrity Applications Incorporated in El Segundo, California.
Alex Kingsley’s father, Brigadier General Michael Kingsley, right, was involved in Operation Just Cause, the United States Invasion of Panama and was the lead MH-53J Pave Lows helicopter pilot who engaged in the first act of hostilities during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm.
Michael Kingsley served a couple of tours at Kirtland Air Force Base. His last tour was with the Air Force Inspection Agency.
He is now stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida, as Vice Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command.
Here is his USAF biography.
From the right.
Front Row: Sharon and Michael Kingsley, Carolyn Dahlgren, former City of Albuquerque Assistant City Attorney, for whom Sharon was her children's babysitter, Maggie, and Harris Kingsley.
Second row: Alex's girlfriend, Jenae Kelly, Roland Wachter, Kyle Wachter, and Bruce Baer.
Third row: Sharon‘s uncle Donald, aunt Rebecca St Pierre, of Main, Wachter’s father-in-law Chuck, Sharon‘s parents, Ken and Mariette Coolidge.
Marcy and Bruce Baer, were former neighbors in North Carolina. Their daughter Rachael and Alex were friends in school, she just graduated from Colorado University Boulder. Now from Denver, the Baers came to hear the president.
Kelly admires Alex's Second Lieutenant’s gold bar; he is now an Officer and a Gentleman, by an act of Congress.
At lunch are: Roland Wachter, Jenae Kelly, Alex, Harris and Maggie Kingsley.
Sharon Kingsley offers a toast, while holding back her emotions. From the left, Carolyn Dahlgren, Bruce Baer, Cathy Wachter's father, Chuck, and Kyle Wachter.
From the right, Roland and Cathy Wachter. (Sharon) son Kyle Wachter, who recovered a hat after the hat toss, and Cathy's Father Chuck. Roland grew up with the General in Sacramento and they have maintained a close friendship since the age of 12. Not only did Kyle acquire a hat but, inside it was a twenty-dollar bill, a dime and two pennies signifying the class year, 2012.
Kingsley drew a pilot training slot and his first duty assignment is Laughlin Air Force Base, Del Rio, Texas. He reports July 26.
In the mean time, he is off with his grandparents in Camarillo, California getting some of the best civilian flight training in the official family airplane, N2334U, which has been the stepping stone to aviation for the Coolidges. He will join uncle Michael, and grandmother Marriette as having become civilian pilots. Sharon took flight lessons in 34U, but transitioned and received her glider license.
(Personal Note) I know of what I speak, when it comes to the training Ken provides. I was his first student, on the civilian side of aviation and have a lot of hours logged in N2334U.
So What Is Wrong With This Picture?
President Obama received a mixed reception from the crowd, from wild cheering to booing, with the majority applauding politely.
In a study of election trends conducted by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research, Colorado Springs ranked sixth on the list of 25 most conservative city in America.
One might understand why there is a editorial leaning reflected in the reporting of the local newspaper, the Gazette.
The community has a large percentage of its population influenced by several military installations: Fort Carson, Cheyenne Mountain Complex at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base, and the Air Force Academy.
The Gazette wrote in an article headlined:
AFA graduation notes: 1 grad ready to get married, relax
… The thousands of graduation revelers at the academy had to wait a while longer for the F-16 Thunderbirds to show up again after their dramatic initial appearance at Falcon Stadium.
Six Thunderbirds streaked past the cadets as they threw their caps into air early Wednesday afternoon.
But the expected air show afterwards had to wait.
The presidential motorcade left the academy shortly after the hat toss and the air show took a break as Obama drove down Interstate 25.
The Thunderbirds came back after a half-hour pause, drawing applause from spectators when they made their return — flying by in the diamond and the arrowhead formations….
However, the crowd attending the ceremonies was made up mostly of family and friends of the graduates who came from all across the country. There might have been a slight air of hostility scattered throughout the crowd towards the man who is president.
One example appeared as this letter from someone, in the area who came to watch the air show, complaining about the fact that the Thunderbirds demonstration did not take place immediately after the ceremony.
Obama Disrespects Air Force Academy Graduates
I just wanted to pass on a little info in case some of you were not aware of this. Yesterday was the Air force Academy graduation ceremony. My friend from Texas had just arrived and we drove down the road to watch the Thunderbirds air show after the ceremony was finished. Most of you know Pres. Obama spoke at the ceremony and handed out the diploma’s. When this finished it was time for the Thunderbirds to fly. There was one maneuver then they disappeared. A man standing by me called a friend at Peterson Field and found out that the air show was halted because Obama wanted to leave. A helicopter soon appeared and flew around in a circular pattern above where we were – basically doing reconnesance (sic) as Obama’s motorcade was exiting the Air Force Academy. He was going to Denver to do some more campaigning since Colorado is a swing state. After he left the Thunderbirds came back and continued the show for the graduates. Think about this. Obama comes to a graduation, speaks etc. then decides to leave before the Thunderbirds can complete their air show. They had to fly around, & waste fuel. Thousands of people – the graduating cadets, parents, friends, observers in the vicinity parked in lots waiting to see them fly, inconvenienced, so Obama – his “highness’ could leave to go campaign in Denver! How disrespectful of EVERYONE in attendance. It would have taken only about 20-30 minutes more time to stay until the fly-over was finished thereby honoring the graduates, Thunderbirds and the military in general. However, this narcissistic disgrace of a ‘Commander-in-Chief” had to inconvenience everyone and leave interrupting the ceremony fly-over because everything is about him. I was disgusted by this and so was everyone else standing around near us. I hope this info gets passed on so others can learn how disrespectful this Pres. is toward the military. Not too many who witnessed this will be voting for him.
The above was reposted in a number of blogs that are openly Republican, conservative, or of a right-wing ideology. The comments disregard any facts, mostly because the post didn’t lay out any facts that would have mitigated their preconceived bias.
Here is a different take in an opinion from the on-line version of the McCook Daily Gazette newspaper serving Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas.
Snopes called the posting as false, but for the wrong reasons.
Snopes called the posting as false, but for the wrong reasons.
The Thunderbirds flew by Falcon stadium right on cue, making for what has become an iconic picture of the graduates throwing their hats in the air as the six-ship arrowhead formation streaks past.
The graduation program contained the following:
APPROX. 12:30 – 1:15 P.M.
The USAF Thunderbirds Demonstration takes place over Falcon Stadium immediately following the graduation ceremony. The team is comprised of selected pilots assigned to demonstrate the coordination, discipline and flying ability that combat-capable pilots require to fulfill their vital role in our nation’s defense.
IMPORTANT: For your own safety and to comply with FAA regulations, no one will be permitted to leave the stadium until after the Thunderbirds’ performance ends. Guests are not permitted in the parking lots during the demonstration. Release of helium-filled balloons from the stadium is not allowed.
The reason for the delay is not because President Obama was being disrespectful of the graduates.
It took him awhile to leave the stadium because of all the people who wanted to shake his hand and have their pictures taken with him.
Had he stayed, the air show could not have gone on for a legal reason.
The Thunderbirds operate under strict rules of the USAF Thunderbirds Support Manual and comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's regulations. Waivers for at least 10 FAA regulations must be requested and granted before every demonstration. The waivers include: limits on speed, minimum safe altitudes over congested areas, minimum VFR cloud clearances, and definition of aerobatic flight.The presence of any president creates a prohibited air space. It has been true for more than 50 years.
The fly-by is an exception, but aerobatic maneuvers falls under a different FAA regulation.
Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
PART 91—GENERAL OPERATING AND FLIGHT RULES
Subpart B—Flight Rules
§ 91.141 Flight restrictions in the proximity of the Presidential and other parties.
No person may operate an aircraft over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures contrary to the restrictions established by the Administrator and published in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).
However, this was the first time I have observed the open display of automatic weaponry. I have been to several arrival and departures of Air Force One from Kirtland Air Force Base and their Security Police do not brandish automatic rifles.
This young Air Force Sergeant told me, I could not take pictures. He got my, you are a public employee, in a public place doing public work, paid by the public tax-dollars, statement. He said, you can take pictures, you just can’t take mine, because I don’t like having my picture taken.
The joint effort of the Air Force Academy security forces, the United States Secret Service uniformed division Canine Explosives Detection Unit, in black, with a bomb sniffing dog, upper left, a USSS agent, upper right, and below, two U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit member, from Fort Carson, checked out my equipment. The best test to satisfy their question, of making sure my cameras didn’t contain any “flame-throwers,” was to take their pictures. In the bottom left, are the USSS EDU dog handler and a Reserve Deputy from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department (Colorado Springs). Bottom right, behind the EOD technician, identified by a USSS issued lapel pin with an explosive icon with lightning bolts on it, is a USSS uniformed division officer, white shirt, scans bags before guests proceed through a magnetometer.
A United States Army Blackhawk helicopter provides high cover.
Team members of one of several Secret Service counter-sniper support unit use powerful binoculars to reconnoiter the area from atop the east grandstands.
Secret Service Agents seem to wear the same “uniform” and maintain the same ready posture as they continually scan the crowd from behind mirrored sunglasses while fulfilling their duties.
Secret Service agents maintaining security on the presidential limousines as is done 24-hours a day.
Graduates clearly weren’t concerned by the absence of the air show immediately after the ceremony.
They were involved in their own celebration, on the field, slapping each other on the back, lightening up a traditional cigar.
Many stayed on the field; those with family and friends joined them in the stands.
The field would not have been the best place to observe the air show because many of the Thunderbird’s passes were low, as a solo plane, from right to left, demonstrated a roll; the east stands would have blocked their view.
The Thunderbird’s four ship formations streaked and swooped and made lots of noise demonstrating the abilities of high performance combat jest and highly skilled pilots.
The solo aircraft demonstrated how fast they can go, without breaking the sound barrier, in sneak pass maneuver, top above and how slow the aircraft can travel, while literally standing on its tail.
Because of weather, as storm clouds developed over the Rampart Range, the Thunderbird’s conducted a “low show," but were able to get in one of their signature loops. Click on any picture to enlarge.
The use of argumentum ad hominem attacks for the sake of expressing personal contempt is disheartening. There are enough policy differences, with which to take issue, yet the Office of the President is what has truly become disrespected.
If the values of our Constitutional form of government in conducting elections should mean anything, it is that a majority of those who select the Electoral College, which then cast the required 270 votes for selecting the presidential and vice presidential candidates, wins the election. Traditionally, the loser’s party accepts the outcome and settles into being the loyal opposition.
Over the past 20 years the political atmosphere has a poisonous taste to it.