The Wisconsin Air Force Academy Parents’ Association (WAFAPA) was officially formed in 1973, although the original orientation and appointees’ banquet was held in 1963.

It was these yearly banquets that ultimately led to the formation of WAFAPA and must be a part of that history.

The first orientation and appointees’ banquet was initiated by the then Wisconsin liaison officer coordinator, Lt. Col. Don Oliver, as a two day orientation session and recognition banquet for Wisconsin Air Force Academy appointees. This annual event was held until 1973 at St. John’s Military Academy, Delafield, WI. Not only did St. John’s have the facilities needed for these early sessions but the military atmosphere of the campus was felt to be highly desirable.

Until 1971 the orientation and appointees’ banquet was strictly a liaison officers’ affair with parents simply coming with their sons and participating only in the formal banquet. The programs consisted of a greeting from St. John’s, the Air Force Academy and a presentation by cadets on various aspects of life at the Academy. There were sessions with the appointees where they had an opportunity to talk with the cadets and to the liaison officers who were the moving spirit behind the programs. Parents unfortunately were not involved in anything other than the banquet and were largely on their own until time came for the banquet.

Wisconsin had never had a parents’ organization like other states because it had an active liaison officer, Lt. Col. Lauren Husten, who carried on the programs of a parent organization. With the death of Lt. Col. Lauren Husten in October of 1971 those events which he personally handled were in danger of being abandoned. For 1972, in honor of Lt. Col. Huston, Lt. Col. Doug Osterheld personally continued the programs. He held a meeting with parents at the orientation and appointees’ banquet to discuss the arrangements for the airlift of appointees to the Academy and plans for parents’ weekend. The travel and housing arrangements were made personally by him for all Wisconsin parents who were interested. A substantial number were housed in two motels in Colorado Springs where they could enjoy the camaraderie of other Wisconsinites, exchange travel stories and commiserate with one another. A large number of parents and cadets attended a reception sponsored by Col. and Mrs. Osterheld in their Colorado Springs motel room.

It was out of this experience that Col. Osterheld felt the need for an organization with and about Wisconsin cadets and the Air Force Academy. This provided the ready made field for an organization composed of parents who had personally experienced the trials and tribulations of their cadets and could sympathize with others in a way a person who had not had the experience could not hope to do.  Also, a group of involved, interested and dedicated parents were more likely to be concerned about the kind of detailed involvement represented in the appointees’ airlift, parents’ weekend and graduation than would a group of officers whose responsibility was to counsel the young men who were interested in attending the Academy. Letters of inquiry were sent to all parents of Wisconsin cadets asking about their interest in, and willingness to support, such an organization and the level of dues they would suggest.

Thus it was that on March 3, 1973 the organizational meeting for WAFAPA, Wisconsin Air Force Academy Parents Association, was held at the Red Carpet Inn, Milwaukee, and a new organization dedicated to the support of Wisconsin cadets and the Air Force Academy was founded. It was an organization which hopefully could insure the continuation of those programs which had, to date, proved themselves so meritoriously.

There were forty three charter members who attended that initial meeting of the newly born organization. A constitution was adopted and the first officers for the organization were elected. They were:

  • Lindy and Doug Osterheld – President
  • Laurie and Ray Wittsitt – Executive Vice President
  • Barbara and Gil Braun – Vice President, North
  • Silvia and Hal Lorenz – Vice President, South
  • Mary and Jack Storer – Secretary-Treasurer

In its formation, delineation was made for all prospective members that this was not just another social organization, but rather was an organization dedicated in the words of the Constitution to:

“Promote a better understanding of the United States Air Force Academy among members and non-members throughout the State of Wisconsin; to establish a strong link of friendship between the parents of cadets, past, present and future which can result in a special relationship of mutual helpfulness on all matters of common interest, with a special emphasis on assistance to parents of cadets and candidates if such assistance is requested or a need is apparent; to assist both the Air Force Academy administration, as requested, and the Wisconsin liaison officers wherever possible; to promote the good and welfare of its members.”

Since the Wisconsin Air Force Academy Parents Association was not envisioned as a social organization, but as an organization having a very special mission, it was agreed that there would be specific activities for the first year. The activities agree to in the charter meeting were as follows:

  1. Appointees’ banquet
  2. Appointees’ flight and housing in Colorado Springs
  3. Transportation, housing and a reception for Parents’ Weekend
  4. The service football game at the Academy (Navy v. Air Force)
  5. A fall and spring meeting of the organization
  6. A newsletter to all members providing information of general interest to cadet parents
  7. Membership lists for information of other cadet parents

The fall meeting took place in October 1973 at the Quality Inn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The parents were given pertinent information about the Academy and became better acquainted among themselves. This was desirable so they would have the understanding and friendship necessary to an organization dedicated to serving one another.

The following March was the first anniversary meeting of the founding of the organization. A banquet was held at the Marriott Inn in Milwaukee and the featured speaker was Brig. Gen. Vandenburg. He was accompanied by four Academy cadets who provided the cadet reaction to questions from parents in attendance. At this meeting the original slate of officers were re-elected and modifications in the constitution were made to permit some additions to the officers. The officers for the second year were:

  1. Lindy and Doug Osterheld – President
  2. Silvia and Hal Lorenz – Executive Vice President
  3. Barbara and Gil Braun – Vice President, North
  4. Martha and Hank Mol – Vice President, South
  5. Mary and Jack Storer – Secretary-Treasurer
  6. Jim and Betty Byers – Vice President Arrangements
  7. Carol and John Toussaint – Vice President Public Relations

Efforts in encouraging participation in the organization thru membership continued and reached 114. The total membership represented  a participation of better than 90%. During this year the original programs, with the exception of the service football game, were expanded and made more comprehensive. Letters of congratulations were written to each member of the senior class of 1974 and in the following year a special printed message was developed for use each year to congratulate the Wisconsin cadets.

Since that first year WAFAPA has continued and expanded the various programs. For the 2011-2012 year we have 50 active families (71%) and approximately 167 Life Members (53%), with one of the earliest being Syl and Jane Sijan – parents of Capt. Lance Sijan (1965).

In 2005 the first website for the club was published. This provided another means for club members to receive information. On July 12, 2007 the club became 501(c)3 certified which has aided in the ability to do fundraising. Over the years our constitution has been revised to accommodate changes as necessary, e.g. we no longer coordinate travel for Appointees to In-processing, the makeup of our Executive Board has changed to better facilitate the changing needs of cadets and parents, our newsletter was replaced by the website, etc.

WAFAPA has been provided with leadership that has kept it strong and active over the years. The presidents that have led WAFAPA so successfully over the years are listed under the Past Presidents tab.

The records of Col. Doug Osterheld provided most of the information from the early years of the Association used in this brief history of WAFAPA. These were combined into a 10th Anniversary report by George and Betty Winkelman in 1983. Without their records and efforts this history would have been lost. Our sincere gratitude to them.