Enid’s chapter of the Air Force Association recently was judged the nation’s best.

Last weekend at the AFA National Convention in National Harbor, Md., representatives of Enid AFA Chapter 214 received the annual D.W. Steele Memorial Award, given annually to the organization’s unit of the year.

Dan Ohnesorge, outgoing president of Chapter 214, said local leaders were notified about the award some three months ago.

“I was surprised, very surprised,” said Ohnesorge. “We kicked around the idea we might get the medium chapter award but I never dreamed we’d get the top chapter.”

The award, according to the AFA’s website, is given annually “to the AFA chapter which has distinguished itself in all fields of the AFA mission — new member procurement, community relations, aerospace education, overall programming, best single program and communications.”

Ohnesorge said several factors went into Chapter 214 receiving the Steele award. The chapter hosted a combined event with the city welcoming Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, commander of Air Education and Training Command, and also put on a reception featuring members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and all other participants prior to the Vance AFB 75th anniversary air show and open house in July 2016.

“That shows a lot of involvement by the citizens,” said Ohnesorge.

The chapter also put on a Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Enid Woodring Regional Airport and helped Vance celebrate its 75th by combining with the Air Force Sergeant’s Association to fund a plaque commemorating the anniversary placed near the base headquarters building.

Chapter 214 members also are involved in the community. Incoming president George Pankonin is a member of the AETC civic leaders group, Ohnesorge is involved with an Enid Public Schools STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) committee, several AFA members are part of the Vance Development Authority and six are Partners in the Sky.

The local AFA chapter also sponsored the 70th Anniversary United States Air Force Community Ball, held last Saturday night at Central National Bank Center. The event was attended by some 500 civilians and military members.

In 2016 Chapter 214 set a goal of adding 100 new community partners. The group wound up adding 101, boosting its membership to more than 200.

“I think that showed something,” said Ohnesorge.

“I think that’s almost an unimaginable stretch for many of the chapters,” said Pankonin. “Most of the states in the United States don’t come anywhere near 100 community partners.”

AFA’s mission is, according to the national organization’s website, “to promote a dominant United States Air Force and a strong national defense, and to honor airmen and our Air Force heritage.”

This is accomplished through a three-pronged approach — educate, advocate and support.

Story provided by:  Enid News & Eagle

Written by:  Jeff Mullin