Major General Bob Butcher (USMC, Retired, Chairman of the Board)
Bob is a distinguished Marine Corps aviator with worldwide service. He is a recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; the United States' highest non-combat related military award. Serving in the Republic of Vietnam he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, 15 Air Medals and the Bronze Star.
His assignments included; Assistant Wing Commander; Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Policy for Naval Striking Forces Southern Europe, Naples, Italy; and Commanding General of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade of over 14,000 Marines. He was Commander of Landing Force Training Command at Coronado when retiring in 1992.
In retirement his community commitments have included President of the Silver Strand Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, Deputy Commander West of the Marine Corps Aviation Association, Board of Directors of the USS Midway Museum, Board of Directors of the Centennial of Naval Aviation Foundation, and Board of Directors of the Coronado Council of the US Navy League.
Brigadier General Michael J. Aguilar (USMC, Retired, Vice Chairman)
In addition to commanding a helicopter squadron and air group, he was also the Director of the West Coast Drill Instructor School, the first aviator to hold the billet. Staff assignments include Senior Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Deputy Director for Operations, the National Military Command Center, the Joint Staff.
He is a veteran of the Gulf War. His personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. He has the added distinction of being the first person of Mexican descent to reach the rank of General Officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Colonel Fred Allega (USMC, Retired)
Fred had distinguished careers in both the Marine Corps and private sector. He served two combat tours in the Republic of Vietnam where he received two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals and twenty-seven Air Medals. He later served as Presidential Helicopter Aircraft Commander for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He was a Marine Air Group Commander and in 1981 was selected as the Marine Corps Aviator of the Year.
Retiring from the Marine Corps in 1990, Colonel Allega served as the Executive General Manager of Mercury Air Group responsible for aircraft refueling and maintenance services at five operating locations in California and Nevada to include Los Angeles International Airport until his retirement in 2007.
Patrick Ball has devoted his career to Education. For over 27 years Patrick served the non-profit sector in various capacities at the Gemologicial Institute of America (GIA) including; classroom and online instructor, Director, GIA New York, Director, GIA Alumni Association, Director of Training and Director of International Operations. He is internationally recognized as a leader in educational delivery, alumni membership development, and the design and implementation of digital technology for educational content delivery. A Graduate Gemologist with an expertise in diamonds and colored stones, Patrick has traveled the globe as a public speaker, project management consultant, and public relations liaison. Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has written numerous articles and blogs and has produced several series of educational podcasts. He holds a B.S. from The University of Phoenix in e-Business.
Lieutenant Colonel Joe Bassi, PhD (USAF, Retired)
Joseph P. (Joe) Bassi, Assistant Professor of Arts and Sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/Worldwide, completed his PhD in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara in June 2009. He specialized in the history of modern US science. Most recently, he was a senior project engineer with the Aerospace Corporation supporting national security space efforts at Vandenberg AFB. During his PhD program, Professor Bassi was an Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation National Science Foundation IGERT Public Policy and Nuclear Threats research fellow at University of California, San Diego and also was a Guggenheim pre-doctoral fellow in Space History at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
A retired US Air Force officer with twenty-six years of active duty, he at various points in his military career served as Director of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (Guam), Professor of Strategic Studies at a DOD professional college, Headquarters US Air Force Action Officer and Program Element Manager, Chief of the Acquisition Meteorology Office at Air Force Space Systems Division, and Assistant Professor of Physics at the USAF Academy. After retirement from active service, Professor Bassi served as a space policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense while working for the Aerospace Corporation.
In addition to the PhD, he has graduate degrees in Meteorology from Penn State, Astrophysics from the University of Colorado, and History from the George Washington University. While at GWU, he was a NASA Space Grant Research Fellow at the Space Policy Institute, Elliot School of International Affairs. He graduated from Manhattan College in 1974 with a BS in Physics (Phi Beta Kappa) and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program. His current interests include the role of technology in national security, national space policy, and US space science history.
Colonel Victor Bianchini (USMCR, Retired)
Victor is a distinguished Reserve Marine Corps Legal Officer, civilian lawyer, and San Diego County Superior Court Judge. His active duty tours are numerous, but include; Trial and/or Defense Counsel for Court Martials and a Civil Affairs Officer in the Republic of Vietnam, Inspector General at Marine Corps Headquarters during the 1991 Gulf War, and Senior Reserve Judge for Court Martials at Camp Pendleton. He is an aircraft owner holding commercial multi-engine and helicopter licenses.
He has both practiced law and taught law; been San Diego Trial Lawyers’ Judge of the Year, served as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in the Sub-Saharan African country of Eritrea, been President of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Historical Society, Vice-chairman of the Vietnam Veteran’s Village of San Diego, a member of the National Judicial College Faculty Council, President of the San Diego County Law Library Board of Trustees, and President of the San Diego County Law Library Justice Foundation.
Edward DeRoche, PhD
Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., joined the University of San Diego's School of Education as dean in 1979 and returned to the faculty as professor and director of the Center for Character Development Center in 1998. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Maine and a M.Ed. degree from Eastern Connecticut State University. From the University of Connecticut he earned a M. A. and a Ph.D. degree. DeRoche has been an elementary and junior high school teacher and principal, a member of a public school board of education, and has served on several private school boards. He is the past president of the California Association of Teacher Educators, past vice president of the San Diego Council on Literacy, and a former member of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. He also served as a member of the National Commission on Character Education for the Association of Teacher Educators. DeRoche has published more than fifty articles in education journals and many articles in daily newspapers. He has authored or co-authored several books on education topics including teaching, administrative leadership, and character education.
John R. Ferguson
John brings over 30 years of executive-level management experience in the private sector to the Foundation. He held increasingly responsible positions at Puretek, Kinney Air Conditioning and ARCO. He then built his own HVAC company into $12 million in annual sales with 250 employees. He currently acquires, manages, retains and sells properties and teaches seminars about real estate. John has a BA from California State University at Fullerton.
Throughout Patricia's business career, she has worked in management consulting and direct business management for organizations including PacifiCare Health System, Price Waterhouse and Maritz Research. She also was a lecturer in marketing and research methods for the University of San Francisco. Her current business interests are in healthcare and nonprofit organizations. Patricia has a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. She also holds certifications in museum management (Northwestern University) and fundraising management (Indiana University).
Frank Lorey is a Federal and State-registered Historian and owner of Historical Archaeology Services. He has written 15 books (most are college-level textbooks) and has authored over 530 published magazine and journal articles. He was a regular guest star on the History Channel's "Wild West Tech" show for two seasons, and has appeared on numerous PBS, HGTV, and other network shows. Much of his archaeology work has involved investigating historical aircraft wrecks throughout the western United States.
Frank has also founded several non-profit groups and served on the board of directors of many. He was project manager and historical designer for Old Poway Park, and is rated as Museum Curator I and II by the State of California.
Rear Admiral Lou Smith (USN, Retired)
Lou Smith is a career naval officer in the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. He completed three tours in Vietnam, supervising construction of combat facilities for the Marines. Later in his naval career, he was sent to Washington, DC where he worked with the Department of Defense and Congress on military base construction projects.
He retired from the Navy in 2000 as a two-star Admiral, directly responsible for more than 360 major naval bases throughout the world.
After retiring, he chose to work in the public sector, serving as Chief Administrative Officer for San Diego City Schools. He had a major role in the execution of Proposition MM, a $1.5 billion school bond.
Smith most recently served as Vice President of Facilities for Sharp Healthcare in San Diego. During his tenure there, he was involved in the construction of two new hospitals, each with a construction value of more than $150 million. He retired from Sharp in 2008.
A registered professional civil engineer, Smith is a Fellow and Past National President of the Society of Military Engineers. His civic experience includes serving on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Taxpayer's Association, and the Board of Sharp Coronado Hospital.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard "Touch" Toettcher
Richard (Touch) Toettcher was commission a 2nd Lt in Oct.1963. His first duty assignment after being designated a Naval Aviator was with MAG-36 at MCAS Tustin, serving with HMM-363,263, and 361.Deployed to RVN with HMM-361 in 1965. Transitioned to the A-4 (Skyhawk) in 1968 and served a tour with VMA-211 at Chu Lai, RVN.
Attended the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School in 1970 and, upon completion, was sent to MCAS Yuma as a flight instructor. Was promoted to major in 1972 and ended that tour as the Executive Officer of VMAT 102.
Subsequent command assignments included Executive Officer of VMA-214, Commanding Officer of Wing Transportation Squadron and Commanding Officer of Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 13.
Touch retired from the Marine Corps in 1986 and subsequently worked as production pilot for the T-45 and, from 1991 to retirement in 2010, he served in various positions of increasing responsibility at DynCorp.
Patrick Towle is the Chief Financial Officer of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation. He has been volunteering his professional expertise to the Foundation since 2013.
Patrick Towle is a CPA in private practice. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from San Diego State University. In 1996, Mr. Towle received his Master of Science in Accountancy, also from San Diego State.
After working for Arthur Andersen and several other industry leading companies in the Technology and Professional Service industries, Mr. Towle went into private practice.
While in private practice, Mr. Towle has continued to work with global companies in such diverse industries as Medical Equipment and Manufacturing.
Mr. Towle’s connection to Marine Corps aviation goes back to birth. He is the son and brother of Marine Aviators. He is a valued member of the Foundation’s executive management team.
Major Francis “Mike” Wifler (USMC, Retired)
Mike enlisted in the Marine Corps and served as a Field Radio Operator with a rifle company. He served a tour in the Republic of Vietnam where he was wounded.
He later became a commissioned officer and served as the principal aide to a Marine Air Control Group commanding officer, and Deputy Commander of the Los Angeles Military Entrance Processing Station. Among his awards are the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat ‘V‘ for Valor.
After retiring from the Marine Corps he served as Operations Manager, Facility and Security Manager, or Plant Manager for several privately owned electronics manufacturing plants in San Diego.
Sergeant Major Michael Zacker (USMC, Retired)
Mike is a highly decorated and accomplished Marine whose illustrious worldwide career on land, sea and air spanned two wars. He served four tours in the Republic of Vietnam participating in 451 helicopter combat missions. He was a helicopter crew chief and machine gunner; rifle platoon sergeant; search and recovery swimmer; and held senior executive positions. His military awards are extensive and cover both Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf War, for example, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with combat ‘V’ for Valor and twenty-two Strike Flight Awards, and Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat ‘V’ and Gold star.
Retiring after a thirty-year career, he completed his education and became a real estate agent and manager of a mortgage company. He again retired and became a community volunteer where his many services include the American Red Cross, and the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
"Ex Officio" Members
Steve "Smitty" Smith, Museum Curator
Steve “Smitty” Smith is the Curator of the Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum. Smitty assumed his duties on 1 February 2009. He initially joined the museum restoration section as a volunteer in 1994 at MCAS El Toro, and was directly involved in the museum’s relocation to Miramar. Smitty joined FLAM as a full-time employee in 1999 as the Museum Librarian. He was promoted to Assistant Curator in 2001.
Smitty served in the United States Marine Corps from 1979 to 1999. He retired as a Staff Sergeant and Motor Transport Operations Chief at MCAS El Toro. Smitty is married to Deanne Shearn-Smith (also a museum volunteer), and has a son named Travis.
Smitty has had a life-long passion for aviation and military aircraft. He has attended more than 100 air shows around the country and in Japan, and has visited at least 60 aviation museums in both the United States and Canada. Smitty has an extensive personal library dedicated to aviation, Marine aviation, aircraft markings and identification. He is the author of the book “Warbird Watchers Guide To The California Skies” available at the museum store.
Smitty is currently completing work on an FAA certificate for Airframes & Powerplants. He is also pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in History.
Jon H. Epsten
Jon H. Epsten is the founding shareholder in the law firm of Epsten Grinnell & Howell, APC. Jon is a native San Diegan who graduated from the University of San Diego and obtained his law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, graduating with scholastic merit.
For years, Jon acted as a community association manager. He has attended over 1,800 association meetings. Jon’s work on behalf of community associations encompasses providing advice on all types of corporate matters including directors and officers' defense, mold and mildew litigation, interpretation and enforcement of governing documents, assessment collection, construction defect litigation, and reconstruction issues. Jon has participated in and been lead counsel on many construction defect cases resulting in multimillion dollar settlements. He actively advises associations on risk management and insurance and contract issues.
Jon has taught as an adjunct professor of law at California Western School of Law. He is past president of both the San Diego Chapter and the Greater Inland Empire Chapter of the Community Associations Institute and has testified as an expert witness in community association-related issues. Additionally, Jon was a contributor to the Continuing Education of the Bar Publication "Advising California Common Interest Communities." He acts as a law faculty instructor for the Community Associations Institute (CAI).
Jon has also been an active member of the California Association of Community Managers (CACM), was a member of the Professional Standards Committee, and has been appointed to the CACM faculty. He is a member of the San Diego County Bar Association, the Foothills Bar Association, and the College of Community Association Lawyers (CAI). Jon was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by both the San Diego Chapter and the Greater Inland Empire Chapter of the Community Associations Institute and has received the CAI National Hall of Fame Award. He has been the co-chair of the Committee on Common Interests Subdivisions for the State Bar, and acted as a probation monitor for the State Bar.
Jon is a valued member of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation’s team.
Chuck Meadows, Office Manager
For nearly seven years Chuck has overseen the day-to-day operations of the Foundation by providing administrative assistance to the Board of Directors and management team. He also serves as liaison between the Foundation and Museum staff and is the Foundation’s primary point of contact for volunteers, MCAS Miramar military leaders and the general public.
He is a talented writer and regularly contributes to the Foundation’s publication, The Log Book. He also has published articles in several regional newspapers. He holds a BA degree in Journalism and Public Relations from Creighton University and an MBA from the University of Redlands.
Ginger Raaka, Retail Manager
Ginger brings to the Museum store many years of experience in non-profit retail. She held the position of Director of Retail for both the San Diego Historical Society and the Coronado Historical Association. As a non-profit retail consultant, she reinvented the museum store at the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City and set up a brand new store at Sewell Belmont House and Museum in Washington, D.C.
Ginger’s expertise lies in public relations, merchandising, window display, event planning, and store design. With the perspective of an accomplished interior decorator, she recognizes the roles product presentation and store design play in creating the pleasant, fun shopping experience that leads to increased sales and revenue for the Museum. Her design signature is already evident in some areas of the store, and she looks forward to implementing more improvements in the future.
Her Downtown San Diego interior decorating practice, Ginger Raaka Interiors, received “Best of Houzz” awards for design in 2016 and 2017.