Jeff Longwell – Honorary Chairman
- Mayor of Wichita, Kansas
Ron Estes – Honorary Chairman
Jeffrey Penfield – Chairman
Jeffrey Penfield Bio
Rear Adm. Jeffrey Penfield was commissioned in October 1982 via the Aviation Officer Candidate Program and earned his Navy Wings of Gold in June 1984. His operational assignments include Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA 136) as a plankowner, VFA-94 and command of VFA-115. While in command, he deployed on the maiden F/A-18E Super Hornet cruise participating in Operations Enduring Freedom, Southern Watch and the initial combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His shore tour assignments include Training Squadron (VT-23), Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 5, the Super Hornet Fleet Introduction Team and VX-9 where he was the lead operational test director for the F/A-18E/F operational evaluation.
His assignments as an acquisition professional include program manager air (PMA) 265, the F/ A-18 & EA-18G Program Office; command of PMA-259, the Navy’s Air-to-Air Missile Program Office; command of PMA-268, the Navy Unmanned Combat Aerial System Program Office; and assignment to the Naval Air Systems Command staff working Integration and Interoperability initiatives.
Penfield’s flag assignments were commander, Fleet Readiness Centers and commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force.
Penfield retired from the Navy on 01 September 2016 after 34 years of service. Penfield has over 4,000 flight hours and 750 carrier landings. He has been recognized as the 1995 Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet Pilot of the Year and the National Defense Industrial Association Navy Military Tester of the Year for 1999. He has been awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (two awards), the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Air Medal (six awards, one individual with combat V/ five Strike Flight), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards, one with combat V), and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Awards along with various other personal, unit and service medals.
Penfield is currently serving as the Chairman of the Commissioning Committee’s for the USS WICHITA (LCS-13) and USS KANSAS CITY (LCS-22). He is a board member for Camp Valor Outdoors, a member of the Greater Kansas City chapter of People-to-People, and a member of the Greater Kansas City chapter of Navy League
Pat Gallagher – Co-chair
Pat Gallagher Bio
Ms. Gallagher is a native Kansan and a 35-year employee of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce where her career has encompassed government/military relations at the local, state and federal level. In recent years she has focused primarily on area military interests. A member of U.S. Senator Jerry Moran’s Military Council and KS Governor Jeff Colyer’s Military Affairs Council, she is also an alumni member of General Carlton Everhart’s Air Mobility Command Civic Council and a past McConnell AFB Honorary Commander. Appointed a McConnell AFB Golden Eagle by Lt Gen James Vechery in 2009, Ms Gallagher was integrally involved in the Wichita Chamber’s lobbying effort to secure McConnell Air Force Base as the initial Main Operating Base for the next generation air refueler, the KC46. That aircraft is expected to arrive at McConnell in late 2018. She is the Director of the Wichita Regional Chamber’s affiliate: The Friends of McConnell (FOM), a civilian support organization that provides financial support for base programs that benefit McConnell’s airmen and their families. The FOM was recognized by Air Mobility Command (AMC) Headquarters in 2016 as the winner of the coveted Abilene Trophy awarded annually to the AMC host community that exhibits the best support of their AMC base.
Ward Cook – Executive Director
Ward Cook Bio
Ward Cook is a graduate of the University of Kansas in 1999 with degrees in Communications and History. He served on the Washington, D.C., staff of former U. S. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO). He has worked in government relations for 17 years and served in the Navy League for nine years.
David Dennis Bio
David T. Dennis and his wife Janet of 47 years, have two sons, David, a teacher at Northwest High School, and Eric, a principal in Conestoga School District, Nebraska. They have five grandchildren, Brittany, Amanda, Devan, William and Elizabeth. David served in the United States Air Force for 29 years and worked his way up through the ranks from Airman to Colonel. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Education from Fort Hays State University and a Masters of Arts degree in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Following his retirement from the Air Force, he returned to school at Wichita State University and obtained his teacher’s license and taught at North High School for 11 years. He was elected to the Kansas State Board of Education in 2008 and served as the chairman for two years. He was a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of State Boards of Education, and served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Locally, he served as the Chairman of the District V Advisory Board for eight years and served as a Commissioner on the Wichita and Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Commission for nine years, he is the president of his homeowner’s association, was a Boy Scout leader for 30 years and recipient of the highest awards a Boy Scout District and Council can present to a volunteer. He is an Eucharistic Minister for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church and a member of the Knights of Columbus. He was elected in 2016 to the Sedgwick County Board of County Commissioners to represent District 3.
James Hand – Treasurer
- Koch Siedhoff Hand & Dunn, LLP
- Certified Public Accountants
Mark Kiefer – Chief Counsel
Sharon Hamric – Pubic Affairs Officer
Sharon Hamric Bio
Ms. Hamric served seven years as a Navy Public Affairs Officer and 17 years in the Reserves before retiring at the rank of 0-6. She is the first woman to complete the Navy’s Jungle Environmental Survival Training in the Republic of the Philippines. Sharon is the proud daughter, sister and mother of Navy veterans.
She spent four of the happiest years of her life, and made lifelong friends, while studying journalism at the University of Florida.
She worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist for 24 years at United Press International Boston, The Tampa Tribune and The Wichita Eagle. Ms. Hamric retired in 2016 after five years as Civic Outreach Chief at Wichita’s McConnell Air Force Base.
Sharon is a board member of the Greater Wichita YMCA and Vet-to-Vet Support Command, Inc. She has three lively daughters.
- Communications and Special Events Manager
- Mayor & City Council Office
Megan Lovely Bio
Education: Megan graduated in 2011 from Wichita State University with degrees in Integrated Marketing Communication and English. She earned her Mini Master’s in public relations certification in 2017.
Job Description: In November of 2015, Megan joined the Mayor and City Council office. Her responsibilities include overseeing the city’s social media, speech writing, handling the Mayor’s weekly media briefings, event management, working with community partners.
Background: Prior to joining the City of Wichita, Megan was the Marketing Manager at Envision. Prior to that, she worked as the franchise development marketing manager for Jack DeBoer after working for over five years doing public relations and copywriting at RSA Marketing and Associated Advertising.
Megan was born and raised in Wichita.
Wink Hartman II
Howard Hutchinson Bio
Howard “Hutch” Hutchison, retired U.S. Air Force; Founder/Convener of the Veteran Providers’ Coalition of Sedgwick County; Sr. VP of Vet-to-Vet Support Command. Served as Chairman of the Veterans’ Advocacy Council for Mental Health from 2011 to 2015. Serves on boards of Greater Wichita Area Veterans Advocacy Board, Suicide Prevention Coalition and Crisis Intervention Team.
Herb Duncan Bio
Navy veteran. Volunteer Coordinator for Kansas Honor Flights.
Patty Gnefkow Bio
President & CEO and Co-founder of Vet-to-Vet Support Command, Inc. Patty brings her expertise in veteran related and behavioral health services, civic leadership as a Kansas Leadership Center Alum, decades of not-for-profit development and administration, volunteer management, grant writing, fundraising, networking skills and vast community connections. Ms. Gnefkow holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and earned an American Humanics Minor and Certification in Human Service Administration from Rockhurst University, Kansas City, MO. Patty is an alum of the Kansas Leadership Center and served as the Director of Compeer at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas for nearly 10 years overseeing mentoring programs for adults, children and veterans. Ms. Gnefkow is the Vice Chair of the Veteran Providers’ Coalition of Sedgwick County, a member of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Sedgwick County, Community Crisis Center Committee (CCC), Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Committee, Continuum of Care (COC) of Sedgwick County, Wichita My VA Community Committee at the Robert J. Dole VAMC, Volunteer Manager’s Meetings at United Way of the Plains and Veteran Event Planning Committee through Alpha 1 Drop Zone.
Bill Nestelroad Bio
Retired Wichita Fire Department Captain & Conway Springs Fire Department.
Active Chaplain with the Wichita Fire Dept. and Conway Springs Fire Dept.
KS Honor Flight volunteer.
Member Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church.
Graduate of Wichita State University with a Bachelors in Fire Protection Engineering.
Married to Ellen McCue, 4 children and 7 grandchildren.
Leigh Bellinger Bio
Leigh Bellinger began his Air Force career in 1990 when he attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He then completed technical training at the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, as a Radio & Television Broadcasting Specialist. His assignments included Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Lajes Field, the Azores, Portugal, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Ft. Meade, Maryland and McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.
During his 21 year career, Mr. Bellinger deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. His career as a broadcaster took him around the world where he has covered stories in 27 states and 22 countries. He was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Air Force Combat Action Medal and the Army Combat Action Badge.
Following retirement from the Air Force, Mr. Bellinger became the community relations chief for the 22d Air Refueling Wing at McConnell. It was a perfect fit since he was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in Print Journalism in 1996. His wife, Michelle, is also a former Air Force broadcaster. They have three cats.
Jody Gragg Bio
Jody Gragg is a native of Valley Center, Kan. from a family with a Naval tradition. His father had been a ball turret gunner on a TBF Avenger assigned to the USS Kitkum Bay CVE-71 during WWII. Jody studied biology and graduated from Emporia State University in 1980 and completed paramedic training at University of Kansas Medical Center in 1981. He served as a paramedic for five years in Hutchinson, Kansas before be hired as a flight paramedic with the Wesley Medical Center LifeWATCH Air Ambulance Program in 1986. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Fort Hays State University in 1988 and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve after attending Direct Commission Officer Training in Pensacola, Florida in 1989 and began drilling at the Naval Operational Support Center Wichita. In 1991 he was deployed with Combat Zone Fleet Hospital 22 during Desert Storm as a casualty receiving nurse in the trauma department. Upon returning he flew for LifeWATCH as a Flight Nurse / Paramedic for 15 years promoted to Chief Flight Nurse for the program in 1998. In 2002 he received an appointment to attend the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine Military Flight Nurse Program where he earned his gold wings as a Naval Flight Nurse. In 2005 he was deployed for a year to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with Expeditionary Medical Facility Dallas assigned to Casualty Receiving and ICU for the first 6 months before being promoted to Commander and became the Office in Charge of the Troop Medical Clinic at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. After his deployment he served on four U.S. Navy humanitarian medical missions to Ghana Africa, Panama, Honduras, and was the Officer in Charge of a mission to Trinidad & Tobago. During his Naval career he served on two ships, the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS CARL VINSON. He retired from the Navy as a Commander with 23 years of service in 2012 having earned 4 Navy Commendation Medals, 1 Navy Achievement Medal, 1 Army Achievement Metal and numerous other service awards. In 2012 he earned a Master of Healthcare Leadership from Friends University. He is currently the Senior Director of Outreach Service for the Via Christi Health System. Jody is a Life Member of the National Eagle Scout Association.