Lithographs capture heritage, preserve legacy, inspire the future

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Gathering of Eagles program, the capstone event of Air University Spaatz Center for Officer Education's Air Command and Staff College, has provided a means to inspire future generations of air and space leaders towards greatness. During the 28-year history of the GOE program, the lithographs from each year's event have served as a lasting reminder of the legendary aviation achievements of the "Eagles."

The lithographs, or lithos, are produced by renowned aviation artist Jay Ashurst, who has done them for 24 of the past 28 years. Although there have been small changes over the years, the lithographs have retained a standard format that makes them universally recognizable.

This year's lithograph is no different with two side-panels featuring Eagle portraits personally signed by each Eagle, and a center panel that depicts a historically accurate view of each aircraft and spacecraft as it appeared during the time it was flown by the Eagle it represents.

"Jay's [Ashurst] accuracy is unmatched, and this year we have invited Eagles who's experiences span from World War II through the 1990s," said Maj. Rob Pekarek, an ACSC student in charge of GOE litho production for this year's class. "Since this is the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, we also wanted to commemorate that event both in the litho and by inviting flight director Gene Kranz and astronaut John Young as Eagles."

The major said he is Mr. Young's sponsor for this year's GOE, and that has special significance for him.

"I grew up in the Houston [Texas] area, and John Young is considered a hero in my home town," he said. "So, it has been a personal honor to work with him on this project."

"The lithos allow us to function," said Maj. Rob Pekarek. "They serve a dual purpose. While they commemorate each year's GOE program, they also provide the funds to bring together a first-class event each year."

Maj. Lance Kent, ACSC faculty advisor for GOE, said the committee has produced 500 lithos for this year's event.

"It generally takes about a month to get all fourteen Eagles to sign all 500 litho side-panels," he said. "We have been selling the lithos 'sight-unseen' to students and others all year."

Major Kent said last year's litho, which was produced during his time as an ACSC student, is a symbol of his ACSC experience and is framed and hanging on his wall. He said many students consider the lithograph a reminder of their time at ACSC and will buy it for that reason alone.

The program's principal funding engine is the production of these world-class lithographs. The annual cost of the program averages $80,000, and while the budget varies from year to year, the litho sales are responsible for raising between 80 and 85 percent of the money that funds the program. The remainder comes from AF funds, plus corporate and individual sponsors.

Maj. Kevin Ingram, GOE president, said the GOE budget is often misunderstood, as people don't realize all that goes into producing the annual events.

"The cost of sending an ACSC student out to each Eagle's location to get the 500 individual signatures is just one of the expenses of GOE," he said. "In addition, there is the cost of making the lithos; printing the lithos; hosting barbecues, lunches and dinners so students can meet and talk with the Eagles; these are all portions of the program's overall cost."

Major Pekarek said this year's litho, and lithos from some of the past years, are still available, and anyone interested in purchasing one or more of the lithos should visit the GOE Web site at: www.au.af.mil/au/goe or send an email requesting information to ACSC.GOE@maxwell.af.mil.

The money will go toward funding this year's gathering as well as future GOE events.