1974- 2020: 46 years of SFA. Our Chapter formation was not without some drama. It was a difficult process to find ten current dues-paying members to qualify for applying to become a chapter. The post-Vietnam drawdown led to our loss of the Reserve 40th SF “Det B” and subordinate “A Dets.” While many unit members were assigned to non-airborne units, an informal “SF” group had already become established. This core provided the ten names qualified to establish Chapter VIII. They were: James R. Bolan, Earl Kalani (Dec), Joseph B.W. Smith (Dec), Robert Silva, William Ferguson, Paul Tracy (Dec), Vernon Broad (Dec), Nelson Ahina, John Cavalho, and James Roach.
The drawdown resulted in many SF qualified SNCOs being assigned to various Hawaii -based HQs and the 25th ID. Bill Coombs, a recruiting wizard, was instrumental in enticing many of them into the Chapter VIII ranks or other chapters being formed on the mainland. Chapter membership grew to nearly 300 and led to the robust initiation of community activities and interaction , many of which continue today.
The Chapter has always been a strong supporter of Hawaii’s Senior and Junior ROTC programs and formed the catalyst to resist post-Vietnam political pressure in eliminating some units. Many Chapter members supported the build-up of units in the islands. All these activities were funded by an annual raffle coupled with a “Luau” which drew three to four hundred guests, a tradition that continued well into the 1980s. It was during this period, in 1978, that the Chapter sponsored a very successful SFA Convention. Today, we hold a much reduced fund raiser in the form of a games day “Summer Bash”. An annual tradition since 1977, the Chapter’s participation in the Armed Forces Annual Veterans Day Parade ended in 2013. Age and reduced membership has forced a re-prioritizing of energies and activities that can be sustained.
All these 40+ years, Chapter VIII has held a monthly meeting and published a newsletter, the “Coconut Wireless.” While the meeting place migrated over the years, It appears we have a permanent “home” at the Oahu Veterans Center (OVC). We recently added video teleconference meetings via Zoom for those who can not make it to the meeting.
We believe Chapter VIII to be the oldest, continuous active chapter in SFA and even sponsored the formation of Chapter 43, on the island of Hawaii (Big Island) to accommodate the many members residing there. Due to re-settlement over the years, Chapter 43 now has a world-wide footprint.
Reduced in numbers by father time, Chapter VIII is faced by a lack of organic SF units from which to recruit and US Army Hawaii residents are not returning due to high housing costs and lack of job opportunities. A large pool that we leverage are the Green Berets that are assigned to Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) at Camp Smith. The Chapter proudly carries on with as many traditional activities as possible. Membership meetings, chapter newsletter, annual college scholarship, ROTC program awards, as well as many civil and military ceremonies are supported by a still vibrant but, sadly, aging membership. We always welcome visitors to our monthly meetings on the 1st Sunday of each month. If planning to attend, it helps immensely if we know in advance of your itinerary and accommodations. ALOHA from the Islands!