Wing Pillars

These are the people who make the "Tex" Hill Wing what it is today. Their extraordinary efforts create a cornerstone upon which others can express the ideals and services to which the "Tex" Hill Wing is dedicated.


COLONEL JOHN GIBEAU

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Colonel John Gibeau was the "Tex" Hill Wing Leader from 2009 until 2014. He stepped down from the position, having served 2 terms of 2 years each, the maximum allowed by CAF. He then assumed the Staff position of Executive Officer. 

After a 21 year(!) battle with prostate cancer, brought on by ingestion of Agent Orange during the Viet Nam war, Colonel Gibeau passed from this earth in the spring of 2017.

Year of Commission:  I was commissioned in 2009.

How did you join?  Chuck Beasley, who got "Tex" Hill to approve the use of his name for the Wing, signed me up.

What were some of your early experiences?  At my very first meeting with the "Tex" Hill Wing, Chuck began feeling me out for the Wing Leader position. Two months later, I was unanimously appointed to the position. I had no experience whatsoever, and only had the perception of the Commemorative Air Force as a bunch of pilots flying World War II birds.

You’ve been in the CAF for 5 years—what positions have you held?  I was appointed as the Wing Leader two months into my membership, and served in that position until 2014. I am now Executive Officer for the Wing.

What have you gotten out of the CAF?  I have a much better appreciation for the men and women who fought in World War II, and for the aircraft that they flew. I have come to appreciate the rich heritage that the CAF continues to preserve. World War II was a major battle for freedom, and its memory needs to be perpetuated forever. The CAF does it part by keeping as many of the WWII birds flying, and available to the public as much as is possible. 

Why are you still in the CAF?  I love what the CAF stands for. I love what we are doing here at the Hondo airport, which, during WWII, was the Hondo Army Air Field. It was the place a large majority of the Navigators for our bombers in the war were trained. And, it saw service again during the Korean War when it was reactivated for basic pilot training. There is a  lot of history here. 

We, as the "Tex" Hill Wing, do as much as we can to honor those who have, and are, serving our country in the military. We have public events on Armed Forces Day, and on Veterans Day, honoring those who have and those who are serving their country. 

We have recently adopted an L-5 liaison aircraft, and are bringing it up to CAF restoration standards. This type of aircraft was the beginning of what we now call Medical Evacuation. 

And, of course, our namesake David Lee "Tex" Hill, was a member of the famous Flying Tigers, who were actively involved in the war before the United States was officially involved after Pearl Harbor. 

We are in the process of raising funds for an aviation museum at the Hondo airport to educate this generation of Americans and the ones to come about what happened here.

What's the best thing in the CAF and the "Tex" Hill Wing?  The CAF is a professional organization. It has set a high standard for how it conducts itself. Its mission to preserve the old warbirds means a lot to me. Under that umbrella, the "Tex" Hill Wing has established its mission to Honor, Preserve, and Educate. It is all such a noble effort.

Any closing comments?  I am proud of what the "Tex" Hill Wing has accomplished since 2009. We've seen growth in our membership from just a handful to what it is today. We have adopted the L-5, along with two WWII Jeeps, which we are also restoring. We have had four fly-ins and our first, very successful air show. I am really excited about the future of the "Tex" Hill Wing, and grateful for the support of the City Fathers of Hondo, particularly Mayor Danner, who has been our strongest advocate from the beginning.


COLONEL JACK CAWOOD

Year of Commission:  I was commissioned a long time ago during the 1970s in the Harlingen Wing.

How did you join?  I started flying in the Civil Air Patrol when I was 15.  Later, I went to the University of Texas because the Korean War was on and I couldn’t wait to graduate and fly the P-51 Mustang.  However, the doctors said I had a depth perception problem and the USAF denied my request for flight training.  After that I enlisted, went to Officer Training School, and went to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho where I met my wife.  After I left the Air Force, I was a businessman living in the Rio Grande Valley and I wanted to be a member of the CAF.  I still wanted to fly and best way to fly airplanes was to work on them because they always went up on a test flight after maintenance.  So, I joined the Heinkel Squadron and a year later my wife Margaret joined.

What were some of your early experiences?  Well, I’d hang out in the hangar and work on any airplane that needed to be fixed.  I worked on the Heinkel 111, PT-17 Stearman, PT-19, a Russian biplane trainer… oh yeah, and a De Havilland Tiger Moth.  I helped restore a couple of US jeeps as well as a German staff car.  I took care of the Blue Angels one year and drove them along the ramp in that staff car—we had a ball that year.

You’ve been in the CAF for 30 plus years—what positions have you held?  I’ve only been in two units… the Heinkel Squadron in the Harlingen Wing plus the “Tex” Hill Wing at Hondo.  And I was a CAF member-at-large in between then.  I also worked as a guide in the CAF museum.  But I didn’t hold any Wing positions.

What have you gotten out of the CAF?  We’ve had a lot of great experiences… for instance, the CAF HQ found out Margaret and I were going to England in 1991 for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and asked if we would go as official representatives of the CAF.  We had a wonderful time and were escorted by an English admiral who had been a pilot during the attack on Taranto.

Margaret had a direct hand in the CAF’s oral history program and she started it from scratch.  She knew the stories had to be captured before they were all lost… so she developed the initial guidelines and procedures and began documenting the stories.  After a year, the CAF Staff placed Margaret in charge of the program… it probably didn’t hurt that she could speak German.  She met a lot of people from England, Germany, Holland, and America… and those people had so many really fascinating stories.  She does things and she does them well, so it was no surprise that one year she received the Silver Magnolia Blossom Award for her work.  And you can find those stories on cassette tapes at the Headquarters in Midland.

Later on, I also helped the CAF establish the committee to relocate the CAF HQ to Midland due to some of the local politics.  But the decision to move is another story in and of itself.


Why are you still in the CAF?  I’m a frustrated pilot at heart… but it’s been so fun.  I’ve enjoyed hanging around the aircraft and the pilots.  And seeing how the “Tex” Hill Wing started out and where it is today—it’s just blossomed.

What's the best thing in the CAF and the “Tex” Hill Wing?  Flying and fixing aircraft when we were living in the Valley… it’s always been the camaraderie of the fixing and the flying.  And now, we’ve got such a fun group.


COLONEL DON WOODHAM

CAF Hall Of Fame

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Year of Commission:  1976

Who sponsored you in the CAF?  Colonel John Stokes from San Marcos was my sponsor.

How did you join?   I was selling insurance to large construction clients like John Stokes and it seemed natural that if I was selling insurance then maybe I should check ‘em out.  

What were some of your early experiences?  A lot of general maintenance and grunt work like changing the oil and spark plugs on John’s B-25.   But later, I got together with several other individuals, purchased one of John’s aircraft, and named it the “Yellow Rose” after Emily Rose from San Antonio. We launched a full-blown restoration program and subsequently turned a junked B-25 into a flying phoenix.  I also qualified as flight engineer and we flew the Rose across the United States on multiple tours before donating it to the CAF.

You’ve been in the CAF for more than 35 years—what positions have you held?  No General Staff positions but nearly all Wing/Squadron leadership positions except Finance Officer.  I served in multiple units, including: the Alamo Wing, Yellow Rose Squadron, Hill Country Squadron, and the “Tex” Hill Wing.

What have you gotten out of the CAF?  I have had many wonderful experiences of associating with some very dedicated caring people during the years.  I have had the opportunity to help restore a vintage B-25, the Yellow Rose and participate in many fly-ins and airshows over the years.  I was born at the start of WWII.  As a young boy, I often stood on my porch in Jacksonville, Fla. and watched the Navy Corsairs fly over my house. We would draw pictures of the Corsair and P-51, two of my favorites. I had always wanted to be around and maybe one day fly one of these aircraft. Years later, when I discovered the CAF in the early 70's, I jumped at a chance to be associated with an organization that was restoring and flying these aircraft. After spending around 5 years working on the Yellow Rose and then see it fly is hard to describe. Ultimately, I was offered a chance to fly it as well.  It took me about a week to land… I was on a definite natural high.  

Why am you still in the CAF?  I still believe in the key goals and objectives of the CAF. The restoration and flying of these aircraft is important, but the education of the younger generation to the sacrifices these men and women gave during WWII should be remembered and passed on to the next generation. We should learn from the past, not repeat it.

What's the best thing in the CAF and the “Tex” Hill Wing?  People!  I have been blessed with many friends over the years while participating in the CAF.  I have met some very interesting people and had the opportunity to spread the word of the CAF for many years. My parents always told my brother and I that you only get out of something only as much as you put in.  It’s still having fun “putting in” after 37 years.

Any closing comments?  I’ve always been interested in aviation, World War Two history, and I love seeing things happen. You get out of it what you put into it. I feel like I’ve been married to the CAF—she’s been a faithful partner. Interestingly, my ex-wife said she felt I was reincarnated from that period in the 1940s.

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