About the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation

Preserves and Shares the Legacy of USMC Aviation

Our History

The original Foundation was established in 1989 at MCAS El Toro. When Base Realignment closed El Toro in 1999, a group of retired Marines from San Diego, led by Major Generals Bob Butcher and Frank Lang, formed the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation and moved the aircraft and artifacts to MCAS Miramar.

In March 2021 the leadership of MCAS Miramar announced that it could no longer host the museum on the grounds of the base. The City of Irvine offered to host the  museum in its original hangars at the closed MCAS El Toro, now called Great Park. The move of the aircraft and artifacts to Great Park is being overseen by Brigadier General Michael Aguilar, the Executive Director of the Flying Leatherneck HIstorical Foundation. The target date for opening the museum at its new location is August 2023.

The Foundation provides volunteers to restore historic aircraft and staff the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. It also provides funds and materials to support the restoration and maintenance of historical aircraft and artifacts, offers  educational programs, preserves oral histories and hosts military service awards and ceremonies.

OUR MISSION, VISION & PROGRAMS

Our Mission and Vision

Mission:

The mission of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation is help strengthen America by preserving the aviation history of the U.S. Marine Corps, honoring the service of its people, and inspiring in all generations an appreciation of America’s freedoms and values. 

We accomplish our mission by supporting the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum and by hosting a variety of educational programs that connect all generations with their nation’s history as well as the civilian with the military worlds.

Vision:

We build a stronger nation by educating all generations about the contributions, character and sacrifices of the people of USMC aviation and the missions they completed to defend America and her freedoms and values.

 

School Lesson Plans and Field Trips

The Foundation established an educational collaboration with the Character Education Resource Center at the University of San Diego (USD) to develop meaningful, standards-based teacher resources for grades K-12 in history, leadership, patriotism, citizenship and aviation science. Lessons reflect unique resources available at the Museum.

Teacher workshops (below) and school lesson plans are being developed under the guidance of Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., director of the Character Development Center at USD and a nationally recognized expert and author in teaching, administrative leadership and character education.

Collect and Process Oral Histories

The Foundation records oral histories of USMC veterans and funds to help maintain a large resource library.

Join + Give & Volunteer

Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation Memberships support our mission to preserve and share the legacy of USMC aviation. Membership offers extra benefits including discounts at the shop and invitations to members-only events.  Giving supports the museum and foundation’s activities from our essay contests to recognition of Marine Wives and restoration of our historic aircraft and more.  Volunteers are the backbone of the museum’s education and restoration activities. They enthrall visitors with the legacy of Marine Corps aviation and share  their love of history. Volunteers join a great team, have fun and also enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather.

Foundation Press 

Visit the Flying Leathernecks Press page to view press and media mentions, Flying Leathernecks Foundation and Museum press releases including fact sheets and resources for the foundation and museum respectively.

Go To Our Press Mentions, Releases and Resources Page

Foundation Programs

Teacher Workshop

The Foundation and its University of San Diego partner host workshops for San Diego County teachers. The workshops fill a gap in teacher training. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 12% of America’s high school seniors are “proficient” in U.S. History. Surveys of educators indicate teacher resources are badly needed.

Essay Contest for 6-12 grades

A regional,  patriotically-themed essay contest for grades 6-12 is held each year.

Art Contest for 6-12 grades

A regional, patriotically-themed art contest for grades 6-12 is held each year. Winning artwork is put on display at the offices of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation and in a gallery on the website.

Marine Wife Recognition Award

A Marine Wife is recognized annually with a plaque and stipend for outstanding service and dedication to her community, her family and the Marine Corps.

Distinguished Service Award

Periodically an American citizen is recognized for his or her service to the nation. In 2018, Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr., USMC aviator, patriot, astronaut and NASA administrator was recognized with the award.

LEADERSHIP

The people behind the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation

Col. Victor Bianchini (USMCR-Retired)

Col. Victor Bianchini (USMCR-Retired)

Chairman of the Board

Victor is a distinguished retired Reserve Marine Corps Colonel, a retired San Diego County Superior Court Judge and a retired U.S. Magistrate Judge currently serving on recall to the Central District of California.

Brigadier General Michael J. Aguilar (USMC-Retired)

Brigadier General Michael J. Aguilar (USMC-Retired)

Executive Director

During his 31-year Marine Corps career, Mike held a variety of flying and command billets, accumulating over 4000 hours, primarily as an Attack Helicopter Pilot. Distinguished muti-decorated veteran of the Gulf War he also is the first person of Mexican descent to reach the rank of General Officer in the United States Marine Corps.

THE TEAM

CAPT Ronald G. Ress (JAGC, USNR - Retired)

CAPT Ronald G. Ress (JAGC, USNR - Retired)

Vice Chairman of the Board

Mr. Ress is Vice Chairman of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation, and a valued member of the executive management team. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Government and International Relations from New York University in 1965, and a Doctor of Laws from Cornell University in 1968. He completed his military service as the senior Naval Reserve Judge Advocate in Europe and retired with the rank of Captain in 2005 with numerous awards.

Lt. Col. Joe Bassi, PhD (USAF-Retired)

Lt. Col. Joe Bassi, PhD (USAF-Retired)

Board Member

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. A retired US Air Force officer with twenty-six years of active duty,  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.

Dale Mann

Dale Mann

Secretary of the Board

Rear Admiral Lou Smith (USN-Retired)

Rear Admiral Lou Smith (USN-Retired)

Board Member

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.

Major Francis “Mike” Wifler (USMC-Retired)

Major Francis “Mike” Wifler (USMC-Retired)

Board Member

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.  Awarded:  Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat ‘V‘ for Valor.

CAPT Bill O'Connor

CAPT Bill O'Connor

Board Member

Captain Bill O’Connor began his military service in 1969 when he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He earned his Naval Flight Officer (NFO) wings 1971, and became a Bombardier/Navigator in the A-6 Intruder.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard "Touch" Toettcher (USMC-Retired)

Lieutenant Colonel Richard "Touch" Toettcher (USMC-Retired)

Board Member

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.  After a distinguished career  “Touch” retired from the Marine Corps in 1986.

“Ex Officio” Members

 Jon H. Epsten

Jon H. Epsten

Corporate Council

Jon is a valued member of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation’s team and founding shareholder in the law firm of Epsten Grinnell & Howell, APC. Jon works on behalf of community associations encompasses providing advice on all types of corporate matters.

DROP US A LINE

858-693-1723

flhf@flyingleathernecks.org

9400 Activity Road, Suite C,
San Diego, CA 92126
MAILING ADDRESS:
P.O. Box 45316
San Diego, CA 92145-0316