Tri-Valley Composite Squadron 156
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The Tri-Valley Composite Squadron was re-formed in Livermore on July 3, 2018 under the command of Captain Michael E. Carter. It started out with twenty-four members, of whom eighteen were senior members and six were cadets. The squadron helps carry out the three missions of the Civil Air Patrol – Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services – in the Tri-Valley area of Alameda County.

The Tri-Valley Area, home of Squadron 156The area served by the Squadron is triangular in shape and takes its name from the three valleys in the region: Amador Valley, San Ramon Valley, and Livermore Valley. It includes the cities of Dublin, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Livermore, as well as the Census-Designated Places (CDPs) of Alamo, Blackhawk, Diablo and Camino Tassajara. The Tri-Valley’s population grew by almost a third since 2005, and is currently about 361,000.

The Squadron currently meets on Wednesday evenings at 1900 at the new Livermore Municipal Airport Terminal.



What is now the Tri-Valley Composite Squadron was formed in the late 1960s in the city of Hayward and held meetings at 612 West A Street, a location that now houses the William P. Burke Academy, about three blocks from the Hayward Executive Airport. During that period, the unit was named the Eden Composite Squadron 156. Sometime during the 1980’s the squadron relocated to Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training Area (RFTA) in Dublin and was renamed the Tri-Valley Composite Squadron 156. By 1997, squadron membership had dropped and the unit was officially closed.

Below is a partial list of the Tri-Valley Composite Squadron and Group 2 commanders from the Squadron’s inception.

2018 Squadron 156 re-stablished under the command of Captain Michael E. Carter

2018 Group 2 Commander: Lt Col Noel Luneau

1997 Tri-Valley Composite Squadron disbanded

1997 Squadron 156 Commander: Captain Steven M. Shue

1997 Group 2 Commander: Major William Brew

1995 Squadron 156 Commander: Captain Steven M. Shue

1995 Group 2 Commander: Major William Brew

1994 Squadron 156 Commander: Captain Steven M. Shue

1994 Group 25 Commander: Lieutenant Colonel Gordon L. Ziegler

1993 Squadron 156 Commander: Captain Steven M. Shue

1993 Group 25 Commander: Lieutenant Colonel Gordon L. Ziegler

1993 Group 2 Commander: Major Garry L. Krum

1991 Squadron 156 Commander: Major Samuel A. Gross

1991 Group 25 Commander: Major James F. Mc Manus

1991 Group 2 Commander: Lieutenant Colonel Paul C. Zimmerman

1972 Squadron 156 Commander: Captain Dennis Matarrese

1972 Squadron 156 Commander: Captain William G. Rayher

1969 Squadron 156 Commander: Captain William G. Rayher

(List compiled by Capt Nikolay Zherebnenkov, Group 2 Historian.)


The round organizational emblem is the standard style for use by USAF squadron level organizations and below. The sky blue background is symbolic of the squadron being a component of an aerospace organization. The Air Force blue edging of the roundel represents the Civil Air Patrol, as the USAF Auxiliary is part of the USAF “Total Force.” The three brown hills represent the geography of the Tri-Valley Area where the squadron is physically located, the hills of this area being brown in color for most of the year. The setting sun is symbolic of the State of California and being a subordinate unit of San Francisco Bay Group 2, which is located primarily in the area known as the “Golden Gate.”

The red hawk’s head is symbolic of the red tailed hawk, the largest raptor that inhabits and can be frequently seen flying vigilantly in the skies of the Tri-Valley Area. The “red tail” of this species of hawk is reminiscent of the pioneering African-American airmen known as the “Tuskegee Airmen,” who struggled for equal rights for African-Americans while heroically serving their country during World War II, about the same time Civil Air Patrol was founded. The tails of the aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen were painted a distinctive red color and these pilots became known by friend and foe as the “Red Tails.” Also of note is the Civil Air Patrol’s livery on its aircraft, which provides for the vertical stabilizer to be painted red, reminiscent of the red tails of the Tuskegee Airmen’s aircraft. The arcs above

and below the roundel identify the name and number of the unit, “Tri-Valley Composite Squadron 156.”


As of the end of 2019, Squadron 156 has 46 members, of whom 32 are Seniors and 14 are Cadets, and has been very active in the Aerospace Education and Emergency Services areas, as well in the Cadet program.

The current duty positions are as follows:

Commander - Capt Michael E. Carter

Deputy Commander, Seniors - Capt Joe Spears

Deputy Commander, Cadets - Maj Matt Gregory

Historian – Capt Nikolay Zherebnenkov

Assistant Historian – 2d Lt George Ledo


Aerospace Education Officer – Capt Joe Spears

Assist. Aerospace Education Officer – 2d Lt Max Smereka

Assist. Aerospace Education Officer – Capt Lisa Breton

Assist. Aerospace Education Officer – Capt John Stevulak

Assist. Aerospace Education Officer – Capt Nikolay Zherebnenkov

Assist. Aerospace Education Officer – Capt Andrew Randazzo


Communications Officer – Lt Col Steven DeFord

Assist. Communications Officer – 2d Lt Charles Towns


Emergency Services Officer – 2d Lt Douglas McKelvey


Finance Officer – 2d Lt George Ledo

Assistant Finance Officer – SM Sebastian Fernandez-Falcon


Information Technology Officer – 1st Lt Maria Harral

Assist. Information Technology Officer – 2d Lt George Ledo

Assist. Information Technology Officer – 2d Lt Dana Fogle


Logistics Officer – Capt John Stevulak

Maintenance Officer – 1st Lt Donald Snock

Transportation Officer – Maj Matt Gregory

Assist. Transportation Officer – Capt John Stevulak


Public Affairs Officer – 1st Lt Donald Snock

Assist. Public Affair Officer – Maj Phillip Blank

Assist. Public Affairs Officer – Capt Joe Spears

Recruiting and Retention Officer – Maj Matt Gregory


Operations Officer – 2d Lt Kimate Richards

Assist. Operations Officer – 2d Lt Douglas McKelvey

Assist. Operations Officer – 1st Lt Donald Snock

Standardization/Evaluation Officer – Capt Keith Breton

Assist. Standardization/Evaluation Officer – 2d Lt Andrew Randazzo

Homeland Security Officer – Capt Nikolay Zherebnenkov


Administrative Officer – Capt Nikolay Zherebnenkov

Personnel Officer – 2d Lt Shaunna Beal

Assist. Personnel Officer – Capt Nikolay Zherebnenkov


Professional Development Officer – Capt Joe Spears

Testing Officer – 2d Lt Shaunna Beal


Safety Officer – Capt John Stevulak

Assist. Safety Officer – Capt Manpreet Singh

Assist. Safety Officer – 1st Lt Donald Snock



02 – Squadron 156 receives a van from Squadron 188 in Oakland.

10 – Capt Joe Spears becomes Deputy Commander for Seniors.

16 – Capt Spears presents a session on holography during the weekly meeting.

29 – Three members agreed to take over the Squadron duties of Major Kathy Brown, who has accepted a position with the CA Wing. They are SM George Ledo (Finance), Capt Matt Gregory (Transportation), and Capt John Stevulak (Safety).


06 – A mandatory session on non-discrimination was presented by Capt Mike Carter, Squadron Commander, and Capt Stevulak, Safety Officer.

12 – SM Max Smereka is awarded the Level 1 Ribbon.

27 – The squadron received its first Air Force Association Grant, which was used to purchase parts to build a Donkey Car, a remote-controlled self-driving model car.


09 – Several squadron members participated in a basic SAR exercise with Squadron 80 at the Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose.

13 – Sq. 156 Cadets, who normally meet at the Byron Airport, joined the Senior Members at their meeting in Livermore.

14 – Several members participated in a Pilot and Controller Forum hosted by the Livermore Control Tower staff.


02 – Keith and Lisa Breton joined Squadron 156.

10 – Capt Spears presented a demo on hovercrafts.


01 – SM George Ledo is promoted to 2d Lt.

05 – Members from Squadron 156 and nearby units attended a Squadron Leadership School at Livermore Airport.

04 – Capt Spears becomes the new Group 2 Aerospace Education Officer, and 1st Lt Nikolay Zherebnenkov completes Aerospace Education Officers School

15 – A G1000 training session was conducted by SM Keith Breton.


03 – Pre-Encampment (cadet cadre and senior staff) and Advanced Training Squadron (ATS) begins.

05 – Capt Spears is awarded the CAP Achievement Award.

06 – Encampment begins and runs through July 13.

12 – Capt Spears leads a Donkey Car assembly and programming session with the cadets.

13 – Ralph Huy Dedication at Livermore Municipal Airport

19 – Mission Scanner training continues.

21 – Several Squadron members participated in the AOPA fly-in.


10 – New members Francisco Gutierrez, Charles Jensen, Fadi J. Shahid Estafan, and Robert Smith were welcomed at the weekly meeting.

10 – SMs Keith and Lisa Breton were promoted to Captain; SM Donald Snock was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and SMs Douglas McKelvey and Maximillian Smereka were promoted to 2d Lieutenant.

17 – Squadron members participated in a tour of the Livermore Airport Control Tower.

27 – Several Squadron members took part in a Basic SAREX with Squadrons 36 and 80 at the Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose.

31 – A tour of the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was arranged and conducted by Capt Spears.

31 – The Squadron met at Campo di Bocce in Livermore for dinner and bocce.


14 – Capt Spears completed the Donkey Car assembly and programming session for Cadets.

25 – Squadron 156 hosted an Airborne Photography Exercise at the Livermore Airport.


18 – A training session on Urban Direction Finding and Ground Team Orienteering was held at the Wednesday evening meeting.


03 – Capt Keith Breton was appointed as Group 2 Standards and Evaluation Officer, and 2d Lt Maria Harral was promoted to 1st Lt.

03 – 2d Lt Charles Towns, 2d Lt George Ledo, and 1st Lt Maria Harral were awarded the Leadership Award

05 – Squadron 156 participated in the Livermore Airport Open House.

19 – Several members participated in a tour of the NASA SOFIA aerial observatory at Moffett Field.

19 – Several Squadron members attended the Patriot Jet Team Foundation Career Day at the Byron Airport.

27 – 1st Lt Zherebnenkov received the Unit Historian of the Year Award


06 – Cadets Lina Amato, Arsh Muhib, and Aryahi Nittur were promoted.

11 – Capt Spears and 1st Lt Zherebnenkov participated in the Aerospace Education Officer Technician Training class at Sq 188 in Oakland.

20 – SM Michael Ward was promoted to 2d Lt, SM Sushil Dutt completed Level 1, 1st Lt Snock received the Yeager Award, and 1st Lt Zherebnenkov completed Level 3. 2d Lt Charles Towns received the Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Award.


04 – Cadets Samuel Krechetov, Giulia Telli, and Yuhui Wang were promoted, and Capts Keith and Lisa Breton received the Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Award.

07 – Several Senior Members and Cadets took part in the Flying Tigers Tribute at the Livermore Airport.

11 – The Squadron held its second annual flight simulator fiesta.


Squadron 156’s first full year since its re-forming in mid-2018 saw a lot of activity in the Aerospace Education mission. The AE Team, consisting of Capts Joe Spears, Lisa Breton, John Stevulak, and Nikolay Zherebnenkov, and 1st Lt Max Smereka, led or participated in numerous activities with Squadron members and cadets as well as the general public.

Right off the bat, in January, Capt Spears conducted a class and hands-on activity on holograms and illusions at one of the regular meetings. Attendees prepared and took home small plastic prism-like devices that, when placed on a cell phone or tablet, allowed them to view moving images apparently floating in space. In February, our AE officers conducted an external AE activity with local Scouts, and Capt Spears taught a class for the Squadron on Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, and single-board computing.Capt Spears demonstrates a home-built hovercraft. The power was provided by a cordless leaf blower

In March, Squadron members took part in an AEX activity on self-driving cars, and, the following month, attended a demonstration on hovercrafts. April also saw our first Cyberpatriot information session and several military orientation rides

June saw several Squadron members take part in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Fly-in at the Livermore Airport. This event, one of three held yearly in the country, hosted hundreds of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, and provided two days of aviation-related exhibits, workshops, and other activities on June 21 and 22.

Concurrent with the AOPA Fly-in, squadron members supported the Aerospace Education / STEM Academy (AESA) at Edwards AFB in Southern California.

Squadron 156 members participate in the AOPA Fly-InIn July, Squadron members had the opportunity to tour the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore. This facility, which houses the largest and most energetic laser ever built (and the largest optical instrument in the world), serves as a research center into fusion ignition. Capt Spears arranged the tour. July was also the month for the annual Cadet Encampment.

The self-driving car activities and demonstrations begun in March continued in August and September. Also in September, the squadron was treated to a session on Virtual Reality Astronomy as part of another hands-on Aerospace Education activity.

Another AEX activity, this time on how to use a sextant, was conducted by our AEOs in October, which was also when the squadron’s first Cyberpatriot Team was formed. A Patriot Team Foundation Career Day was also held this month.

Members attended the California Wing AE/STEM Leadership Symposium in November, and our Squadron Cyberpatriot Team entered a competitive round and placed in the Gold Tier of this nationwide competition by performing in the top half of all teams in the country.

Capt Zherebnenkov shows the importance of the AE program to attendees at the AE/STEM Leadership Symposium

December was also the month of our second annual Simulator Day where our squadron practiced flying a cat-and-mouse game where one pilot had to find another while using the Virtual Reality flight simulator. Also in December, several members participated in the Flying Tigers Tribute on December 7 at the Livermore Airport. To cap off the year, our Cyberpatriots Team competed in a state round on December 8 and advanced to the Regional Competition by beating 75% of all teams in their tier.




Squadron 156 members participated in several Emergency Services activities during 2019, including training at the weekly meetings, SAR exercises, an aerial photography training session, and three actual SAR missions.

In February, two squadron members made the trip to San Jose to take part in a Mission Scanner Ground School.

Lieutenants Kimate Richards and Max Smereka were among the attendees at the Mission Scanner School in San Jose

On March 9, several members joined Squadron 80 for a basic SAREX exercise at the Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose. In late July, Squadrons 36 and 80 held another SAREX at the San Jose airport, and once again Squadron 156 members were there to hone their skills and complete the requirements for their MS or MO ratings.

In July, Squadron members Maj Jeffrey Ironfield, Capt Joe Spears, and 2d Lt Max Smereka took part in a mission to find an ELT in the Columbia area.

Also in July, Lt Col Steve DeFord participated in a mission to find a 406 ELT in the area of the Reid-Hillview Airport in Santa Clara County. The ELT was found in a Cessna 210 in a hangar at the north end of the field.

In late August, Squadron 156 hosted the flying portion of the aerial photography course at the Livermore Airport, where three aircraft completed nine sorties. As a result, four Airborne Photography Trainees were able to fulfill several of the requirements for the AP rating. During the course, there was also the opportunity for two Urban Direction Finding (UDF) exercises. Several members were also able to renew their ES qualifications.

December provided an opportunity for Major Ironfield to participate in a mission in the Palm Springs area in support of Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) training.


The Squadron’s cadet membership increased from six in mid-2018 to fourteen by year-end 2019. Of the fourteen, eight became Cadet Airmen during the year, one was promoted to Cadet Sr. Airman, two became Cadet Staff Sergeants, one was promoted to Cadet Chief Master Sergeant, and one became a Cadet Captain. The cadet members were under the command of 1st Lt Brian Beal until the end of the year, when Major Matthew Gregory assumed command.Senior members and cadets participate in the AOPA Fly-In at the Livermore Airport

One change that occurred during the year was that the cadets, previously meeting at the Byron Airport on Friday nights, started meeting at the Livermore Airport on Wednesdays during the regular Seniors meeting. This has often allowed them to participate in the same training and other activities enjoyed by the Senior members while still maintaining their regular cadet training program. A second reason for this change is that most of the cadets reside in the tri-city area (Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore), and meeting locally is more convenient for them. It is also hoped that this will help attract more new cadets.2nd Lt Kimate Richards gives instructions to cadets participating in the AOPA Fly-In at the Livermore Airport

Because the cadets were now meeting in Livermore, several activities were prepared especially for them, including the Donkey Car assembly and programming activities mentioned in a previous chapter, as well as a hands-on session on flying a quadcopter. Several cadets were also on hand to try out the flight simulators provided for the December holiday meeting.

The cadets were very active in Squadron activities during the year. They participated in several events including the AOPA Fly-in at the Livermore Airport, the Airport Open House, SAR exercises, and the tour of the National Ignition Facility at the Livermore Labs. They also took part in two Ground Team exercises during the Flying Tigers Tribute on Dec. 7.

Finally, as mentioned in a previous chapter, the cadets did very well in the Cyberpatriots Competition, advancing to the Regional level by being ahead of 75% of the teams in their tier

Cadets participate in the CyberPatriot competition

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