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Billy Mitchell Award Recipient Recognized at the GAC

Author: Stephanie Miller
Published: August 23, 2010

Every day, thousands devote themselves to protecting freedoms, maintaining peace, providing relief and supporting policy around the globe. For many young Americans, the benefits of serving their country can be tremendous: training, honor, education, travel and self-discovery. However, military service is not for everyone. It requires self-discipline, intense physical work and time away from family and friends while protecting America and its citizens at home and abroad. For some, these commitments impose too great a burden.

Phi Kappa Psi is proud to have amongst our membership one of the most famous and controversial figures in the history of American airpower, Brother Billy Mitchell, who is commonly regarded as the “father of the U.S. Air Force”. Brother Mitchell entered George Washington University and was initiated into Phi Kappa Psi in 1896 as the 173rd member of the DC Alpha Chapter.

At age 18 Brother Mitchell joined the Army as a private and within months was a lieutenant in the Signal Corps. He later became interested in flying when he witnessed Orville and Wilbur Wright's first demonstration of a military plane 1908. Six years later Orville Wright taught Mitchell to fly.

When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Mitchell became an air officer and served with distinction during the war proving the importance of air support for ground troops. Throughout his storied military career Brother Mitchell frustrated his superiors with his continual accusations of incompetence as no branch’s leadership shared Mitchell’s belief in air power as well as his forecasts of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, years before they took place. Brother Mitchell’s courage, conviction and his pioneering leadership have been recognized posthumously with several congressional, military and civic awards and medals.

During the 75th Grand Arch Council, Christopher Gerritz, Oregon State ’06, was presented the Phi Kappa Psi Foundation’s William L. “Billy” Mitchell Award, recognizing a Phi Psi undergraduate who has courageously served our country. Brother Gerritz joined the Air Force immediately after high school and was stationed in Germany as a Cryptographic Communication-Electronics Technician for two and a half years. During his tenure at Ramstein Air Base, he was named the 435 Communication's Squadron's Airmen of the Year.

In July 2004, he was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom to Ali Al Salem Air Base, in Kuwait. After his service and upon being accepted to the Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program he moved to Corvallis, OR to attend Oregon State University and while there joined Phi Psi’s OR Beta Chapter. Throughout his time at Oregon State he served as Chapter Treasurer and President, Vice President of Public Relations for the Interfraternity Council and was honored with several University wide awards.
This summer he will be commissioned into the United States Air Force as a Second Lieutenant and will be attending Pilot Training in Del Rio, Texas.

When asked why he chose to serve our country he responded, “I initially chose to serve for complicated, perhaps selfish reasons - for one, I needed it. The discipline and character I have developed through my military training is what made me who I am today. Additionally, I love my country, the principles it stands for, and the promise for the future as we work to usher in a new era of responsibility and peace for the human race.”

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