Memories of...Vanderberg's Raiders

Rick Chanick



In the Fall of 1973, the Air Force Academy was preparing to play Army in what would turn out to be an average year in football. Fortunately, our commandant was Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a 1951 grad from Foxhole Tech, so there was a possibility of mischief in the air. As luck would have it, the 2 degrees of 31st squadron just happened to be in the market for mischief, so this was potentially a match made in heaven. Enter Otto Dieffenbach III, proud member of 31st squadron class of ’75 and an apprentice at a lock shop prior to entering the Academy. This was a combination of experience, opportunity (and probably boredom) that could not be passed up, so a plan was hatched for the entire class of ’75 in the squadron to leave after Taps, pick all the locks in the commandant’s office, leave a big poster saying “Once a Grunt, Always a Grunt,” move all of his furniture to the terrazzo between the Wright brothers, and reassemble the office (with working phone) – all without being caught. This was a job for upper classmen, not freshmen. Simple, right?... (Checkpoints July 2005) (Complete article, via the link, right).

Mike Dehart




In the fall of 1973, our commandant is Hoyt S. Vandenberg Jr., a ’51 West Point grad. The AF-Army game is 3 Nov. The class of ’75, CS31 GrimReapers takes on an unprecedented spirit mission. We will “break” into his office and move his desk to the terrazzo between the Wright brothers. Lock-picking is crucial, but we have Otto Dieffenbach III. On the Sunday evening of Army week, Otto, with Brad Mandeville (1953-2017) as lookout, "pre-picks" the rear library doors. After taps, Otto gets us into the library, and leads us to the office. Otto picks the final lock. We strip his office down to the bare carpet. The elevators are locked so we hand carry his furniture to the terrazzo down two flights of stairs. We hang a wall-sized poster that says, “Once a Grunt, Always a Grunt”. No Army mule is available, so we get a bale of hay and spread it all over his carpet. Finally, we find the official USAFA visitor’s sign-in book and leave our initials for posterity sake. We pull it off without a hitch! We also place the toilet seat from his private bathroom on the center of his desk and put a cardboard star in the center, replicating a cadet badge. The next day the commandant briefly sits at his desk with a working phone in a great show of sportsmanship. (Photos 1-4 Below)

Post script: Before we break for Christmas 1974, we again break into the library to leave him a small Christmas tree for being a good sport. This time there’s a new unpickable lock, so we leave the tree in his foyer, spray a snowflake Santa on his door, and leave him a McDonalds gift coupon. (Photos 5-8 Below). We hope that spirit missions will always be part of the USAFA experience! (Checkpoints, March 2019) (Complete article, via the link, right).

Editor's Note: Rick's and Mike's precise recollections of the time frame of the original raid have faded with the passage of time. While their published accounts both state that the raid took place during First Class year, in 1974, a page from Falconews (Right) shows the raid actually took place during Second Class year, in the fall of 1973. The recollections here were corrected at the request of the perpetrators.



1. Vandenberg's Raiders: (Clockwise from Upper Left) John Dailey, Otto Dieffenbach, Jim Arthurs, John Farnham, Dave Ferguson, Art Leiker, Larry Colletti, Gary Oreshoski, Mike Dehart, Dave Ehrhart, Rich Chanick, Kevin Donovan, & Charlie Beam. Jack Storer behind the camera.

2. Phil Kendall (CS-37) pulling guard duty for General Vandenberg's terrazzo office. 

3. The Form 10 left for the Raiders. 

4. The Commandant's answer to an inquiriy published in the Falconews.




5. Christmas Raiders: (Left to Right) Jim Arthurs, Art Leiker, Otto Dieffenbach, Steve Pitotti, & Jim Foster. Not pictured but present: Gary Oreshoski & Mike Dehart.

6. Art Leiker, Jack Storer, & Gary Janelli.

7. Brad Mandeville & Otto Dieffenbach.

8. The gifts left for the Commandant by the Christmas Raiders.


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