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In November of 1966, Col. Robin Olds, the commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, hosted a tactics conference at Ubon Air Force Base, Thailand.  It included United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine aircrews who were flying combat missions over the Red River Valley of North Vietnam.  In May of 1967, the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat, RTAFB, Thailand, held the first of 5 “practice” reunions in Thailand, followed by    Ubon, in August of 1967, Takhli in November of 1967, Udorn in March of 1968 and Korat in June of 1968.

In 1969, then Brig. Gen. Robin Olds met with Col. Howard "Scrappy" Johnson to discuss the formation of a permanent organizational structure for the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, leading to incorporation in Kansas.   In 1969, Col. Larry Pickett held the first stateside practice reunion at Wichita, KS.  It was a great success.

In the beginning, our efforts were directed toward generating awareness of the Prisoners of War (POW) and aircrews Missing in Action/Killed in Action (MIA/KIA) and supporting their families.

The scholarship program was an early priority  and remains a primary aspect of our mission. The fund was established at the San Antonio reunion in 1970 as a result of concern for the families of fellow  River Rats who were POW/MIA/KIA.  The hat was passed and three $1000 scholarships were awarded.

In August of 1973, after the Prisoners of War had returned home, the first “real” reunion was held in Las Vegas, NV.  On April 30, 1975, our name was amended to “Red River Valley Association, Inc.” in order to include more aviators. The IRS granted 501(c)(3) status on July 22, 1976.

In 1998, the scholarship program was expanded to include losses due to non-combat operational accidents. The association provides scholarships to children of United States military personnel MIA/KIA in armed conflicts from Southeast Asia through the present. Additionally, dependents of aircrew members killed in military aircraft accidents now qualify for scholarships.

Since 1970, The River Rats have awarded more than 1,200 scholarship grants totaling over 2.5 million dollars to the children and spouses of Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps aircrew members.

We continue to hold reunions and award scholarships annually and continue to advocate for air power in ever expanding ways. In 2019, two new committees were formed in support of our mission to support aircrew (both active duty and veteran) and their families. The Aviator Medical Issues Committee focuses on health issues that plague aviators and other aircrew disproportionately such as cancer, head/neck issues, and sadly more. The Museum Committee's mission is to help preserve our history by having a dedicated River Rats museum at the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Here, we intend to house our visual history, artifacts, and maybe even a plane or 2.