Sam was born at Wheeling Hospital, Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia, but he grew up on nearby Boggs Run, Marshall County. Throughout his childhood, his best friend was John Clarke, his first cousin, who lived next door. They were inseparable and had many adventures together.

In high school, Sam worked as a orderly at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, West Virginia. He started college at West Virginia Institute of Technology in Montgomery, West Virginia but he wanted to come home to be near his then girlfriend, Alma Polsinelli. Their relationship didn't last and he ended up joining the U. S. Navy and served 4 years.


After his service in the Navy, Sam started college at West Liberty State College (now West Liberty University). He again worked at the hospital as an orderly and at one point, he also worked at Auby's Clothing Store in Moundsville. He graduated college in 1974.

While working at the hospital, Sam met and fell in love with Frances Ann Schaney and they were married about 1973.

Sam & Fran

Sam was accepted in the United States Air Force Officers' Candidate School and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation. They had three daughters, Cortney, Shannon and Jayne. During his career, the family lived in England, Japan, and Italy, as well as in several states in the U.S. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.


Sam and Fran divorced in 1994. Fran was in Practical Nursing School when they met, but during their marriage, she became a Registered Nurse and then a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

On a trip to West Virginia to visit his father in the early 1990s, Sam contacted his high school girlfriend, Alma Polsinelli. They eventually married and lived in Crestview, Florida. He died June 2, 2006.

Sam & Alma


     CUNNINGHAM, Samuel Joseph, USAF Lt. Colonel (Retired), 59, of Crestview, Fla., formerly of Marshall County, W.Va., died suddenly at home on Friday, June 2, 2006 with his beloved wife, Alma, at his side.
     Sam was born December 28, 1946 in Wheeling, Ohio County, W.Va., the first child and only son of John W. "Jack" and Ruth E. (Smith) Cunningham.
     He attended Boggs Run Elementary School and graduated from Union High School in 1964. After a 4-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy, he graduated from West Liberty State College in 1974. He was commissioned 2nd Lt. in the USAF and spent the next 26 years in military service; he was a navigator on the F-4 Phantom Jet. In 1980, he earned a Master of Science Degree at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif. He retired from the USAF in 2001 and was currently working as a research consultant for Dimensional Research, Inc. (DRI) of Marietta, Georgia, and as a consultant with CUBIC Applications, Langley, Va.
     In addition to his wife, the former Alma Rose Polsinelli, Sam is survived by two sons, Alex (Venusja) Yutzey, US Army, Verona, Italy and Preston Yutzey, Crestview, Fla.; three daughters, Cortney, Shannon and Jayme Cunningham of Yorktown, Virginia; three sisters, Linda Fluharty, Baton Rouge, La., Lori Whitwam, Otsego, Minn. and Lisa Lantrip, Redfield, Ark.; two granddaughters, Haley Cunningham and Kimberlyn Jay Smith; and one grandson, Zachary Cunningham.
     There will be no visitation.
     Arrangements are being made for burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
     Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association.




Buried August 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery


Lieutenant Colonel Samuel J. Cunningham is Director of Staff of the Air Force Command and Control Training and Innovation Group (AFC2TIG) at Hurlburt Field, Florida, a subordinate unit of the USAF Aerospace Command and Control and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, located at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The group consists of some 750 military and civilian personnel at 6 locations throughout the United States, and is responsible for Joint Forces Air Component Commander team training/exercising and test and evaluation of command and control systems. Colonel Cunningham, as the AFC2TIG Director of Staff, serves as the commander's manager of a 100-plus-member, 9-division staff comprised of elite military officer/enlisted members and federal/government-contractor employees. The following divisions operate under his direction: Library, Security Program, Personnel, Services, Intelligence, Current Operations, Agile Combat Support, Plans/Programs, Communications/Computers, Modeling & Simulation, Budget/Finance, and Special Applications.

Colonel Cunningham was formerly the Deputy Commandant of the USAF Battlestaff Training School (USAFBTS), AFC2TIG, Hurlburt Field. As Deputy Commandant of USAFBTS, he was second in command in the group's vehicle for executing exercises and other worldwide events and training global-scale C2 warriors (from junior airman to senior general officer). He came to the school following his position as Chief of Headquarters Air Combat Command (HO ACC) Current Operations Division, Langley Air Force Base. As HO ACC Chief of Current Operations Division, he was responsible for the annual Thunderbirds schedule and overall demonstration team program management. Additionally, all aerial demonstrations, "Stealth" air show appearances, and ACC AAR missions were scheduled and managed by the division.

Colonel Cunningham has flown both C-1 30s and F-4s. During his career, he has served on the staff of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other headquarters staffs, as well as completed a tour as exchange officer with the Royal Air Force (RAF).

He is married to the former Alma R. Polsinelli of McMechen, West Virginia, and they reside in Crestview, Florida. They have three daughters and two sons.


Civilian 1974 Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology/Pre-Med, West Liberty State College, West Liberty, W.Va.
1980 Master of Science Degree in Systems Management, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.

Professional Military 1974 USAF Officer Training School, Randolph Air Force Base, Tex.
1978 Squadron Officer School, residence, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
1987 Air Command and Staff College, residence, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.


1. March 1974-January 1975, Undergraduate Navigator Training, Mather Air Force Base, Calif.
2. January 1975-March 1976, Crewmember, 32nd Tactical Airlift Squadron, C-I 30E, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
3. March 1976-December 1977, F-4 Replacement Training Unit, Luke Air Force Base, Az.
4. December 1977-February 1980, Instructor Weapons System Operator, 25th Fighter Squadron, F-40, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan
5. February 1980-January l982, Instructor, Under-Graduate Navigation School, Mather Air Force Base, Calif.
6. January 1982-July 1984, Exchange Officer, Royal Air Force School of Air Navigation, Royal Air Force Finningley, United Kingdom
7. July 1984-August 1986, Flight Commander, 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron (Chiefs), F-4E, Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
8. August 1986-July 1987, Student, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
9. July 1987-October 1990, Chief, Operational War Plans Branch, 5th Allied Tactical Air Force, Vicenza, Italy
10. October 1990-August 1994, Chief, Current Operations Division, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va.


Rating: Master Navigator
Flight hours: More than 2,500
Aircraft Flown: C-130, F-4 C/D/E, T-29, T-43, T-38, Jet Provost, Dominie


Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal Air Force Achievement Medal
Combat Readiness Medal with 1 oak leaf cluster
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 bronze stars


Second Lieutenant 11 March 1974
First Lieutenant 11 March 1976
Captain 11 March 1978
Major 1 August 1985
Lieutenant Colonel 1 July 1990


Member, NRA, American Legion, TROA, and Veterans of Foreign War

Web page by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.