The Air Force Association (AFA) was founded in 1945 when the head of the Army Air Forces, General Hap Arnold, campaigned for the creation of a veterans group that would support establishing the Air Force as a separate branch of the military. Chapters of the AFA blossomed in major cities coast to coast, and when its initial mission was successfully accomplished the organization shifted its emphasis to fundraising for charitable causes (often targeting the Air Force Aid Society, the official charity of the U.S.A.F.) or educational pursuits in the areas of aviation.
By the early 1960s a New York branch of the Association opened called The Iron Gate Squadron. Aside from, sounding strong and distinctive, that name had specific significance: it referred to the imposing entrance of the high-toned Manhattan restaurant sometimes referred to as “Jack & Charlie’s 21,” or simply as “21.”