March has been a rollercoaster ride for most of us in the Middle East Region. One day it is 70 degrees, a week later it is snowing… a lot! This weather, along with our funding being restrained due to the containing resolution in place of a budget, continues to impact our flying and our training. I am hopeful with a signed spending bill we will get our funding in place and we can hit the “jump start” button for proficiency flying while the weather opens up.
Recruiting and Retention
Our membership numbers continue to climb each month; as of now we are once more at a new record level above the year 2000 baseline. This is due to each and everyone one of you that continue to serve our communities, states, and nation and to your leaders. Squadrons, groups and wings that have good leadership and a quality program advance our missions and supports the growth and retention of our Airmen. Greeting a new member on day one, mentoring them as they progress through training and providing them the tools and a real-world mission, help us to continue to be the premier volunteer service organization in America.
Falcon Virgo is a series of exercises designed to test airspace security, especially around major American cities like New York City and Washington, DC. They involve both regular military fighter aircraft and air operations centers (to include Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard) and Civil Air Patrol forces. The exercises comprise a series of training flights held in coordination with the United States Northern Command / North American Air Defense Command (USNORTHCOM / NORAD), First Air Force the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Capital Region Command Center the Joint Air Defense Operations Center (the Continental US NORAD Region), the Civil Air Patrol the U.S. Coast Guard and the CONR’s various Air Defense Sectors. The exercises are planned and controlled to ensure NORAD’s rapid response capability. NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the U.S. and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.
In the MER National Capital Wing (NATCAP) takes the lead in flying this mission. I had the opportunity to finally fly this mission with them this past month. Two NATCAP aircraft took to the sky shortly after midnight and spent the overnight flying VUL’s – (Vulnerability Runs) through restricted airspace over DC. I shared a few of my photographs on social media, only handful of people have the chance to fly over and see the lights of the nation’s capital at low altitude as we support this vital mission. Lt. Col. Keith Zuegel and Maj. John LaJeunesse served as the aircrew for my flight. Col. Dave Sterling and Col. Jane Davies got me on the flight and coordinated it. Zuegle, a retired USAF colonel, actually flew the very first Falcon Virgo mission so I was flying with “royalty”. It was great to see the Airmen of NATCAP in person performing this mission.
Although it may come as a surprise to many of you, even region commanders must requalify in their operations specialty tracks. One of the hardest things for me to stay current in is my aircrew – mission observer and mission scanner ratings since during most missions I am involved with I am working at the mission base on the staff and I don’t have the opportunity to fly or go out as a ground team leader. As the expiration date loomed closer and closer I reached out to one of my favorite pilots and friends, Maj. Marty Sacks. Maj. Sacks not only serves on the operations staff for Maryland Wing but has staffed several national activities and is a new CFI who is working with several students. He took time out of his weekend to meet with me brush off some rust and fly a sortie to finish the tasks that can only be done in the air. It is always pleasant to catch up with old friends, especially when flying and Maj. Sacks is one of the most professional officers we have in CAP. How about some of you other rusty out of currency members? Getting requalified in any of our ICS ratings can often be done at your local squadron. Most groups and wings offer training weekends year-round and the Middle East Region holds its annual school in early June. In the words of Col. Weiss, “get out of the bleachers and on to the field!”
Middle East Region Search and Rescue College (MERSAR)
The pinnacle school in the MER for search and rescue training is coming up June 1-3 at Fort Pickett in Virginia. http://mersar.com/ This intense three-day school will provide hundreds of our members with focused training for new specialties as well as the opportunity to requalify in others. We will be publishing the plans soon so keep checking the website for updates as well as a call for staff to support the school. I hope to see you there!
Conference May 18–20th in Williamsburg, VA
Registration has been open!
The conference is being held at the Woodland’s Conference Center in historic Williamsburg. The conference center is a part of Colonial Williamsburg, a historical landmark and a living history museum, which allows us to offer special pricing for a 7-day pass for only $20 to our registered guests,. For those who may want to extend their stay, the hotel is offering to hold our very reasonable rate of $109 per night for three days before and after the conference.
The price of the conference includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and the annual awards dinner is always a must-see event.
MER Conference early registration (by 2359 April 3, 2018) – includes a MER Conference challenge coin – https://mer.cap.gov/events/mer-conference-2018/
- Conference Senior Members – $90
- Conference Cadets – $80
- Friday Evening Social – $35
- Golf Outing – $89
The early bird pricing ends at midnight on April 3rd, don’t wait sign up now! Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander, is already registered to be there, what about you?
Due to popular demand we are offering the opportunity for our Airmen to purchase some MER logo’d items for recreational wear (these are not uniform items, they are for fun). Many of you may have seen some of the command staff wearing these at conferences around the region and now you can have a shirt, hat, or jacket personally embordered with your name and the MER Command Patch. There are men’s and women’s versions. The button up short sleeve oxford and golf shirt come in black and the jacket and hat comes in dark blue. They can be ordered through this link on our website – https://mer.cap.gov/events/mer-conference-2018/mer-merchandise-orders/ . It takes you to the store’s webpage where you then select the tab labeled organizations – Civil Air Patrol. From there place your order and if you do it before May 5th I will pick it up and bring it to the conference in Williamsburg where you can get it when you sign in at the registration table. If you can’t attend the conference you can still order the clothing and have it shipped to your home.
MER Staff College
The 2018 Middle East Region Staff College will be held at Joint Base Andrews July 12th through the 18th. Details are available here https://mer.cap.gov/events/mer-staff-college/ The cost for the school includes all the course materials and your billeting. Most other staff colleges charge a fee for the school and a separate fee for your billeting. Fees for billeting on an Air Force base are $60 per night so the fee of $345 for the week is extremely reasonable. The school staff has an amazing week planned for you along with a number of guest lecturers who are able to present at the school due to its location at Joint Base Andrews. Rumor has it that the region commander is teaching a couple of classes as well, I hope this doesn’t drive too many of you away! Eligibility is limited to CAP senior members who have completed Level III professional development and who hold command or staff positions. Region Staff College is a required course to complete Level IV of the professional development program. Many of the topics taught will support both your CAP career and your business career. I hope to see you there.
Legislative Day and Winter Command Council
We started out the month coming together with all the wing commanders, region commanders, CSAG members and national staff in Crystal City, VA. CAP had a very productive day on the Hill and shared our story with hundreds of members of congress. Your wing commanders and several other leaders represented you extremely well. With the latest news on the budget we are in good shape for FY 18 and looking good for FY 19. Thank you to all those who attended the event and supported it.
This year’s meeting still provided briefings from various staff members but had a change in format. Each region was given a question to answer. The questions were sent out ahead of time and gathered to discuss the question and present a report to the whole council. Our question focused on future missions for CAP and between the group we had we offered close to 70 ideas for consideration. Prior to the meeting each region commander was asked to submit some best practices from his wings o share across the organization. North Carolina, NATCAP and Maryland wing commanders were selected to present their thoughts on: Aircraft Utilization Success, Virtual F&P Training and Training Plans Using Strategic Goals. There were 16 over all best practices shared which will be summarized and distributed for use by NHQ. The format was a resounding success and I expect we will see more if it in the future.
The meeting started out with Maj. Gen. Smith sharing the good news that our members are now permitted to wear the USAF Organizational Excellence Ribbon on our uniforms. You may recall that CAP received this AF award last year, a very rare award for a unit that is not a part of the armed forces. Wear instructions, due to the unusual nature of our relationship with the Air Force took a little while. Details for wear are available on-line as a Interim Change Letter to CAPR 39-3 and CAPM 39-1.
Spaatz Association Dinner
Saturday evening found many of us at the annual Spaatz Association Dinner. The dinner is a fund raising event to support the thousands of dollars in scholarship given out by the TSA each year. Teri and I were fortunate to share a table with all MER members. The MER actually had enough people to fill three or four tables but all the seats at ours were from our region. It was a very enjoyable evening of camaraderie and stories. The food was good but the company was great! A truly wonderful way the end the weekend of service.
Region and National Awards
March 15th was the due date to NHQ on all our submissions for national awards. Your wings sent in their nominations and our region staff and the region awards committee reviewed hundreds of nominations and submitted them to me with their recommendations. If this sounds like a lot of work, well it is! Our A1 staff did a great job making order out of what could easily have been chaos. Maj. Rob Orr is a master of organization and he had spreadsheets and documents lining up to make it easy for me to make the final selection. Of course, you all make this part of my job very difficult. We have so many amazing personnel in the region that could have been selected it was a challenge to pick only one for each award but I had to. The winners have all been notified by letter by me along with their wing commanders. Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you to their peers who submitted the awards nominations. Lt. Col. Eric Fryar, USAF (CAP-USAF Det 2 commander) and I also collaborated on the CAP-USAF and CAP national mission awards submissions. While there are some awards sent in by the AF and some by CAP, our region has a long history of doing the selection process together. This was also incredibly hard to do, maybe more so then the individual awards. However, we think we did a good job.
A complete list of award winners will be published following the conference.
NATCAP Conference and Assumption of Responsibility (MER Command Chief)
I had the pleasure of attending the conference along with Maj. Gen. Smith, the CAP commander. The day was full of seminars teaching us new ideas and honoring the NATCAP members who were awarded the “Of the Year” awards. Col. JD Ellis and his team did a superb job as usual.
I asked for a few minutes for a formal ceremony for one of our newest region staff members. We held the very first assumption of responsibility ceremonies for our new MER Command Chief CMSgt Todd Parsons. Similar to a change of command ceremony the flag is presented to our most senior NCO who assumes responsibility for the Airmen in our region. Following the ceremony, I shared my thoughts in a prepared speech. The text of the speech will be given to the wing commanders at our commander’s retreat. It outlines our plans with two specific tasks as we focus on professionalism in our ranks. For those interested in a copy of the speech please let me know via email.
C/Lt. Col. Mary Black – VA-095 Coastal Composite Squadron
The best part of being a region commander is visiting squadrons and handing out awards. When a cadet reaches certain milestone awards the recommended presenter by the regulations is defined. The Ira C. Eaker Award, which represents completing all the achievements in the cadet program is awarded by a region commander. I was all set to fly down to Virginia Beach and present the award to C/Lt. Col. Black, who I had just seen at the winter command council meeting, but the weather had a different plan. Maj. Dennis Borgerding, the squadron commander, said it best “We will miss you.. And here all this time I thought by the time you became a region commander you could control the weather and bend it to your will.” Although the weather gods denied me the chance to fly down, they also denied Col. Gould, VAWG commander, the chance to fly north for a Spaatz Award so he stood in for me.
Please join me in congratulating C/Lt. Col. Black.
The 2018 MER conference will be my last conference as your commander. I hope I will get to see a lot of you there so we can enjoy one more weekend celebrating your successes. I am the luckiest region commander because I have seven great wings under my command and 7805 and of best members of the Civil Air Patrol working with me. Thank you as always for your service and dedication