We started the month at the winter CAP Command Council (CCC) meeting in Washington, DC. Legislative Day went very well and all of the wings in the MER did an outstanding job representing CAP to their congressional representatives. The leadership followed a new format for the meetings which provided a lot of great information on things that we need to work on to make our organization better. These included: Inspector General, Cadet Programs, Logistics, Safety, Information Technology, and Development. Breakout sessions for a "deeper dive" into some mission areas included: Information Technology, Aircraft,Cadet Programs, Professional Development, and Operational Missions.
As part of our efforts to keep our members informed you can find information on each of the staff sections that briefed the council, information from the region breakout sessions and information from each of the special topic areas here http://capmembers.com/events/legday/. There is a huge volume of information here, which is why I am sharing the link instead of taking up space repeating what is already published.
Two of our wings are working through their compliance inspections using the new process. The number of questions has been reduced with a focus on inspecting items that are mission critical and not asking staff areas to do busy work. In addition, the IG is focusing on digging into questions that a large percentage of wings score poorly on to see if: the questions are poorly worded, the item is not very important, or it is an important item that we need to provide additional training and emphasis on. This same process is also being used to update the Subordinate Unit Inspection (SUI) program too.
Although February was a tough month weather wise, March has been better and, as we roll into spring and our OPS "busy" season, I have no doubt we will exceed our goals. Two of our wings are already ahead of the prorated (5-month) annual goal. Our wing commanders have also been working together to move aircraft around the region and to support mission requests across state boundaries and, in some cases, working with other regions. Their efforts truly demonstrate our motto of "no boundaries, no limits.” The MER SAR College is off to a blazing start. As of 24 March we have 127 members signed up; in 2014 that number was 50. The college will be held May 15 to 17 at Fort Pickett in Virginia. Go here http://mersar.com/ for course descriptions and to sign up. I look forward to seeing you there!
Another major topic of discussion at the CCC meeting was professional development. It is vital that we give our members the education and tools to do their job. One of the best ways to get smarter about CAP as a senior leader is to attend the MER Staff College. This year it is being held May 31 to June 6th at the Edgewood side of Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The facilities are excellent and the cost, including food, linens and materials is $200. You can go to the MER website: https://www.mer.cap.gov/ for more information and to sign up.
One of the major topics of discussion at the winter CCC meeting was the roll out of the new safety program. CAP's new focus is based on the latest FAA and USAF Safety Management System. This is a move away from "box checking" to maintain currency and towards meaningful training. It includes the concept that safety currency and safe operations should not be punitive. Members who are participating in activities need to be safe and safety current, but I stopped focusing on the percentage of safety currency of each unit and wing when I took over command because that number doesn't really reflect the level of safety. If someone isn't active then their participation has no impact. National has now established a formal policy moving wings and squadrons away from the policy of transferring members to the "000" holding squadron to help keep the percentage numbers higher. It is my opinion that some of our members have to take a break from CAP at times. It might be school, work or life situations. All of our members join and belong to a home squadron. Most identify with that unit and if they have to be inactive want to stay a part of their squadron. Some, when transferred to the holding squadron, let their membership lapse. I have directed all the wing commanders in the region to stop the practice of transferring members to the holding squadron. Keep them on their home squadron rolls and keep reaching out to them to let them know that when they are ready to become active we want them back.
I want to thank the members of the Delaware Wing for the great conference they put on this past weekend. Maj Gen Vazquez, Col Weiss, and I were welcomed with open arms and had the opportunity to participate in a number of activities. The National Capital Wing also held their conference this past weekend and welcomed Col Larry Ragland, CAP/XO, and Col Dennis Barron, MER/CV. Both wings presented the Congressional Gold Medal to WWII members and their families. The organizers did a great job. We have an amazing organization with a long history of serving our nation. Thank you for continuing the pledge of service started by our forefathers as we work together to honor them and serve our nation.
JOHN M. KNOWLES, Colonel, CAP
Commander, Middle East Region