The start of a new year is when we make resolutions to help make us a better person. It is also a time to look back on the previous year and count our blessings. I’m not going to rehash all of 2017, you can go back and review all my commentaries if you wish (or if you need something to help put you to sleep at night) but I do want to mention a few things. I need to start off on a sad note. On December 16th two separate aircraft crashes, involving non-CAP aircraft, took three of our most dedicated Airmen from us, along with one of their children.
An aircraft carrying Maj. (Dr.) Louis Cantilena (Congressional Squadron) and Maj. (Dr.) Paul Schuda (NATCAP Wing) went down in Indiana following what appears to be an engine loss while traveling back to Maryland from Missouri. In a separate incident on the same day, Capt. Steve Merritt of the North Carolina Wing was critically injured in a crash in North Carolina. Steve succumbed to his injuries on Monday morning. All three of these men were passionate aviators who shared their love of flying with thousands of CAP cadets over the years.
They were qualified check pilots as well as instructors. One served as the director of the MER Powered Flight Academy one year and another was the architect of the North Carolina Wing glider program who taught and qualified a national commander and executive officer in gliders. Steve was quoted as saying “live life like flying a seaplane,” he said, “no brakes, no reverse, full throttle, it’s gonna be great!” All three of these officers lived that same creed. Please continue to keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Wreaths Across America
If it is December then CAP is working alongside tens of thousands of people honoring, remembering and teaching with Wreaths Across America. At Arlington National Cemetery, close to 70,000 people showed up to place wreaths. 200 CAP members, under the leadership of Col. Jane Davies, supported operations at Arlington. Members signed in at 0430 and worked with other volunteers of WAA on this enormous undertaking. Concurrently, at over 1500 other cemeteries, similar ceremonies took place to honor as many veterans as possible. I had the honor of hosting Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, Brig. Gen. Ed Phelka, Mr. John Salvador, Col. Jayson Altieri and Gen. Phelka’s father. Our group honored four veterans who are buried at Arlington that hold the distinction of having a CAP award named in their honor: Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and Gen. Hap Arnold. We also laid a wreath at the CAP memorial marker that honors all who served in CAP. Gen. Smith was very impressed with the dedication of the Airmen of the MER and the professionalism shown that day.
A Former Cadet Returns (and does great things)
As most of you know, I spent many years serving the squadron where I started as a cadet, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite Squadron. Over the almost 30 years I was there, I had the privilege of working with thousands of cadets, many of whom I still stay in contact with. Most squadrons have “generations” of cadets who joined within a couple of years and bonded together. There was a time in the late 80s and early 90s that a particular group came together, one that is still very connected.
I was a young(ish) 1st Lt. and Captain who was the deputy commander of cadets as well as the ground (ranger) team commander. The unit, especially this generation, holds reunions often and I would often see one particular former cadet, who was not a CAP member any more, but who still served. He was in the U.S. Army for a period of time and later became a deputy sheriff. He lives in western Maryland and I would always try and talk him into rejoining and helping with a squadron at the far end of the state that could really use some new ideas. It may have been my constant whining but most likely was due to his son becoming old enough to join. This was recently posted:
The Allegany County Sheriff’s Office would like to congratulate Deputy Will Pinder on being named Squadron Commander of the Year for the State of Maryland. Deputy Pinder volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary as a Squadron Commander for the Cumberland Composite Squadron. Congratulations Will for your commitment to the community.
Sheriff Craig Robertson
1st Lt. Will Pinder is the squadron commander of one of the fastest growing units in the MER. Congratulations to him and to the Cumberland Composite Squadron.
A Former Member Dies in the Line of Duty
While I am sharing some good news about a former cadet, I also need to share some sad news. The core value of service is a major component of our organization and many of our cadets go on to careers in the military, aviation, law enforcement and the fire and rescue service. Sander Cohen served as a cadet in B-CC in the late 90’s-early 00’s. He was an active member of the squadron ground team who earned a lifesaving award for his participation on mission 00M1315A, in which the team located a missing Alzheimer’s patient. Sander went on to a career with the State of Maryland’s Fire Marshall’s Office serving as a Deputy Chief as well as serving as a volunteer Lieutenant with the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department.
He was off duty traveling on I-270 when he stopped to assist in a single car accident. He called in for help and was waiting with the driver of the vehicle, an FBI Supervisory Special Agent, when they were both struck by an oncoming vehicle that swerved on to the shoulder of the road. Both men were killed. Deputy Chief Cohen started his call to service as a CAP cadet and spent his life helping others. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
50th Anniversary of the Congressional Squadron
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Congressional Squadron. It was the demise of special military reserve units on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress could serve in the military, that led to the creation of the Congressional Squadron. As the Vietnam War raged, congressmen were being legally challenged over their military service. As these units disappeared, two former Civil Air Patrol members, both relatively new to the House of Representatives, joined forces to charter a new CAP squadron in March 1968 where Members of Congress could honorably serve.
Rep. Lester Wolff (D-NY) and Jerry Pettis (R-CA) along with others such as Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) were the principal movers in creating this unique non-political unit. During World War II Congressman Wolff served in the CAP’s New York Wing and, later, helped establish the first cadet exchange with Canada (the beginning of the International Air Cadet Exchange). Congressman Pettis, a WWII veteran aviator who flew in the Pacific Theater, had flown with the Colorado Wing as a flight instructor and SAR pilot.
The squadron provides those in Congress and their staff a chance to serve in another way—some have become rated mission aircrew and participated in missions—as well as a way to observe CAP operations up close. Membership also allows Congressmen and staff to show support for state wings and local squadrons, and helps wings connect with their state congressional delegations. The squadron has 574 members with over 200 currently in Congress. Please join me in wishing them a happy birthday.
North Carolina Wing Christmas Mission
While many of us were spending time with our families on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, members of the North Carolina Wing responded to reports of an ELT going off intermittently in western North Carolina. The story is best told by the NCWG PAO Capt Lynne Albert:
The U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) alerted the North Carolina Wing Civil Air Patrol at 9 p.m. on December 24 of an Emergency Locator Transmitter somewhere in the Western part of North Carolina. An Asheville-based aircraft attempted to conduct an electronic search for the beacon, however, the surface winds at Asheville and high winds in the potential search area exceeded the safety limits, and the pilot wisely elected to not take off. Without a more defined area to send ground teams to search, the incident commander at the time consulted with the AFRCC who suspended the search for the night.
Shortly after daybreak on Christmas morning, additional reports by high altitude aircraft overflying the area were able to help CAP focus our morning search in an area a few miles north of Lake Lure. A Concord-based aircraft was able to track the beacon and located a single engine Cessna 172 at 11:30 a.m. on the side of a mountain. Local authorities were contacted by NCWG members and the responders were able to find the aircraft. The pilot was located and had minor cuts and bruises. The North Carolina Wing will be credited with a distress find.
The Asheville, Boone and Gastonia Composite Squadrons had ground teams on standby to go out, however their deployment was not required. The local authorities, under the direction of the incident commander, turned off the ELT with the aircrew confirming it was off before departing the area.
Col. R. Jason Bailey, the North Carolina Wing commander, stated that “the North Carolina Wing spends a considerable amount of time training to serve our state and seeing such a positive outcome is why we serve. Thank you to everyone who spent their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day helping with this mission!”
Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP commander, after being informed of the mission said, “Well done, North Carolina Wing! Your actions reflect what is great about our organization. Thanks so much for your excellence, professionalism and tireless dedication!” Lt. Gen. Judy Fedder (USAF-Ret), chairman of the Board of Governors said, “This is indeed a superb example of what CAP members do that make such a difference. I extend my deep appreciation to the North Carolina Wing and all those who gave of themselves this holiday.”
Meanwhile Across the MER
North Carolina was not the only wing to respond to a request for help across the region. On December 23, the South Carolina Wing was tasked by the AFRCC to search for an ELT going off near Rock Hill Airport. The ELT was located and the wing was credited with a non-distress find on Christmas Eve!
The day after Christmas, Virginia Wing was tasked with a mission to find a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) going off in the Stafford area. Ground teams began the search at 0200 (L) on December 27th and worked with aircrews throughout the day. Aircrews detected a weak signal on 121.5 which was passed on to the search teams on the ground. The PLB 406 signal was lost by the AFRCC but the UDF team was able to track the 121.5 signal to a home and confirming the device with the AFRCC. The VAWG was credited with a non-distress find.
Our missions require us to train and to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sometimes the call comes in the middle of a vacation, or a birthday party or Christmas. No matter the time, you answer the call and accept the missions. I sent a short note of thanks to each of the NCWG personnel in involved in the mission which included this: “For me, one of the miracles of Christmas, as well as the other 364 days of the year, is you. The dedication to training to be able to answer the call, the time away from family and friends performing our missions and your service before self inspires me every day. Thank you.” I share this with all of you because it applies to all of you. I also asked them to extend my thanks to their families who support our Airmen every day too. Please thank your families for me as we start a new year.
CAP National Conference – 2019
I received word from Mr. John Salvador, our COO, that CAP is planning to sign a contract with the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront this week for the 2019 National Conference. The dates will be 7-10 Aug 2019. This will be a great opportunity to show off our region, especially Maryland Wing, as hundreds from across the nation travel to our neighborhood to learn, share and improve our great organization. It is many months down the road but put it on your calendar, this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.
Delaware Wing Compliance Inspection
I want to conclude this month’s message with a shout out to the members of DEWG for the great job they did on their CI this past month. Every four years, each wing in CAP undergoes this comprehensive inspection that looks at every aspect of running a wing. The wing was graded Effective which is the highest grade possible. Col. Moyer and his team did an outstanding job, congratulations!
Compliance is something that doesn’t just happen. It is also something we focus on every day, not just once every four years. If we don’t, we will fail. It is also everyone’s job, not just the commander. Part of the review of all our regulations has been a focus on what can we do to make things easier for our members and what specific things (questions) we should ask to confirm that we are on compliant. Every new regulation includes a section that outlines the questions for the CI for that particular area.
Teri and I wish all of you a safe and happy new year as we kick off 2018! Thank you for all that you did in 2017 and for the efforts I know all of you will make during this new year!