The month of April had some amazing high points and some soul-crushing low points. I’m going to start off discussing the low points. As your commander, I feel a bond with every Airman in the region. There is no way for me to know all 7,800 of you, but I do have a sense of a relationship with each and every one of you. We share a love for our service and our nation. We share the same core values, and when something bad happens to one of us, we all bear the burden.
This past month, we lost two cadets to suicide. I say this bluntly, without any diplomatic words because it is something we all need to pay attention to. According to the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for all ages. (CDC)
- Every day, approximately 105 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)
- There is one death by suicide in the United States every 12 minutes. (CDC)
- Depression affects 20–25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year. (CDC)
- Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year. (CDC)
- Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment. (NAMI)
- 80%–90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TAPS study)
- An estimated quarter-million people each year become suicide survivors (AAS).
- There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. (CDC)
- 1 in 100,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
- 7 in 100,000 youth ages 15 to 19 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
- 12.7 in 100,000 young adults ages 20–24 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)
- The prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicidal planning and suicide attempts is significantly higher among adults aged 18-29 than among adults aged 30+. (CDC)
- Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans. (CDC)
- Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for adults ages 18–65. (CDC)
Warning Signs of Suicide
If someone you know is showing one or more of the following behaviors, he or she may be thinking about suicide. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Get help immediately.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
Four out of five teens who attempt suicide give clear warning signs.
Warning Signs of suicidal ideation among teens include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Talking about suicide
- Making statements about feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- A deepening depressio
- Preoccupation with death
- Taking unnecessary risks or exhibiting self-destructive behavior
- Out of character behavior
- A loss of interest in the things one cares about
- Visiting or calling people one cares about
- Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order
- Giving prized possessions away
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The U.S. Air Force has a guide to help – http://www.445aw.afrc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1322799/the-airmans-guide-to-suicide-prevention/
Another great source of information is U.S. Air Force Suicide Prevention page: http://www.af.mil/Suicide-Prevention/.
C/CMSgt Rishubh Kaushal and C/SrA Jared Rogers were both well-liked cadets who loved CAP. Their fellow squadron airmen are devastated by their loss. I was humbled to attend their viewings representing the region and national leadership. Hundreds of people were at both funerals and scores of them wore CAP uniforms. Both sets of parents shared with me that their sons loved CAP and it helped them in many ways. The leaders and members of their home squadrons are all in shock asking, “What did I miss” and “what could I have done?” I wish I had better answers for them at the time, but I have dedicated a large portion of this month’s commentary to help with some answers and some help. At the national level, our cadet programs staff and our chaplains are looking for ways to prevent this in the future. The National Cadet Advisory Council has presented a paper on psychological first aid, with a focus on recognizing and dealing with depression.
I will continue to work with our leaders to provide resources to you with a goal of never having to attend the funeral of a cadet or senior member who lost the battle with depression and took their own life. I ask your help in serving as wingmen to your fellow airmen. If you think you see signs and are not sure, reach out to your Chaplain or your commander. Together we can all make a difference.
I also want to thank all those who supported these two fallen Airmen. Honor guards from Virginia and Delaware did an outstanding job under very difficult circumstances. The commanders of the Leesburg Composite Squadron, the Delaware Air National Guard Cadet Squadron and the Virginia and Delaware wing command staff did a very good job leading their units through this mission. The chaplains and CDI’s of both wings also supported the families of the deceased, as well as all of us. You all have my heartfelt gratitude.
A Visit Home
On a more positive note, I was delighted to be able to present a CAP Meritorious Service Award to 1st Lt. Daniel Donahoe of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite Squadron (B-CC) in Maryland Wing. This award recognized him for his service and leadership in his squadron and Maryland Wing’s mission supporting the Maryland Air National Guard at Warfield Air National Guard Base. To give some background to those that may not know, following the events of September 11, 2001, when most of the units at Warfield were activated and sent to war, a need arose to assist the remaining personnel with support functions since almost all of their support personnel were in theater. Maryland Wing members stepped up, and from that day on have fielded a team to work the 175th Wing’s monthly drill in the dining facility and any other place help was needed. This willingness to serve has helped to bond the Civil Air Patrol wing and the Maryland Air National Guard as a joint team. Lt. Donahoe has been a key volunteer in making this mission happen from 2013 until today. His squadron commander, Maj. Kristen Santos, submitted this award to recognize his outstanding achievement.
B-CC was my home squadron as a cadet, and I had the honor of serving in just about every position in the unit over the years, the best being the cadet commander. I met my wife Teri there, who also served as the cadet commander (before me so I worked for her as a cadet) and all three of my children were cadets in the squadron — now Maj. Rachel Knowles, also served as the cadet commander. A lot has changed in the almost 15 years since I headed off to Group IV but the spirit of service and the amazing members continue to inspire me.
75 for 75 Challenge
Please join me in congratulating C/1st Lt. William A. Fronkier of the Newport News Composite Squadron in Virginia Wing for being the Top 75 for 75 Cadet Challenge Producer for Middle East Region. As the top producer, he has earned an educational scholarship in the amount of $750. 1st Lt. Aric L. Rosenbach of the Easton Composite Squadron in Maryland Wing led the region as the top senior member. Overall, 44 members raised more than $16,000 for their respective units. Thank you to all who participated and donated.
National Headquarters awarded a number of scholarships this month. Forty-eight percent of the applicants had a 3.80 or higher GPA and an SAT score of 1311 and/or an ACT score of 30 or above. These scores put our scholarship applicants on academic par with U.S. Air Force Academy entering freshmen. For the aviation-minded, 35% of the applicants indicated they have piloting experience equivalent to the CAP pre-solo badge or more. Finalists are from 33 states and Puerto Rico and all 8 Regions. The number of recipients per region is broken out below.
- 9 GLR
- 22 MER
- 6 NCR
- 10 NER
- 7 PCR
- 4 RMR
- 17 SER
- 8 SWR
Congratulations to all the scholarship recipients!
One of the very best parts of being the region commander is handing our awards. I was honored to attend the Glenn L. Martin Squadron’s meeting and present C/Lt. Col. Wyatt Hartmann with his Ira C. Eaker Award. I also presented C/Capt Jacob M. Iacarino with the Amelia Earhart Award, representing Col. Joe Winter, the Maryland Wing commander who could not attend the meeting. The squadron also awarded a number of other awards to members of the unit. Lt. Col. John Henderson, Lt. Col. Brenda Reed and Maj. Rachel Knowles were invited to attend as members of the wing staff. I hope to be invited to a Spaatz Award ceremony very soon (no pressure there…)
I was asked to represent the national commander at the Cyber Patriot banquet in Baltimore this past month. Over 5,000 teams participated in this year’s program with 28 attending the finals. Three teams from CAP were on hand, two from California Wing and one from Colorado Wing. It was a very exciting evening, and I was delighted to see the Colorado Wing team earn third place in the “All Services” division. Two of the cadets on the team, Noah Bowe and Taylor Coffey from the Colorado Springs Cadet Squadron were recognized as Cyber All-Americans. The award is presented to competitors whose teams have earned the distinction of appearing in the National Finals Competition all four years of their high school tenure. It was an honor to be there.
The 2018 competition was held in April at Ft. Pickett to select the two teams that will represent the region at the National Cadet Competition. Nine teams represented six wings during the weekend. A great team led by Capt. Patty Overmann put on an amazing event. Congratulations to all the participants and to the two teams that will represent the region in June- North Carolina Wing’s 111st Composite Squadron and a combined team from the National Capital Wing made up of Challenger 1 squadron members and Arlington squadron members (Charlington). The Maryland Wing team from Bethesda-Chevy Chase placed third. Please join me in congratulating the other teams who won at the wing level and represented their wings at the region level:
- Boone Composite (NCWG)
- Coastal Composite (VAWG)
- St Mary’s Composite (MDWG)
- Martinsburg Composite Squadron (WVWG)
- Greenville Composite Squadron (1 & 2) (SCWG)
The Cadet Competition will be on 30 Jun – 2 Jul 2018 at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. Good luck!
MER Staff Retreat
The MER staff meets monthly in a teleconference and in person twice a year to review the region’s Annual Training Plan and the metrics on our scorecard. In the spring meeting, we also draft the next year’s ATP. We had 18 staff members at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach doing your work to keep the MER on top. It was a great weekend of hard work and camaraderie, and we charted the course for Fiscal Year 2019. Col. Weiss, who was also helping out supporting the A5/8 (DCS – Plans and Strategic Plans) and Col. Eugene Egry, the region chief of staff, kept us all on task and helped produce an amazing plan for next year. The wing commanders will have the chance to review it and comment on it at their retreat in May. Thank you to all the staff that attended and to the incredible leadership of Cols Weiss and Egry.
Board of Governor’s Meeting – RMR Conference
Teri and I traveled to Colorado Springs to attend the spring Board of Governors meeting and the Rocky Mountain Region conference. Col. Tom Kettell, the Rocky Mountain region commander was an excellent host and provided a great program for the members of the region and the Colorado Wing. Some of the highlights of the meeting included:
- Review of the audit of CAP by the outside firm. Two very minor opportunities for improvement – for the 10th year in a row, CAP received the highest rating possible.
- Changes in the investment policies for corporate investments to improve our returns and reduce risk.
- Gen Smith provided a detailed review of the progress being made on the retool of our senior professional development program as well as an overview of the progress being made by the various teams working on process improvements.
- Colorado Wing cadets and seniors provided a great briefing to the board about their experiences in CAP
- The new Chief of Philanthropy, Ms. Kristina Jones, gave a briefing on her broad overview of how she will support CAP in all categories of fundraising.
MER Conference and MERSAR College
Signups are out for these premier events in the region. Information on the conference can be found here : https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-mer-conference-and-ccs-call-retreat-registration-44161767034 Time is almost up and spots are first come first served. Sign-ups for the premier Search and Rescue School in the area is at http://mersar.com/. It starts on June 1st and runs through the 3rd at Ft. Pickett. I hope to see many of you at both of these activities.
We covered a lot of material in this month’s commentary, and I even left out a couple of things. All of us are members of a great organization that is, in many ways, a big family. In these monthly commentaries, I always try and focus on the positive, sometimes sharing some leadership ideas. The events of this past month have hit me and many others in the region very hard. I shared my anguish with my wife Teri, who is also a health professional, and she encouraged me to do what I could to educate all of you and do what I could to prevent another similar tragedy. I keep both of these cadets and their families, including all of you, in my thoughts and prayers daily. I ask you to continue to support their families and each other through this trying time.