Commander's Commentary

Col John KnowlesIt’s hard for me to believe that July is over. It seems like it just started!  As is typical, the summer months — June, July and August — are super busy.  This past month, we had National Cadet Special Activities (NCSA) all over the country — actually the world if you add in the International Air Cadet Exchange.  We also had a Region Cadet Leadership School in North Carolina and Maryland, and our MER Powered Flight Academy in Virginia.  The MER Honor Guard Academy is running as I type this, and a number of our members are working the air show at Oshkosh, joined by CAP’s National Commander, Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez.  I am impressed by the amazing display of volunteer service by our Airmen.


Tri-Wing Encampment

I started out the month by visiting the Tri-Wing encampment.  I was joined by Mr. John Fedrigo, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Reserve Affairs and Airman Readiness and Mr. Tom Shubert, Assistant Deputy for AF Auxiliary, Education and Development Programs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.  Along with Mr. Fedrigo and Mr. Shubert, the group included Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry, Air National Guard Deputy to SAF/MR; Col. Mike Phan, AF Reserve Advisor; Col. Glen Martel, Director of Staff of Air for the State of Nevada; Lt. Col. Steve Rothstein, Air National Guard; Capt. Stephanie Bowen, Deputy Chief AF Auxiliary Integration and TSgt. Cecilia Rosado.  We were met by Col. Jerry Weiss, MER vice commander, and Maryland Wing Commander Col. Joe Winter. 

We all spent the day following the cadets through their training. The cadets spoke with Mr. Fedrigo and Brig Gen Berry, as well as the aircrews of the two U.S. Air Force helicopters that flew the group to Aberdeen Proving Ground.  While Mr. Fedrigo and Mr. Shubert were already well aware of the amazing lessons that encampment provides to our cadets, the rest of the tour was also very impressed with what they saw. 

Mr. Fedrigo told me that whenever he is concerned about where our future leaders are coming from, he looks back on these visits and knows we will be in good hands.  Mr. Shubert and his wife joined me, along with NatCap Wing Commander Col. Bruce Heinlein; Delaware Wing Vice Commander Lt. Col. Elmer Boyer and Maryland Wing Vice Commanders Lt. Cols. Chris Howell and John Henderson at the encampment dining out on July 2.  A good time was had by all as we celebrated the end of a hard week of training.  Thanks to all the staff and cadets who made the encampment a success.

Disaster Relief in West Virginia
During the month of July, while most of us were enjoying the beach and cookouts in our back yards, the West Virginia Wing was busy flying disaster assessment missions for the state.  Our Airmen have done an amazing job responding to this mission.  The incident commander for most of the mission has been Lt. Col. Jim Dodrill, the wing’s vice commander.  Since he expressed it better than I ever could, let me share what he wrote to the wing as the mission concluded:

"On this last mission alone (not including the first two, shorter SAR missions), although the mission has been ongoing for nearly a month, we used all six of our aircraft and multiple aircrews to fly 76 photo sorties over only 14 days of air operations, and racked up 136.6 hours of flying in those 76 sorties.  That's an average of more than five sorties and almost 10 hours of flying per day!  And, with all that flying we provided 5,561 high resolution photos to our customers, FEMA and the National Guard.  Initial feedback from FEMA and the National Guard is extremely positive, advising that the photo product we provided is assisting greatly in the ongoing recovery efforts, efforts that will last for many months to come.

The most amazing fact of all is that we did all of this at a cost to the taxpayers of less than $18,000 — or less than it would have cost to fly a single Blackhawk helicopter for only three hours.  Folks, if that's not significant ‘bang for the buck,’ then I don't know what could be!" 

Eaker Award Presentations
I was privileged to present two Eaker Awards to Virginia Wing cadets on July 7.  The wing’s Group II Commander, Lt. Col. Dean “Deano” Gould, invited me to visit the Coastal Composite Squadron at Camp Pendleton, Virginia.  Maj. John Ralph, Maryland Wing’s Operations Officer, and I flew to Oceana Naval Air Station and were met by Lt. Col. Gould and driven over to the base.  After meeting with squadron members, I presented Eaker Awards to C/Lt. Col. Peter Wagar of the Newport News Composite Squadron and C/Lt. Col. Scott Zieger of Coastal. While there, I enjoyed seeing a number of awards and promotions being given and helped out presenting the Benjamin Davis Award to Chap (Capt.) Reginald Burgess. Thanks to Coastal for their hospitality! 

I was also honored to present an Eaker Award to C/Lt. Col. Aaron Scanlan at Maryland Wing’s Carroll Composite Squadron on his 21st Birthday. I first met Aaron during the 2013 Cadet Competition when his team went on to represent the region at the National Cadet Competition.  I was joined at the presentation by several of the cadets on that team, as well as the former squadron commander, Lt. Col. Frank Jarosinski and the wings Group II Commander Maj. Don Ells. 

Middle East Region Staff College

The Middle East Region Staff College (MERSC) was held the second week of July.  Col. William “Ziggy” Bernfeld and his staff put on a great week of training for the region’s mid-level officers.  Thirty-three students and six staff members dedicated their time to making our great organization even better.  I had the chance to help with a class or two and was honored to attend the dining out, and assist at the graduation the following day.  Having served on the staff at six MERSC’s I know it is a lot of hard work but also a labor of love. 

Civil Engineering Academy

Speaking of a labor of love, I found my way to Tyndall Air Force Base and the Silver Flag training site to provide some instruction at the Air Force Civil Engineering Academy the following week.  If you ever need to “recharge” your batteries, spend a week with a bunch of cadets who are exploring their future.  This NCSA is an Air Force Familiarization Course for the civil engineering field, but even more it is a place for our future leaders to get their hands dirty and to see if engineering and its related fields are something they want to make a career.  Maj. John Payne, the course director, and his staff did a great job even though the temps stayed at 90 degrees and above the whole week.  I was able to meet a number of parents at the graduation as well.  It was an amazing week!

A Final Goodbye to Col. Feik

On Saturday July 23, more than a hundred people joined together for a memorial service and farewell to Col. Mary Feik near BWI airport.  Her daughter Robin (a financial analyst for CAP headquarters) and husband, Col. Warren Vest, CAP Board of Governors Member, hosted this touching event.  Cadets from Maryland Wing’s Col. Mary Feik Composite Squadron served as the honor guard and color guard for the service.  C/Lt. Col. Chris Chorbajian served as the master of ceremonies, something Mary would have loved.  Expressions of thanks and love were shared by CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Vazquez. He was joined by his command staff, Brig. Gen. Larry Myrick and Col. Larry Ragland.  Myself; Col. Joe Winter; Capt. Don Cook, commander of the Feik Squadron and Mr. Phil Woodruff, president of the First Flight Society, followed. Each shared a touching memory about this national treasure. 

Those attending were offered a chance to express their thoughts. A wide range of people — from aircraft mechanics to cadets to fellow CAP officers — shared what Mary meant to them.  Col. Vest concluded the service on behalf of Robin, thanking all who came.  The Maryland Wing PAO team produced a video of the memorial.

U.S. Air Force OPSEVAL Grades

The three Wings that underwent their biennial Air Force OPSEVAL last month received their final reports. I am proud to share that all three wings: Delaware, NatCap and Maryland received the highest grade possible, OUTSTANDING.  The evaluation was based on recent large-scale disaster relief operations, to include DEEP WATER HORIZON, Hurricane SANDY Recovery, the Colorado Wildfire Operations, and flooding in South Carolina, a new paradigm is emerging requiring CAP wings to reach out to other wings and regions for support. This Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) used this paradigm as the foundation for the scenario upon which all three wings separately were evaluated. Each of the wings were evaluated over a week long period.   Lt. Col. Eric Fryar, USAF, Det2/CC mentioned the following members of each wing as outstanding performers in their duty assignment:

  • Delaware Wing: Lt. Col. Robert Mooney; Lt. Col. Alex Bodnar; Maj. Gary Emeigh; Maj. David Henderson; Maj. Brian Schmidt; 1st. Lt. Michael McClanahan.

  • NatCap Wing:  Lt. Col. Dan Kirby; Lt. Col. Dan Frattin; Lt. Col. Adam Booth

  • Maryland Wing: Lt. Col. Jon Royer; Lt. Col. James Steinmeier; Maj. Jonathan Neumann; Capt. Coleman Brown

South Carolina Wing Awards Luncheon
I’ll be finishing July with my wife, Teri, as we join over 200 members of the South Carolina Wing at their awards luncheon on the 30th.  You may recall that it was a little less than a year ago when these Airmen and others from the surrounding wings came together to assist with the “1,000-year flood.”  Awards for this response and others, including the wing’s “Of the Year” awards, will be presented at the Columbia Zoo.  I’m looking forward to a great event. 

Looking Ahead
As we slide into August, let’s stay focused on safety, especially during the challenging late evening thunderstorms that pop up.  Many of you will be completing training in various search and rescue and emergency services related fields.  Please follow operational risk management and start each activity with the thought, “how can I safely do this event.”  I hope to see a lot of you at the Civil Air Patrol national conference in Nashville, Tennessee.  Please don’t be shy. Come up and introduce yourself. I love meeting new friends and reacquainting myself with old ones.