Commander's Commentary

March was certainly a month of change, not only with the crazy weather — 70 degrees, then 4 days later snow and 28 degrees — but we had two change-of-command ceremonies in the region last month.

Preparation is Key

Before, we jump into the command changes let me share a thought or two about changing weather. When we approach every activity or event in CAP we do a risk management review.  Weather plays a crucial role that is sometimes overlooked.  For example, if you were attending a weekend SAREX and the weather dropped 30 degrees or more, you may not have brought the proper clothing or equipment to remain comfortable and safe. 

Layering is key to retaining heat and body warmth but you need to have the layers available in your gear. Not planning by reviewing the weather before you leave could be catastrophic.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a ground team member or part of an aircrew, freezing in the field has all sorts of implications that will affect your ability to perform the mission.  If your team has to stop and take care of you, they can’t perform the mission they were sent on.  Be smart and always plan.

Changes of Command

We had back-to-back wing conferences and changes of command in NATCAP and South Carolina.  I spent some time last month on NATCAP’s new leadership so let me share a little about the new South Carolina Wing commander, Col. Lee Safely.  He is the former wing vice-commander and has been a member of CAP since he joined along with his son back in 2004.  He brought a legacy of service in the fire and rescue system of South Carolina and has served on several state committees and task forces assigned by the governor coordinating search and rescue and homeland security.  Col. Safely works as a safety engineer/manager for a major power company and has a strong background in safety.  He has already picked his key staff for the wing, and they are off to a fast start as they get their hands around some issue that were brought out during the recent compliance inspection. 

Col. Francis Smith finished a full four-year term, one filled with some notable missions including two major floods following hurricanes and a search for a missing F-16 following a mid-air collision.  Col. Smith and his wing have a lot to be proud of, including a steady increase in membership toward the end of his term.  It was a pleasure being there to officiate the change of command and help hand out some awards. Col. Ragland, the CAP executive officer, was also there representing the national commander who was at another CAP event.

Awards Submissions to NHQ

I am delighted to share that the region submitted award packages for consideration for every award that is presented at the national level for this year’s national conference.  There are 31 possible awards, including some for people outside of CAP that share our missions, like the Aerospace Education Teacher Award.  The MER A1 (Personnel/Admin), each staff area, and the awards board did outstanding work on your behalf.  This process is time consuming and challenging since a great deal of work must be done to properly rack and stack the nominees.  Maj. Bob Orr, a member of the MER/A1 staff, built on a platform developed last year to streamline and automate the process as much as possible.  Col. Eugene Egry, the MER Chief of Staff, served as the conductor for the staff urging them along in the process in order to meet the deadlines.  Col. Jerry Weiss, MER vice commander and head of the board, helped keep everyone focused, giving me the time I needed to review everyone’s input and make the final selections for the awards.  I have notified all the winners, and their wing commanders, with an invitation for them to attend the MER/VAWG Joint Conference in Charlotte, VA, on April 7-9.

Legislative Day

Legislative Day and the winter command council meeting were a big success!  While there are many changes going on in Washington, D.C., with the new administration, our wing commanders and their legislative advisors did a great job meeting with their representatives and senators reporting on the great things you have done and asking for their continued support.  I had the pleasure of visiting one of the congressmen from Virginia along with two outstanding cadets — C/Capt. Joshua Walter and C/1st Lt. Victoria Notheis of the VAWG — who shared their stories as future leaders of our nation.  It always recharges my outlook to hang out with cadets, hear about the great things they are doing and their plans for the future.    Unfortunately, I don’t get to work directly with cadets too often these days so when I get the chance, it is usually a very educational experience.

Winter Command Council

We covered a lot of topics at the winter meeting following legislative day.  We heard from the new CAP Inspector General, Col. Fielitz-Scarbrough, on updates and issues with the IG program.  CAP’s chief of safety, Mr. George Vogt, shared several examples of actual incidents to help shed some light on things we can do to improve our overall safety program.  We got updates from Dr. Jeff Montgomery, CAP’s deputy director for aerospace education, on the STEM kits that are available for use and a look at some up and coming aerospace education programs.

Public affairs shared a new program called Press Page that will take the place of Volunteer Now and make it easier for our members to share information and to get it all in one place. Updates on ADS-B and other logistics operations were presented and cadet programs gave an overview of some upcoming changes, including the new cadet fitness program that updates the program currently being used that dates back twenty years ago.  The new program will be rolled out with the new CAPR 60-1.  It is based on current scientific standards and helps ease new cadets into a healthy lifestyle involving active fitness participation.

The Assistant COO Mr. Paul Gloyd gave us an in-depth review of updates in publications and where we are in the process of reviewing and simplifying regulations to make it easier for our members.  As some of you know, we are using a multi-pronged format reviewing all our regulations.  Once the OPR (office of primary responsibilities) has a draft of a new publication, it is sent out to each region for them to assign a Napoleon’s Corporal to give it an “in the trenches” review by a member selected based on the criteria established at NHQ for the target audience of a regulation. For example, the cadet programs review candidate needed to be someone who is very involved in cadet programs at a squadron level, typically a deputy commander for cadets.  Their input on how the changes would affect members were collected and reviewed by the OPR’s and senior leadership.  Once every issue raised was resolved, the publication was sent to the regions again for the leadership to review.  Once their input is received, the OPR and senior staff review it and make changes as needed.  Once CAP is comfortable with the publication, it is sent for final review to CAP-USAF.  The national commander gives it one more review and if all is in order, it is updated and published.  Our hope is that the new process will provide easier to use regulations, manuals and pamphlets to serve our members.  For those who have already served in these roles, thank you.  For some others, you may be called on in the future to help.  If you do agree to help, it is vital that you follow through and meet the deadlines so the improvements in the process can continue.

Inspections Process

Speaking of meeting deadlines, I need your help.  As I review SUIs and CIs and interact with your wings and their staff, we have an issue that causes a lot of squadrons and wings problems- being late for a deadline.  I do understand the volunteer nature of CAP. I am a volunteer, too.  I also realize we have a lot of deadlines and reports.  We are a complex organization with complex missions that often require input and assistance from the field.  Those of us at the headquarters level need your input to help keep us mission focused.  The dates for all our reports are on the MER calendar. We created a tab called MER Recurring Reports that shows all the things due that month.  A quick review each month will help your unit to avoid being late.  We all remember being in school and having the bell ring, letting everyone in the building know that class has started.  Where I went to school, we called the one that rang at the beginning of class, the late bell.  If we weren’t in the room ready to go, we were late.  Just like our days back in school, you can’t “unring” the late bell.

Here’s an example of the type of problem this can cause. During your Subordinate Unit Inspection, when the IG reviews the dates of your safety down day — required to be held in February or March — and you held the event in April, you just got the wing dinged for a ‘No” on their tab.  The hard thing is you did the training, you just missed the deadline. So, we don’t get credit. As part of the culture of compliance, a vital component of mission readiness and effectiveness is that we must get into the habit of dotting our “i’s” and crossing our “t’s.”  Let’s all make meeting deadlines part of how we do our job.

Spaatz Awards

C/Col. Justin Desrosiers of Delaware Wing was presented with his Spaatz Award by CAP Commander Maj. Gen. Vazquez at the annual Spaatz Award Dinner in Arlington, Virginia.  Congratulations to the NCWG's newest Spaatz cadet, C/Col. James Barrow of NC-048. He is the fourth sibling in his family to earn the General Carl A. Spaatz award. Barrow passed all of the elements of the Spaatz exam on his first try. He currently attends North Carolina State University and is graduating in May 2017.

CAP, a New Fashion Icon

Let me close with something that is, well a little unusual but lighthearted.  I was sent a link to an article about the latest fashion craze in Japan.  It seems that Civil Air Patrol “gear” and fashion adorned with our patches and logo are “in”!   Imagine that! So next time someone gives you a hard time about your uniform, you can truly say you are ahead of the fashion curve…. in Japan, anyway.  Link:

Check out the fourth set of pictures as you scroll down, and you will see most of the wings in the MER on the back of this jacket.

Virginia Wing/Middle East Region Conference

I hope to see many of you next weekend at the conference.  It’s not too late to attend. The conference is April 7–9 in Charlottesville, VA.  Sign up here: Make sure you come up and introduce