MER Commander's Commentary - April 2016
MER key staff members and awards board spent the first half of the month reviewing 114 award packages for the “of the year” awards. This is a significant increase over last year's numbers and speaks volumes about the amazing things that you are doing across the wings, groups and squadrons in the region. There are 29 awards that will be presented at the MER Conference May 20-22. If you have not yet signed up go to the website https://www.mer.cap.gov to sign up. While you are there please check out the updated welcome message to celebrate our 75th birthday and click on the upcoming events link to find out information about:
- Middle East Region SAR College 2016
- Middle East Region Chaplain Corps Staff College
- 2016 Middle East Region Cadet Leadership School
- Middle East Region Staff College
I was privileged to present two awards at the Hagerstown Composite Squadron. C/Lt Col Alex Kiss was awarded the Gen Ira C. Eaker Award and C/Capt Ryan Mann was presented the Amelia Earhart Award. While there I participated in the squadron's safety down day. Great job by Lt Col Tony Vallilo.
I spent a couple of days visiting with the Wreaths Across America board of directors with Maj Gen Joe Vazquez and Col Dan Leclair, the NER/CC, to work on our plan for WAA 2016. This year is our 75th anniversary and WAA’s 25th. There are some exciting things in store for this year's events. We also had the chance to get a tour of one of the farms where the trees are grown and topped to make the wreaths with Mr. Morrill Worcester. It is a beautiful area and we were shown great hospitality.
March 5, 1942, was the day that the very first coastal patrol mission took off from CPB 2 in Delaware so it was a fitting month to visit Paksley, VA, and help unveil a historical marker honoring the Airmen that flew from CPB 4. Col Jim Covel and the VAWG did an amazing job at the event. Gen Vazquez also attended the ceremony along with Col Frank Blazich, our national historian.Lt. James Fletcher, the only surviving member who flew from the base, shared some stories of his time there and was given a lifetime membership to Civil Air Patrol. He and seven other families were presented with a replica Congressional Gold Medal for service during WWII.
That same weekend, NATCAP was completing their compliance inspection (CI), an event each wing undergoes every four years. They did a magnificent job and were praised highly by the US Air Force and CAP inspectors. Congratulations to Col Bruce Heinlein and his staff. While I am on the subject of congratulations, NATCAP held their annual conference and award banquet the following weekend. It was held at Ft McNair, one of the most historic forts in the country. The conference and dinner was very well attended and we all learned a lot and had a good time honoring all the "of the year" winners in the wing.
A selection board was held the same weekend of the NATCAP conference to name a replacement for the Maryland Wing commander following Col Bill Parris's passing. With the concurrence of the national commander, I selected Lt Col Joe Winter to be the new commander. He has served as the wing chief of staff and the wing vice commander and will carry on the plans already in place for the wing.
I traveled to Annapolis Composite Squadron to present the Eaker Award to C/Lt Col Christian Chorbajian. Lt Col Chris Howell, the MDWG Chief of Staff, also presented two Earhart Awards as well. Annapolis is the home squadron of Col Mary Feik. While there I signed a get well card for her from the squadron. She is currently in the hospital and could use your thoughts and prayers.
A few days later I visited my home squadron, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite, where I joined CAP as a cadet a lot of years ago. I met up with one of the former squadron commanders, Lt Col Bruce Drury, who was donating some field equipment to the unit. My main reason for stopping by was to present Mitchell Awards to C/2nd Lts Jesus Cuevas and Fernando Fontan and promote the deputy commander for cadets, Capt Rachel Knowles, to the rank of Major. Sometimes I get to combine being the region commander with being a Dad.
April 1st ends the recruiting contest for the MER. I am very pleased to announce that we have added 577 new members to our squadrons across the region! These members were recruited by 379 of our current members. Unfortunately there can only be one winner, or in our case one senior recruiter and one cadet recruiter. Maj Jacob Gerstein, DC-051, finished with an amazing 20 new members recruited. Cadet Caleb Mize, NC-150, recruited 8 new members and is the winner of the cadet category. The contest ran from 1 July 2015 to 1 April 2016 and the winners will be my guests at the MER Conference at the Wyndham Virginia Crossings Conference Center on May 20-22, 2016. Maj Gerstein will be teaching at one of the sessions and sharing his recipe for successful recruiting.
The MER continued for the third straight month to grow. Even better, the wings in the region are also growing. Recruiting and retention continues to be a very important task for all of us. We know what a great organization we have but we need to keep spreading the word. We need to keep welcoming new potential recruits and once they join to mentor them to a successful CAP career. Our missions continue to grow and we need all of you to make us succesful.
It has been a very exhausting month. We are finishing up the MER Safety Blitz and getting ready for the MER staff retreat. Working with your wing commanders we have been getting items on the agenda for the next CSAG meeting at the end of the month in April. The summer is just around the corner and there is a whole host of events getting ready to go. I look forward to seeing many of you at them.
JOHN M. KNOWLES, Colonel, CAP
Middle East Region Commander