Commander's Commentary

Commander’s Commentary - May 2016Knowles Col2

Close to 400 of us just returned from Ft Pickett and the 25th anniversary of the Middle East Search and Rescue College (MERSAR). What a fantastic weekend of training, networking and making new friends! The staff, under the direction of Col Dave Crawford and Lt Col Jay Langley, provided classroom and field instruction in:

  • Food/Kitchen Unit Lead Training
  • Ground Team / Ranger Basic Course (GTM3 – Ranger 3rd Elements)
  • Ground Team Advanced Ranger Course (GTM2 – Ranger 2nd Elements)
  • Ground Team Leader Ranger 1st Course (GTL – Ranger 1st – Advanced Elements)
  • ICS 300: Intermediate ICS for Expanding Incidents – ICS300
  • ICS 400: Advanced Incident Command System – ICS400
  • Incident Commander Training
  • Mission Communications Unit Leader – Advanced
  • Mission Radio Operator – Advanced
  • Mission Scanner Trainee and Mission Scanner Advanced:
  • Mission Observer Trainee and Mission Observer Advanced:
  • Mission Pilot Trainee and Mission Pilot – Advanced
  • Mission Pilot – Certified
  • Pre-Requisites: GES, 101-MS, 101-MP
  • Mountain Flying Certification Ground School
  • Advanced Pilot/Observer GPS Course
  • Aerial Photography
  • Flight Line Marshaller
  • Flight Line Supervisor

A new addition this year is the MERSAR – Graduate School for Incident Commanders, established to prepare our most experienced officers to take on the top ICS job – IC-1. Col Jerry Weiss taught the classroom portion the day before MERSAR started and the trainees worked with the IC, Lt Col John Henderson, and the two directors Friday night through Sunday getting their hands around running a large and complicated mission. Our CAP-USAF Det 2 commander Lt Col Eric Fryer and a number of his reservists and ADO’s provided their help during the event.

A new tradition was also established on Sunday morning when our chaplains joined together on the flight line to provide a “blessing of the fleet” for our aircraft and vehicles. This idea came to Chap (Lt Col) Tim Miner after he read about the US Navy’s blessing of the fleet ceremonies. He reached out to one of our former cadets who is now a USAF Catholic chaplain on active duty, Chap (Lt Col) John Reutemann, CAP, who wrote the blessing.   A local Catholic priest from Blacksburg was recruited to assist in the ceremony. All on flight line witnessed the event which we hope will help keep our aircrews safe from harm as we fly our missions for America.

Your MER staff came together at Camp Pendleton, VA, for a weekend retreat to review FY 16’s goals and to draft FY 17’s in preparation for the MER Wing Commander’s call this month. The A5/8 section working with Cols Weiss and Egry reviewed CAP’s FY 17 Annex to the Strategic Plan and identified what we at the region can do to help make the plan a reality. The staff worked late into the night Friday and Saturday nights laying the foundation for the MER Annual Training Plan for FY 17. Thanks to all those who traveled from all ends of the region to be there.

13 members of the region graduated from National Staff College at Maxwell AFB in April. These officers spent a week learning about what it will take to lead us into the future. NSC is one of the requirements for CAP’s highest professional development award, the Gil Robb Wilson Award. If you were one of the 13, thank you for your dedication to CAP. If you know one of them, join me in congratulating them on a job well done.

The announcement listing the winners of CAP’s scholarships came out this past month. Please join me in congratulating the following members who competed against hundreds of applicants across the country.

  • CAP Academic Scholarship ($1,900)
    • Virginia Wing - Cadet 2nd Lt. Nathan Bolha, Leesburg Composite Squadron
  • CAP Flight Scholarship ($1,000)
    • Maryland Wing - Cadet 2nd Lt. Adrian Bobb, Frederick Composite Squadron
    • South Carolina Wing - Cadet Capt. Noah Eudy,Low Country Composite Squadron
    • Virginia Wing - Capt. Jared Mast, Newport-News Composite Squadron
  • USAA Academic Scholarship ($1,000)
    • North Carolina Wing - Cadet Capt. Hannah Fletcher, Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron

One of our cadets passed his Spaatz test this past month, C/Col Harrison Nagele of North Carolina Wing. He is Spaatz #2038. Less than 1% of cadets make this milestone so please join me in congratulating him on his efforts. C/Col Marshall Wilkins of VAWG received his award from Maj Gen Joe Vazquez at the VAWG Conference on April 2nd. He was joined by a number of other VAWG members who received recognition as their wing’s “of the year” award winners.

Speaking of winners, I am looking forward to seeing all of you at the MER Conference this month. We will be presenting 27 different “of the year” awards to our members. We will also be recognizing the region’s squadron of distinction along with some other special awards. Time is almost out to register but you may still be able to make last minute plans to join the CAP/CC – Maj Gen Vazquez and I, along with the SER and GLR region commanders and several members of the Board of Governors, on May 20-22nd. We will publish a complete list of all the winners following the conference. Conference registration details can be found at

I hope to also have some additional news from the quarterly meeting of the Command Senior Advisory Group. We are meeting near Knoxville, TN, the last weekend of the month and we have a very full agenda. I look forward to sharing some of the news next month.

Thank you as always for your service to our communities, states and nation. I am proud to be serving as your commander.



Middle East Region