Commander’s Commentary - June 2016
One of the busiest months of the year is the month that we hold the region conference. This year’s conference was at an amazing location and if anyone did not enjoy themselves then they don’t know how to have fun. Maj Brenda Reed, the project officer for the conference, outdid herself this year. I had worked with her on previous wing conferences over the years but, like fine wine, she has gotten better with time and experience and 99% of the problems were solved before the weekend began. There were a number of people who helped out, several played a major role, and I would like to publically say thanks to:
Col Jerry Weiss
Lt Col Cheryl Fielitz-Scarbrough
Lt Col Phyllis Griffin
Ch Lt Col Greg Hill
Lt Col Jay Langley
Lt Col Jett Mayhew
Lt Col Sherry McManus
Maj Rick Stuart
I would also like to express my thanks to a number of distinguished visitors who attended our conference. They include: Maj Gen Joe Vazquez and his wife Leslie; Mr. Don Rowland, CAP Chief Operating Officer; Col Larry Ragland, CAP Executive Officer; Col Ed Phelka, Great Lakes Region Commander, and his wife Amanda; Col Barry Melton, South East Region Commander; Col Jayson Altieri, Chairman of CAP’s Board of Governors; Col Warren Vest, member of the BOG and his wife Robin; and Col Charlie Glass, former MER/CC. Their attendance at our conference provided additional insight for our members and continued our tradition of no borders and no boundaries.
I sent out an email following to the conference announcing all the “of the year” award winners. You can find the complete list on the MER web page under the tab –MER News. What I did not include there was recognizing a number of officers who received awards, many of them end of tour, at the MER conference. These awards were:
50-year Award/Life membership: Col Tom Wallace, past commander of NCWG and was a member of the Col Chuck Suraci IG team for many years
Lt Col James Brogan – Meritorious Service Award for his work as the MER/A1 (Admin and Personnel)
Maj Brenda Reed - Meritorious Service Award for her work as the MER/PAO and her efforts as the project officer for the MER conference
Lt Col Dan Brodsky - Exceptional Service Award for his work as the MER/A7O (Cadet Programs)
Lt Col Maurice Thomas - National Commander’s Commendation for his work on Wreaths Across America
Lt Col Eric Haertel - National Commander’s Commendation for his work on Wreaths Across America
Maj Jacob Gerstein – CAP Achievement Award (Region Level) for recruiting.
C/SSgt Caleb Mize - CAP Achievement Award (Region Level) for recruiting.
Gen. Ira C. Eaker Award – Cadet Lt Col Sabrina Fuller of the West Richmond Cadet Squadron.
Gen. Ira C. Eaker Award—Cadet Lt Col James Browning of the Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron.
In the Civil Air Patrol, a part of the Air Force Total Force, our cadets and senior members are permitted to wear the USAF uniform with certain modifications. Just like the USAF we have some members who request a modification for wear due to a religious accommodation. Those who follow these sorts of things know that in 2014 the Air Force updated Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards (what CAP calls regulations the AF calls instruction). This followed the Department of Defense updating the standard for all military services. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal in April about an Army officer (http://www.wsj.com/articles/sikh-officer-in-u-s-army-wins-fight-for-religious-accommodation-1459554547) who was granted a religious accommodation. In a local case the Virginia Wing requested an accommodation through the chain of command to the MER and to National Headquarters. I approved it, the CAP/CC approved it and passed it to the CAP-USAF Commander Col Tyynismaa. He conferred with his chain of command and granted the waiver. It is for one specific cadet in VAWG and the conditions are spelled out in the waiver letter. In a perfect world I would not be writing this paragraph and singling out this instance but, unfortunately, we live in a society were social media often makes a mountain out of a molehill. I understand that people are worried about pictures getting out of the cadet or, even worse, other people calling the cadet out for being out of uniform. If you are concerned about a uniform issue, use your chain of command to put your concerns to rest. Follow our core value of respect and do not make another member feel disrespected by taking your concerns public. If there is a problem, then trust in your chain of command to resolve it. We should all embrace diversity, it is one of the things that makes our country great. We are a true melting pot that is stronger due to all the different races and religions that have one thing in common, the love of our nation and the blessing of being a citizen.
This month’s commentary is the first one that was edited by our new MER Public Affairs Officer, Maj Julie Holley. She is a former wing PAO and works in the world of public affairs and publishing. She brings a wealth of knowledge to her job and we are very lucky to have her. As you probably figured out, our previous MER/PAO who received a MSA for her work is leaving the region. She has transferred back to Maryland Wing to serve as the wing’s Chief of Staff. She has been a huge asset to the region and leaves big shoes to fill but I know Maj Holley is up to the task. Please welcome her to the staff and thank Maj Reed as she goes on to bigger and better things.
A couple of months ago I congratulated NATCAP on doing so well on their compliance inspection. A CI is a major under taking and part the process is closing out any discrepancies found. I do not know if NHQ tracks these sorts of things but there is no doubt in my mind that Col Heinlein and his staff set records for closing out their CI. This is in part due to the low number of problems but they continue to shine as one of the premiere wings in the nation getting their CI closed this past month. They help make my job easy.
Let me close by touching on safety. The 101 Critical Days of Summer span Memorial Day to Labor Day. They are called critical because the OPS tempo goes up along with the temperature. Way too many serious accidents and injuries occur during this time. Away from CAP we all get outdoors riding bikes, swimming, going on vacation, often doing higher risk activities. In CAP we use ORM to reduce our risks. We recently began focusing on thinking through the process we follow for any action emphasizing “I am going to cut the grass safely” or “I am going to drive to drive to the beach safely.” We all want to arrive unhurt but it takes a conscious effort to accomplish the mission. I was copied on an email sent out by Col Paul McCrosky, the WVWG/CC, and since he said it so well let me quote him here. “You, our CAP members are our most important resource. I want each of you to enjoy your holiday weekend, but don’t overdo it. We need each and every one of you to come back well rested and ready to continue to make a difference for you your Communities, State and Nation. “
Thank you for all that you do.
Col John M. Knowles, CAP
Middle East Region Commander
FEMA LNO to the NRCC