Commander's Commentary
Year in Review
2016 was an amazing year for Civil Air Patrol and the Middle East Region!! On December 1st we held our 75th anniversary gala at the Udvar-Hazy Center. It was hands down one of the most amazing evenings celebrating CAP that I have ever attended. It was an evening full of camaraderie, celebration and inspiration. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James gave an inspiring speech honoring all of our past and current members. If I was not a member, it would have made me join!
 
I had the honor of sitting next to Lt. Gen. Julius Becton, USA (Ret.) who, along with Mrs. Barbara O’Malley (mother of Governor O’Malley and longtime assistant to Sen. Barbara Mikulski), was presented a replica Congressional Gold Medal to honor their service as cadets in CAP during WWII. Teri and I saw a number of old friends from all across the country as we celebrated 75 years of greatness. I was humbled to attend on your behalf.

CAP Governance
I spent the next two days meeting with the other region commanders and the CAP Senior Advisory Group at our fourth quarter meeting. Topics included recruiting and retention, finance, operations, IT, safety, fundraising and… well, I think you get the idea that we had two very full days of work. There was a lot accomplished and even more items identified as things we need to work on. One item that touches all of us in the MER was the confirmation of the new CAP inspector general. Col. Tom Kettell, the current IG, was selected to become the next Rocky Mountain Region commander and his replacement will be our very own Lt. Col. Cheryl Fielitz-Scarbrough, the MER/IG. Please join me in congratulating her as she takes on this challenging task. Col. Ray Harris, former Delaware Wing commander and current DEWG/IG, has accepted the appointment as the next MER/IG so we are in good hands as we move toward the future.
 
Wreaths Across America
December is the month when CAP joins with Wreaths Across America to honor, remember and teach. WAA also celebrated a special anniversary this year, 25 years of laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). Although CAP was not there the first year or so, members of the Maine Wing partnered with the Worchester family early on, driving down with them in the early days and helping put out the wreaths. Today CAP is a major partner with WAA and many squadrons across the nation support the program through selling wreaths, raising funds for their units and being at 1,100 veteran cemeteries across the nation and 24 cemeteries with U.S. Veterans on foreign soil on wreath day. The MER is the lead for events at ANC and in and around the D.C. area.

Before we get into specifics, I need to thank the lead team that has been meeting a couple of times a month for the past six months with the WAA-ANC committee. Cols. Ziggy Bernfeld and Jane Davies have served as the project officers for the last two years. Lt. Col. Jason Secrest served as the incident commander on wreath day. Maj. Todd Parsons coordinated the distinguished visitors presentations.

Moving and emptying 65 trailers takes a ton of coordination. CAP had 240 volunteers who reported in at 0430 on Saturday morning in sub-freezing temperatures and freezing rain. While there was probably less than half the number of wreath layers than last year, once the gates were open, we got the job done. Lt. Col. JD Ellis coordinated the event at the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial where 40 CAP members assisted the public in putting up 184 wreaths to honor those killed in the attack in 2001. A few days before that, Lt. Col. Meredith Phares and honor guard members, many from Maryland Wing’s Hagerstown Composite Squadron, assisted Maj. Gen. Joseph Vazquez and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe at the Maine Society ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

I know that squadrons all across the region participated in wreath laying ceremonies. While I do not have a final count, if you shared your event on Facebook and I saw it, I reposted it to my own page in order to share your story. And, many were also shared on the MER Facebook page. I received positive comments from the chairman of WAA and the organization’s executive director so I know that your hard work was noticed.
 
A New Perspective on WAA
I do need to add one final thought. Many years ago before I went to my first WAA ceremony, I was a bit pessimistic about the whole thing. I know that it reflects poorly on my normally optimistic view but I just thought it was a way to sell wreaths. Since that first year when I assisted in putting a smaller amount of wreaths at Arlington I have become a believer. There is something special about tens of thousands of our fellow citizens showing up to honor and remember those veterans who served our nation. Respect for those buried hangs in the air and can almost be tasted. It is inspiring to be a part of something so special and I hope those of you who experienced that share it with your friends. I am so very proud of what all of you have done, words truly are not enough but they will have to do. Thank you.
 
Awards and Honors
I closed out a busy month by presenting the Ira C Eaker Award to C/Lt. Col. Kira Stiers of the Towson Composite Squadron in Maryland Wing. Stiers is a student at the University of Southern California. She has attended five Tri-Wing encampments and the Civic Leadership Academy. She has held multiple staff positions including serving as her squadron’s cadet deputy commander and the squadron and group CAC representative. Maryland Wing Commander Col. Joe Winter was also on hand to present her the Maryland Wing Cadet of the Year Award. MER Command Chief CMSgt. Dennis Orcutt attended and shared some information about the CAP NCO program. Congratulations to C/Lt Col Stiers and good luck on the Spaatz test. (She has already scheduled it for January while she is home from college).
 
New Leadership
The Board of Governors selected Mr. John Salvador as the new CAP Chief Operating Officer. He had been serving as the interim COO. Mr. Salv
ador is a retired U.S. Air Force pilot who has been on staff at national headquarters for many years. He held many positions, including CAP operations officer and director. He has selected Mr. Paul Gloyd, a retired Air Force colonel and pilot whose last assignment was as the CAP-USAF commander, as his assistant COO. I have worked closely with both of these fine men and we are in good hands going into the future. Please join me in congratulating them.
 
The Year Ahead
A new year brings a new beginning. Many of us will make new year’s resolutions; some of us will even stick to them. It is also a time to think back on the events of the previous year. We have had our share of amazing successes and some very sad times as well. 2016 was a year where several of our wings lost some long term members, which is always very hard. We said goodbye to our aviation pioneer, Col. Mary Feik. We shared her with the rest of CAP but she always kept her membership at her home squadron, which now is re-named in honor of her. Our members once more stood up to mother nature and assisted their neighbors and friends during Hurricane Matthew. I am truly blessed to be able to serve all of you as your commander and I thank you and your families for the sacrifices you make to serve our communities, states and the nation. Please be safe as we start 2017 and I look forward to working with you to make the MER the best region in CAP.


JOHN M. KNOWLES, Colonel
CAP Commander, Middle East Region