Commander's Commentary

It sure seems like 2017 just rolled in following a phenomenal year for Civil Air Patrol and the Middle East Region, but as I sit here writing, I am forced to admit the month is just about over. 

MER Cadet Accepted to Four Service Academies
Like many of you, I often listen to the news as I drive.  I heard a story about a high school senior who accomplished something almost unheard of.  He received a congressional appointment and was accepted to four federal service academies: the Air Force Academy, West Point, the Naval Academy and the Coast Guard Academy.  I discovered later that evening the student is one of our very own cadets, C/1st Lt. Timothy Park of NatCap Wing’s Fairfax Composite Squadron.  You can read more about it here.  Please join me in congratulating this inspiring cadet!

Representing Civil Air Patrol
As a nation, we have gone through a very divisive political campaign and we now have a new president and new commander-in-chief.   Based on my social media feed, this continues to upset a lot of people.  Some feel the need to express their feelings in one way or another.  Free speech is one of the things our nation is all about and we should all exercise that right. However, we need to ensure that we are doing so at the right place and the right time, and that we are following our regulations which do not permit wearing your uniform during certain types of events.  This link to CAPM 39-1 CAP Uniform Manual, dated 26 June 2014, provides guidance.  Paragraph 1.2.7, when not to wear your uniform, specifically tells us:

1.2.7.1. At a meeting of, or sponsored by an organization, association, movement, or group the Attorney General of the United States has named as totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive; advocates or approves acts of force or violence to deny others their rights under the Constitution of the United States; seeks to change the United States Government by unconstitutional means; while participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches or rallies or in any public demonstration when participation may imply USAF sanction of the cause.

1.2.7.2. At any public meeting, demonstration, march, rally or interview if the purpose may be to advocate, express or approve opposition to the Armed Forces of the United States.

1.2.7.3. Under any circumstance that would tend to bring discredit or reproach upon the uniform.

1.2.7.4. While furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interest.

 It is your right to express your opinions, but we all have to be careful to be apolitical when we are acting on behalf of our great organization, the Civil Air Patrol.

Addressing Uniform Concerns Regarding Vanguard
Over the last several months, I have been working with some of Civil Air Patrol’s national staff addressing problems raised concerning uniform items purchased from Vanguard.  Concerns range from issues with stitching and mistakes with names to quality variances with products over time.  One of our members put together a detailed report based on issues that he had been made aware of or had experienced himself.  This report provided specific examples of the problems outlined. This is an important component when trying to address a complaint.  Simply saying “you guys stink” isn’t really an effective method for change.  Based on the member’s report and by working with the National Uniform Committee and the staff at NHQ, we have made significant progress. 

Let me start out by saying I know for a fact that Vanguard really wants to provide a quality product to our members.  Over the years, anytime anyone has approached me about a problem, I have always suggested they contact the company to directly resolve the issue. That almost always solves the problem.  Let’s also agree that no one is perfect and sometimes mistakes are made.  We are actively working to improve the quality of the items supplied by Vanguard. 

Currently, when they create a new item, samples are reviewed prior to production.  Each of the issues brought up in the report have been addressed and corrected where possible by Vanguard.  Our members are our most important asset, and we will continue to work to get you what you need.  If you have issues going forward, I ask that you contact Vanguard if it is a customer service problem.  If it is a quality issue, please send it through your chain of command — which will get to me— so I can work with the national staff to make things right.  This item is important to the CAP Senior Advisory Group and no one should think their concerns are being ignored. 

Cadet Achievements
I had the privilege of assisting Col. Joe Winter, the Maryland Wing commander, when he presented the Amelia Earhart Award to C/Capt. Caleb Scanlan of the Carroll Composite Squadron.  Five other cadets were also promoted at the meeting, and it was great to be able to shake their hands, congratulate them and get a couple of pictures with them.  I also had the chance to chat with the members and parents at the meeting following the ceremonies.  This is one of the best parts of being your commander. Thanks for inviting me.

Celebrating a Squadron Milestone and History
National Capital Wing’s Tuskegee Cadet Squadron celebrated its 4th birthday this past month.  The wing’s vice commander, Lt. Col. J.D. Ellis, attended along with two past wing commanders, Col. Richard Cooper and Col. Jane Davies.  The president of the East Coast chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Mr. Jerry Burton, shared some of the group’s history. He told us “Tuskegee Airmen" refers to the men and women, African-Americans and Caucasians, who were involved in the so-called "Tuskegee Experience," the Army Air Corps program to train African-Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft.

The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. Tuskegee Airmen are credited with flying 15,553 sorties during World War II.  They also had an impressive record of protecting bombers, with a loss rate of half that of other escort groups in the Army Air Force.

One of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Major Anderson, was present at the squadron’s celebration. He served as a maintainer for B-25 aircraft.  Several cadet and senior awards were presented during the event.  CAP’s history was also on display with period uniforms worn by Col. Frank Blazich, Lt. Col. Bryan Pettigrew and Capt. Colleen McCormick.  It was a special evening.

Joint Middle East Region & Virginia Wing Conference
Registration is open for the joint MER/Virginia Wing conference April 7–9 at the Holiday Inn - University Area, 1901 Emmet St., Charlottesville, VA 22901.  You can sign up at  http://conference.vawg.cap.gov/ and get more information about the events and activities.  There will be some great learning opportunities for all, as well as awards for the outstanding members of the Virginia Wing and the Middle East Region.  Our national commander, Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, is scheduled to be there.  It will be a great weekend celebrating our members, I hope to see many of you there.

Nominations for MER “of the Year” Awards
Speaking of awards, we are entering the “of the year” awards process.  Emails have gone out to each of the wings outlining the process for submitting the awards.  The deadline for submittal for these to the region is February 15th so we can turn them around and get them sent in to national.  We have over 7000 members in the MER, so make sure your members are considered.  The “of the year” awards will be presented at the conference in April. 

Safety is Everyone’s Job
Your squadrons completed the annual safety survey on the 31st.  Safety continues to be a major focus for everyone.  As I visit units and review safety reports, I can see great strides in improving the safety culture for CAP. We all have to do our part in using ORM for our activities and always having the mindset of “how do we safely accomplish this ….”  I could use your help in doing a better job reporting on your safety training.  Units have monthly safety briefs, many of us do safety training in our workplace, quite a number of professionals — pilots included— do daily and weekly training, but we often forget to log into eServices to document the training.  Please take the extra five minutes to get credit for your training and help improve our records.

MER SAR College Canceled
We received word from the managers at Ft. Pickett that due to the training needs of the active duty, guard and reserve units exercising there, we have lost more than half of the billeting space that we need to hold MER SAR 2017.  I have made the decision to cancel the school for this year.  We will use some of the funding for flying clinics and other training later in the fiscal year.  Thanks to our phenomenal A3 (Operations) staff for all their work up to this point.  Be on the lookout for MER SAR 2018!

Our Role and Looking Ahead
I want to close this month sharing a few thoughts on how we all fit into CAP and the importance of our missions.  Each and every one of you is an important part of getting the job done. You may not have a direct impact on a specific event but we are all part of one CAP.  This story features a couple saved by the efforts of CAP.   This link is from Gen. David L. Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, saying thanks to the former Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF) Deborah James for her service to our great nation.  This article provides information about the new SECAF nominee.  Keeping up with the world around us is vital to our continued success.  Thank you for all that you do in service to our communities, states and our nation.