July 2015 Middle East Region Commander's Commentary
Encampment season has begun! So far, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have completed three very successful encampments. The Virginia Wing encampment hosted a visit from Daniel R. Sitterly, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., along with Mr. Tom Shubert, Assistant Deputy for AF Auxiliary, Education and Development Programs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, and other staff members. Mr. Shubert is one of CAP's main supporters on the Air Staff and has attended a number of wing, region, and national conferences. They were very impressed with the training and the esprit de corps shown by the cadets and staff at the encampment. Great job everyone!
Next up is the Tri-Wing Encampment, which is NatCap, Maryland and Delaware, running July 3-12. Finishing up the season is North Carolina's encampment on July 25 – August 2. Encampment is a tremendous training opportunity for our cadets. First time cadets get a big "drink of water from the fire hose" experiencing a touch of military life, learning about CAP and the US Air Force and preparing themselves to be better members of our great organization. Even more, encampments are run by the cadet staff under the supervision of the senior officer staff. I am a strong believer in the concept of the cadet program being a "leadership laboratory" and encampments are one of the best places to learn in CAP. These activities take an entire year of planning and are a lot of work. Please join me in thanking the encampment staffs for all the work done not only at encampment but for the other 51 weeks before it.
I also want to take a moment to thank the Air Force and CAP's cadet programs staff for the extra financial support that they provided to our cadets through the Cadet Encampment Assistance Programs (CEAP) . This program provided $490,000 in funding for cadets who had a financial need. The money was made available through the USAF Air Staff in April. Our cadet programs staff, working through our national leadership, were able to create a system to administer this funding to needy cadets. This was a huge undertaking and is a great example of how we are supported at the individual member level by our parent organization and our national staff.
Three of our wings were evaluated by the US Air Force for our emergency services missions this past month. This joint operations evaluation (OPSEVAL) was spread out over a three-week period with each wing, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, running missions in their state for close to a full week. Every CAP wing is required to be evaluated and certified to perform our search and rescue, disaster assessment and counter drug missions every two years. Our region, for the past several years, has stressed the importance of joint operations in the EVALS. This is due, in large part, to the challenges that we faced during Hurricane Sandy, where resources were spread across multiple states and regions and our resources were tightly stretched due to the severity and duration of the event. There was a lot of work done by the wings during the EVAL as well as a huge amount done planning this event. Our CAP-USAF liaison staff, led by Lt. Col. Kevin Hubbard, USAF, along with some support from the MER staff led by Col. Jerry Weiss created an intense "real world" scenario that kept our wings hopping. Part of the plan was to push them to the point of needing to ask for help. Sometimes living in the squadron, group, or wing "world" we forget that we are part of a larger organization with a tremendous amount of resources available. Our region motto of "No Boundaries, No Limits" was created to remind us we are all one great CAP.
On the national level, CAP was visited by Gen. "Hawk" Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command (ACC). This is the USAF major command that is responsible for organizing, training, equipping and maintaining combat-ready forces for rapid deployment and employment while ensuring strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime defense. 1st Air Force (AFNORTH) reports to the ACC. Many of the Air Force assigned missions that CAP performs are for 1st Air Force. Carlisle, who took over Air Combat Command, based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., last October, visited CAP National Headquarters on the invitation of CAP’s national commander, Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez. “Impressive. Thanks for what you guys are doing,” Carlisle said after an afternoon visit to the National Operations Center.
Our wings submitted their Operations Annual Training Plan to the region this past month. Feedback has been provided and we will finalize the plans and budgets for FY16 by the end of the month. Our wings are taking the ATP to the next level for FY 16 and including plans for the other mission areas in CAP, cadet programs and aerospace, as well as keying our plans to the national strategic plans. This is a big step for many wings but an important one for all of us to be working as one Civil Air Patrol. This is the first year for this type of major ATP for the region and our wings. It is a learning process for all and, as hard as it is at times, we will be a much better organization by using this process.
We all have things that we want to accomplish, goals and priorities. Some may be to take off a few pounds, others seek to improve their training. I have a goal for FY 2016 that I would like all of you to join me in working on. We have a great organization and we do amazing things. We all have our reasons for joining but as a team we work together to accomplish our missions. I want you, starting today, to make recruiting new members your number one priority. We have made joining much easier. Cadets can do it online, and we are working on doing something similar for adults (the fingerprint card is a challenge). We have simplified Level 1 for adults and have significantly reduced the work involved to "get in the door.” We have not eliminated the training because it is important stuff, but we have moved it to further down the training pipeline for new members. We must grow in order to take on some of the new missions we are being tasked to do. We have to increase our professional development to provide meaningful training for our members. We are working on this at the wing, region and national level but recruiting is done at the local squadron and individual level. We need YOU!
I will be working with the wing commanders and the recruiting and retention officers to come up with a program to recognize our cadet and senior members who are our leading recruiters. To begin with they will receive a personal invitation from me to attend our Middle East Region conference as my guest on May 20-22, 2016, at the Wyndham Virginia Crossings Hotel and Conference Center near Richmond, Va. This is a 4-star hotel and conference center in a central location with amazing facilities, hotel rooms and food. Our top recruiters will also be recognized at the MER awards banquet.
Let me close on a personal note. I want to thank all of you who have expressed your condolences following the death of my wife's mother on the 19th. For many of us, CAP is an extended family and your messages of support and prayers have helped Teri and I to get through a very difficult time. The Hanna family had six of seven daughters serve as cadets in CAP. Her husband, Lt. Col. William E Hanna, Jr was an Air Force reservist assigned to CAP at the end of his career who joined CAP as a member and served as a squadron commander and later on the region staff. Mrs. Hanna gave a lot of support to our organization over her lifetime, even putting up with a son-in-law who missed a lot of family activities while he was off doing his CAP duties. It is important for all of us to remember to say thank you to our family members for their support to us. As we head out the door to fly the mission, attend a training event or support disaster relief during a hurricane, the people we leave behind have to pick up the work that we are not there to do. They are the wind beneath our wings and do not receive awards or recognition for their work. Please take a minute to thank them for me.
Have a safe and Happy 4th of July!
JOHN M. KNOWLES, Colonel, CAP
Middle East Region