Commander's Commentary

 

Knowles Col2

To say that August was a little busy would understate all the exciting things that occurred over the last 30 days. Many of these monumental things have taken years and a lot of hard work by a lot of people to come to fruition, so let me start off by saying thank you to everyone that has been involved.

Let's talk about the news that is on everyone's mind. What does it mean that the Civil Air Patrol is "officially" a part of the Total Force? To begin, CAP has been a part of the Total Force for a long time. Our missions and our members have supported the Air Force and the nation since 1947, the year the Air Force was born as a separate service. What is different today is that the official doctrine of the Air Force has changed. In August 2015, the Air Force updated Doctrine Volume 2, “Leadership,” expanding the Air Force’s descriptions of Total Force and Airmen to now consist of regular, Guard, Reserve, civilian and Auxiliary members. “As a strategic partner, these unpaid professionals have boldly served our nation saving the Air Force almost 40 times the cost of using military assets for each hour served,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “Inclusion in the Total Force reflects the continuing key contributions of this highly trained and equipped organization.” "Civil Air Patrol’s increased exposure has a direct impact on attracting youth interest in STEM-based activities which are skills necessary to develop the innovative Airmen our Air Force needs,” said Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III. “We proudly welcome the Air Force Auxiliary by extending our badge of honor as Airmen.”

Over time new recruits in the Air Force will be trained on what CAP brings to the fight as part of the Total Force. As we continue to take on new missions it should be easier to coordinate with the other Airmen to perform our missions for America. However, this new designation and recognition also comes with a brighter spotlight. Continuing to serve with a high degree of professionalism in the public eye is even more important. You owe it to the rest of the Auxiliary to be that shining example whose uniform is spotless. The one who understands the concept of servant leadership and puts others before their own needs. The Airman who follows all four core values of Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence and Respect. There will be people both in uniform and out of uniform that will look for us to stumble, so walk proudly and respectfully in everything that you do.

I had the honor of representing all of you at the Board of Governors meeting, the Command Council and National Conference this past week. It was a very busy week. We had the opportunity to recognize the winners of the missions awards for the MER on Friday. They are:

  • Aerospace Education Mission - Maryland Wing
  • Cadet Programs Mission - Virginia Wing
  • Disaster Relief Mission - South Carolina Wing
  • Homeland Security/Counterdrug Mission - National Capital Wing
  • Search and Rescue Mission - Virginia Wing


In addition, Lt. Col. Gene Jackson was awarded the Col Edwin W. Lewis, Jr., National Incident Staff Member of the Year 2015. Jackson serves on the MER A3 (Operations) staff, primarily managing the Glider Program in the region. Prior to that he served in Virginia Wing in many operations staff areas and as an Incident Commander. Congratulations to Maj. Michael Hoover, awarded Civil Air Patrol's national Character Development Instructor of the Year. Maj. Hoover is currently a member of the Hagerstown Composite Squadron, Maryland Wing.

Several of our members were also recognized for their work at the national level. Lt. Col. JD Ellis was awarded the Distinguished Service Award and Lt. Col. Jason Secrest the Exceptional Service Award by Maj. Gen. Vazquez at the conference for their work on the national Wreaths Across America event. A number of other MER members will also be recognized for their work on WAA with a national commander's commendation that will be forwarded to their wing commanders for presentation at a later time. Please join me in congratulating these award winners.

The Command Council spent quite a bit of time discussing what CAP can do to improve recruiting and retention. This is an issue that the MER identified in 2014 as something we need to work harder on. We owe it to our members to treat them with respect and provide the training and mentoring they need to be successful. There will be a number of new ideas coming out to help. Back in May I announced a region recruiting competition. The winner will be my guest at the region conference in May 2016. Since then the region has recruited 105 new members by 91 recruiters. Currently we have a tie with three members recruiting three new Airmen: Capt. Aaron Newman, DCWG, Senior Member Timothy Bagnell, NCWG, and Cadet Caleb Mize, NCWG. Eight others are tied for second with two recruits apiece. Maj. Gen. Vazquez has confirmed that he will be at our conference in May and he will be joining me at the ceremony when we recognize the winner.

So what can you do to help us recruit and retain our members? As I visit squadrons across the region and talk to our members, the top reason that squadrons are growing is because they run a quality program. They use the tools in our tool box like the Great Start Program, they have a schedule that is published, they provide opportunities for training for their members, they fly cadets, and they encourage every member to attend activities outside the home squadron to discover and share what the rest of CAP is doing. They ask for help when they need it and they are willing to help others when they need it. Sometimes the biggest impediment to our success is our ego and the willingness to accept someone else's assistance.

Speaking of help, I could use some of our subject matter experts’ assistance. Our Inspectors General are looking for a few good Airmen to serve as augmentees. These SME's would lend their expertise to IG teams during inspections. This is an additional duty assignment which you would have the flexibility to support the subordinate unit inspections program when you can fit it in your schedule. We are all familiar with the saying "many hands make light work" so consider signing up. Please contact your local wing IG or the MER/IG - for additional information.

We use email for a lot of communication across all of CAP. It is one method that allows us a large amount of flexibility to ask and answer questions and share information. Lately we seem to be having a rash of Airmen responding with "reply all". Some email systems set up their response default this way and some make you search for that option. In an effort to reduce the "junk mail" we all get I ask that you take an extra five seconds before you respond to click the correct button.

Many of us also use social media to communicate and share what is going on with our friends and sometimes with strangers. We use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc... I did a quick web search and learned there are over 200 active social media sites, and the list is growing. Social media gives us a tremendous platform to share news, photos, and our opinions to the world. This also puts a significant responsibility on all of us to be careful what we share. One of the most important considerations we have is OPSEC - Operations Security. Some of the activities and events we participate in have OPSEC considerations. Sharing pictures of a military base, or dates and grid coordinates of events are things that people who wish to do harm to our nation can use. We all undergo OPSEC training when we join, it may be useful for you to revisit that if you are not sure what should be shared in public. I am a big fan of sharing pictures of the amazing things that I see when I am out visiting units. Anyone who has asked me to come to a meeting and help present an award will tell you that I hand them my phone and ask them to take pictures so I can brag about our Airmen. However, I always look closely at the pictures before I share them. If they show improper uniform wear or people doing things they shouldn't be doing I don't publish them. Each of us has a responsibility to the organization to watch out for pictures or comments that reflect poorly on us and our members as a whole. There are thousands of public Facebook pages out there. All of us shouldn't hesitate to contact whomever is editing the page to take down any questionable images or delete comments that do not follow our core value of respect. I will share that I have, on more than one occasion, called up a wing commander and asked him "unofficially" to look into pictures or comments floating around on the internet. It is a lot easier if we all take responsibility to share our story in a positive way with the world.

I'd like to close with a couple words of appreciation. From the top, thanks to Sec. Deborah Lee James and Gen. Mark A Welsh III for signing off on the new Total Force doctrine. There were many people behind the scenes working on this. They include CAP's national leadership and the national staff. Mr. Tom Shubert, Assistant Deputy for AF Auxiliary, Education and Development Programs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and Maj. Jeremy Hodges, USAF - Chief, Air Force Auxiliary Integration and Requirements Branch on the Air Staff. These gentlemen are the Auxiliary's main contacts with our Air Force. They both are amazing advocates of CAP. I am grateful to all of the members of the BoG that support us 365 days of the year. I want to thank your wing commanders who make CAP possible in your state and who work with me and the region’s staff to accomplish the mission. These wing commanders along with the region vice commanders and chief of staff basically have two full time jobs. The one they get paid for in cash and the one they get paid for with intrinsic rewards.

The future has no boundaries and no limits. It is up to all of us to stretch beyond our current mindset and take on the challenges of serving our nation as Airmen in the total force. Thank you and your families for your service.

 

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