MER Commander's Commentary - December 2015
Like many of you, I spent Thanksgiving with my family. We visited Teri's side (the Hanna's) for a short visit before dinner and then had dinner with the Knowles side of the family. The morning started out with breakfast with my immediate family where we each shared what we are thankful for. Although I did not have enough bacon and eggs to have all of you over, I do want you all to know that I count each of you as a blessing for whom I am thankful. We have a little under 7,000 members in the Middle East Region. Some are brand new cadets; some are 50-year members who have been serving their country longer than many of our members have been alive. What they all share in common is a desire for volunteer service to our communities, states and our nation. They put others’ needs and interests before their own. Sadly, this has become uncommon in today's fast-paced world where most people are too self absorbed in their own little world. So, please know that I am sincere when I say that I am thankful for all of you.
November was another busy month with a lot of things going on. Maryland Wing held their conference, and although I could not be there, Col Egry did a great job representing me and passing on my congratulations to all of the "of the year" award winners. I followed the conference on social media and it was great to see such a large turnout and so many great education sessions for our members. The CAP Senior Advisory Group held its Fall meeting at Maxwell Air Force Base that same weekend. Col Weiss attended the meeting representing the region for us. There were briefings on the 75th anniversary events (today is our birthday when we start the party leading up to the big one in 2016), recruiting and retention, cadet programs, cyber education, flying, IT, logistics, professional development, and safety. There were many other discussions as well but my space is limited here so I can't list everything. It was a very productive meeting that ended with planning for the winter CAP Command Council meeting in February.
As a region, the MER has continued to grow during this last quarter. We have been over 100% in our three membership categories for the quarter when compared to last year at this time but I know we can do better. We held a wing commander's retreat November 20-22 at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Your wing commanders and their vice commanders were invited to attend this weekend to help review the MER Annual Training Plan and help establish goals for FY 16 and FY 17. We talked about a lot of things, but with regards to retention and recruiting, we focused on what makes a squadron grow. The bottom line is that good and great squadrons have good leadership and a quality program. A quality program starts with following a plan. It includes having members assigned to brand new prospects when they come in the door and making them feel welcome. It includes a well established program for training new cadets, like the CAP Great Start program and a plan for training new senior members. It includes assigning a mentor for each person who can help answer questions outside the chain of command and to be available as a touch stone when they are needed. There are a number of new initiatives going on with regards to PD to help train new commanders and leaders of cadets. Even if you have been involved in CAP for many years, these courses can be very helpful. Talk to your PD Officer about them.
The recruiting contest continues to be very close. The leaders in the contest have recruited six members since 1 July 2015. They are: Lt Col Jay Langley, MER-001; Capt Michael Smith, NC-107; Maj James Elliot, NC-305 and Cadet Caleb Mize, NC-150. There are two members at four and six members at three. The contest runs from 1 July 2015 to 1 April 2016 so there is still plenty of time for you to get into the fray. I am looking forward to having the top cadet and top senior recruiter as my guests at the MER conference in Richmond, VA on May 20-22, 2016. We have confirmed that all three members of the CAP Command Staff, Generals Vazquez and Myrick and Col Ragland, will be there along with a number of other distinguished visitors from across CAP. There is information about the conference on the MER website. You can reserve your rooms today. We hope to have the sign up for the conference up and running this month so keep an eye on the site for updates.
December marks a very busy month for our A4 - Logistics sections across our region. Each unit has to complete their annual inventories for equipment, communication gear, aircraft and vehicles. As of today all 150 units have completed their aircraft inventory, 149 their vehicle inventory, 142 their communications inventory and 143 their equipment inventory. This is a monumental task for all of us but it isn't over until all 150 units are done. The region has set 7 Dec 2015 as our internal deadline to complete this. If your unit is one that has a little more to do let's push this across the finish line so we can enjoy the holiday season.
I am looking forward to seeing many of you at Arlington National Cemetery at the Wreaths Across America event on 12 December to honor all those who served. We are still in need of volunteers to assist in coordinating the unloading of the trucks at ANC. We need everyone who is planning on attending to sign up at http://2015-waa-cap-support.eventbrite.com/ . If you live within driving distance to ANC please set aside this morning to come out to assist at this amazing event. For those who are able to take some time during the day on Friday 11 December, we also need some help putting out wreaths at the 9-11 Memorial Gardens at the Pentagon starting at 1145. Following this event Lt Col JD Ellis has set up some tours of the Pentagon for anyone who is interested. You must contact Lt Col Ellis at no later than 7 Dec with your name and CAPID if you want to take this tour. The uniform of the day is BDUs or corporate equivalent. I hope to see you there.
The Middle East Region led the nation in flying in FY 2015! We had an average of 222.3 hours per aircraft assigned and all of our wings were in the top 20 with DCWG -286 hours at #1 and NCWG - 262.7 at #3. This is a great accomplishment and continues to show what an amazing job all of you are doing to support our nation.
I hope that everyone will join me in rooting on the teams from NCWG and VAWG that are representing the MER at the National Cadet Competition at Maxwell AFB at the end of the month. These two teams bested the competition during the region event two months ago. I know they will represent us well and make us proud.
Teri and I will be heading to the NCWG conference on Friday. I hope to see you there. Don't be shy. Come up and introduce yourself. Meeting our members is one of the best things about being the region commander. Thank you for your service and your commitment to our great organization. I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday season. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish members, Merry Christmas to our Christian members and Happy New Year to all!
JOHN M. KNOWLES, Colonel, CAP
Middle East Region, Civil Air Patrol