U.S. Civil Air Patrol
BY LT. COL STEVEN SOLOMON
© 2014 FrontLine Security (Vol 9, No 2)

Civil Air Patrol’s rich history of protecting America will come full circle when the U.S. Air Force auxiliary ­officially ­celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2016.


Tow Target Unit No. 2 (1944)

The all-volunteer component of the U.S. Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol, is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016. The organization was ­created on 1 December 1941, just six days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and has been helping Americans recover from countless emergencies ever since.

“The Air Force was initially part of the U.S. Army, and wasn’t made a separate branch of the military until 1947,” notes CAP’s national commander, Major-General Joseph Vazquez. “So although we’re officially chartered by Congress as the Air Force Auxiliary, we’re actually older than our total force parent.”

CAP had many missions during World War II, including anti-submarine patrol and warfare. CAP found 173 enemy U-boats, attacked 57 and hit 10, dropping a total of 83 bombs and depth charges.


CAP cadet documents hurricane damage

“The first Air Medals awarded during World War II actually went to two CAP pilots, after President Roosevelt heard of their daring rescue of a fellow airman downed in bitterly cold high seas,” Vazquez explains. “By the end of the war, 64 CAP members had lost their lives.”
Today, CAP operates 550 aircraft and performs about 85% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination ­Center, with credit for saving about 70 lives each year.

“Our 60,000 members are building on the excitement created in May, when President Obama signed legislation authorizing a Congressional Gold Medal for our founding members,” Vazquez says.


After unloading relief supplies, CAP youth participate in ground team searches and other required tasks during times of emergency or disaster.

“We’ll be celebrating our 75th anniversary throughout 2016, with a ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C., displays at prominent air shows, and publication of an anniversary book.”

  • CAP provides disaster relief during and after hurricanes, floods, ­wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and countless other emergencies – like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest modern-day mission in CAP history until the organization’s response in 2012 to Hurricane Sandy. During that response, CAP aircrews took more than 150,000 aerial images to assist FEMA and other federal, state and local agencies involved in cleanup and recovery from the superstorm, which ravaged the coastlines of several states in the Northeast, including New Jersey and New York. In 2013, the National Aeronautic Association presented CAP with the Public Benefit Flying Award for its performance in the aftermath of Sandy.
  • CAP responds day or night when planes are overdue and emergency locator transmitters go off. Volunteer professionals perform search and rescue missions, as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Last December, CAP – using cellphone forensics – saved a family of six stranded in the snowy mountains of northern Nevada.
  • CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education and mentors more than 25,000 young Americans through its cadet program. By partnering with more than 3,000 educators nationwide, members nurture the talents of generations of the nation’s sons and daughters with aerospace education programs that stress leadership and character development and teach aviation and emergency response skills. CAP’s award-winning aerospace education program uses national standards-based materials to help nearly 275,000 school-aged children in grades K-12 to excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects. CAP’s cadets are involved in a wide variety of activities, including CyberPatriot, the national cyber defense competition won by cadet teams in 2011 and 2012. In 2014, a CAP cadet team was crowned the nation’s first CyberPatriot middle school champion.
  • CAP is a major partner of Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Every year, CAP teams up with the Maine-based nonprofit organization to raise funds to place Christmas wreaths on veterans’ graves at nearly 700 locations throughout the nation as well as in several countries overseas. CAP members also play an integral role in other patriotic events and activities, such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, presenting the colors and demonstrating respect for the flag and love of country.

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Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 60,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. In its Air Force auxiliary role, CAP performs 85% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions, as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 70 lives each year. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Members play a leading role in aerospace education, and serve as mentors to more than 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program.” 
Visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com and www.capgoldmedal.com for more info.

All Photos courtesy of CAP
© FrontLine Security 2014

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