08:43 AM

Abraham, Manchin To Lead Congressional Squadron

Civil Air Patrol’s “flying congressman,” U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Louisiana, has been tabbed to command the U.S. Air Force auxiliary’s Congressional Squadron, based at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

Abraham, R-La., becomes only the fourth commander in the 51-year-old history of the squadron, succeeding U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. Previous commanders were Reps. Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Lester Wolff of New York.

Known in his home state of Louisiana and in CAP circles for his dedication to the military, aviation and volunteerism, Abraham flies often in service to his country when not at work on Capitol Hill representing Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. A veteran of the National Guard, he now flies for CAP as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Serving along with Abraham will be Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as the squadron’s new vice commander. Manchin was a key sponsor and supporter of legislation to present the Congressional Gold Medal to CAP in 2014 for its founding members’ service during World War II.

Both men were promoted to colonel and sworn in this week.

"Throughout my life, I’ve always sought opportunities to serve," Abraham said. "The Civil Air Patrol has allowed me a chance to give back to my country and assist our active duty service members. I am grateful for the service this organization provides, and I am very honored to have been tabbed with this command."

“I am honored to be able to lead the Congressional Squadron and support this admirable organization," Manchin said. "As a pilot myself, I look forward to watching the accomplishments of the Civil Air Patrol as pilots and as citizens as they continue to serve their country.”

The Congressional Squadron provides members of Congress and staff an opportunity to support CAP nationwide as well as in their district/state. For those interested, it provides a chance to participate in the CAP program.

“The majority of our members have joined to show support for Civil Air Patrol, especially in their home states,” said John Swain, CAP’s director of government relations and a longtime member of the squadron. “Others, however, have become active participants in the CAP program over the years, some even becoming rated mission aircrew.”

The squadron operates Cessna 182 aircraft on public missions and consists of 200-plus congressmen and congresswomen and staff as members. The squadron participates in vital CAP missions, including homeland security, search and rescue, disaster relief, air defense training and photo reconnaissance.

“Some of our missions have been in support of other CAP units,” Swain said, “and we have, on occasion, provided practice targets for the U.S. Air Force F-16s that defend our nation’s capital as part of Fertile Keynote missions.

”We’ve also flown with other members of Congress and staff, Air Force generals and FBI special agents, among others,” he said.