Board of Governors' Vreeland Goes Back to Basics in CAP
Lt. Col. Thomas Vreeland has had a passion for flying and rockets since he was young. When he was 14, he found out about Civil Air Patrol and decided to join.
Soon after, CAP became his new passion.
Vreeland joined CAP in 1960 as a cadet, earning various awards and recognition — such as the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award (he was the 27th cadet to receive a Spaatz), Frank Borman Falcon Award, Cadet of the Year Award and others.
He intended to continue to serve as a cadet while in college. But at age 20, “in 1966, the wing commander asked me to start a new squadron, so I turned senior, and for the next seven years I was the commander of a new squadron in New York Wing,” he said.
He initially served in CAP from 1960-1975. During that time, he also served as a group staff officer, group Cadet Advisory Council adviser and member of the CAP National Curriculum Committee. While he was squadron commander, he helped share his love of flying with cadets. He promoted aerospace education and ran a flight training program for the cadets, with many receiving their pilot’s certificates.
After 15 years, Vreeland decided to take a break to further pursue his career in education and information technology. His experience includes working for the federal government, helping design a worldwide network for NASA and serving as director and curator for his family’s nonprofit, the Vreeland Institute.
The institute “is involved with education and technology,” he said. “We are a prize-winning international think tank, in that we solve international problems, technology problems and challenges.”
Vreeland rejoined CAP in 2006. About two years ago, he made the decision to return to the New York Wing squadron he founded 50 years ago.
“It’s kind of [like] putting bookends on a career,” he said.
Capt. Katherine Torres is the commander of Westchester Cadet Squadron 1. After meeting Vreeland at a wing conference, she recalled, she was shocked when she received his email a few weeks later saying that he wanted to transfer back into the unit.
“For someone who’s been all over the map — national, regional, wing — I was very surprised that he wanted to come back to a squadron,” Torres said. “He said he really wanted to go back to the roots of CAP.”
Vreeland said he was selected as the New York Wing’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft program manager by the wing commander. He attended an advanced RPA flight training course at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, last year. In this role, he is working with his squadron and the wing to integrate RPA into the aerospace education and operations missions.
Although he has served at every level of the organization, Vreeland said he thinks the squadron level is the best place to be.
“That’s where the cadets are; that’s where things happen,” he said. “Although you can contribute in a lot of different ways, I find that the best way to contribute is at the squadron level.
“I’m really pleased to be back in the squadron that I started 50 years ago and to see it thriving and doing well now all these years later,” he said.
In November, Vreeland was announced as one of the newest members of CAP’s Board of Governors. He said this position allows him to provide a different kind of leadership, and he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“For someone who’s spent over 25 years in CAP and spanning well over 50 years of time, the board was always sort of an unreachable, untouchable organization,” he said. “Being selected for the board was definitely a high point of my CAP career.”
This week he’s at CAP National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, as a guest lecturer at the 50th CAP National Staff College. A graduate of the first NSC in 1968, Vreeland said he’ll use this visit as an opportunity to reflect on both the things that remain the same in CAP and the things that have changed.
Because Torres is familiar with Vreeland’s work experience and leadership, she said she believes he is a great fit for the BoG.
“He’s an extremely gifted person, very smart, very dedicated,” she said.
Membership on CAP’s top governing board provides him with a new perspective, Vreeland said. He wants to help improve strategic planning at all levels of the organization, he added.
“Part of what I hope I’m able to accomplish is to bring the recognition to both the board and to the squadron level and to help bridge that gap that currently exists in our strategic planning efforts,” he said.
He’ll have awhile to accomplish that, as his appointment as a member-at-large — made by the CAP Senior Advisory Group — carries a three-year term, ending in November 2020.