07:33 AM

CAP Natl. Conference Goes Virtual; 8,600+ Expected

Civil Air Patrol’s premier event of 2020, the National Conference, will be another CAP first, thanks to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic threw us a curveball and put our annual conference in jeopardy, we took that as a challenge, not as a disappointment,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander and CEO. “And the silver lining is this — while the genesis of our first virtual National Conference may have been born out of necessity, in true CAP fashion we took that idea and made it better.”

Originally scheduled as an onsite two-day event this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, the conference instead will be CAP’s very first virtual conference. CAP has already signed up more than 8,600 participants – 10 times the usual attendance for an onsite conference.

And even more are expected, as organizers were allowing members to register up until the time the conference officially begins this morning.

Those who sign up for the conference can choose from 12 custom “learning tracks,” including CAP’s three primary missions of Emergency Services, Aerospace Education and Cadet Programs, as well as operations, outreach and engagement, and a special track just for cadets.

“Taken together, we have 150 topics and activities waiting for you,” Smith told members. “You can also learn more about the grand opening of Volunteer University, CAP’s new Senior Member Education and Training Program, and tune in to help ignite CAP’s Innovation initiative.”

With a virtual conference, all the barriers that may have kept CAP members from attending an onsite National Conference in the past have been removed. “There is no travel, no lodging, no fees, and no reason to miss this year’s conference,” Smith said.

That was a motivation for many, including Maj. Aaron Newman, National Capital Wing chief of staff – the first senior member to sign up for the conference.

Newman attended the National Conference in Baltimore in 2019 but has not chosen to travel outside the greater Washington, D.C., area this summer because of work schedules and home commitments during the ongoing pandemic.

“Given the current situation, I think that a virtual conference is absolutely the right thing for CAP to do,” Newman said. “We need nontraditional means of promoting camaraderie and delivering useful information to our membership. It would be great to do that in person, but right now, virtual is the way to go.

“We successfully recently held our own virtual wing conference, and the reviews have been very good. I expect nothing less for the national event.”

Newman said he was particularly interested in learning more more about the changes to CAP’s professional development program and Volunteer University.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Julian "Cosmo" Gluck, one of the keynote conference speakers, was looking forward to the conference as well.

  "We are living in momentous times, and your leadership is needed more than ever,” he said in a recent registration message to CAP’s 66,000 members. “Your participation in this conference will be eye-opening and accelerate your development, whether you're a brand-new cadet or a seasoned senior member.”

Gluck, also an active CAP member, is an Air Force bomber pilot, international nonprofit leader and Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Named 2018 Air Force Times Airman of the Year, he received the 2019 Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award and was selected to the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30. As a cadet in CAP’s Georgia Wing he achieved the organization’s top cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, in July 2011.

His address Saturday night, which will follow the presentation of CAP’s national awards for 2019, will close out the conference. “I look forward to meeting fellow members at the conference's culminating event and sharing what service in Civil Air Patrol and the Armed Forces has meant to me,” Gluck said.

On the eve of the conference Smith issued a last-minute invitation to members who have yet to register. “You will be glad you took advantage of this unique opportunity to hear from subject-matter experts, from both among and outside our ranks, to support our collective goal of making Civil Air Patrol the nation’s premier aviation nonprofit.,” he said, challenging all to “sign up, show up, connect, learn, celebrate, and be part of yet another CAP first.”