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CAP Observes 70th Anniversary as Official U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

Civil Air Patrol marks its 70th anniversary today as the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force – a role authorized by Congress with Public Law 80-557 and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on May 26, 1948.

Before that, CAP had served in support of the U.S. Army Air Corps. The 1948 law ensured that the partnership would continue with the newly formed Air Force, which was created Sept. 18, 1947.

The relationship reached another level in August 2015 with the announcement that the all-volunteer auxiliary would be included as a strategic partner in the Air Force’s Total Force, joining members of the active Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

After seven decades, CAP continues to fulfill its role as the Air Force auxiliary through such vital services as assisting with aerial intercept and unmanned aerial vehicle training, disaster relief aerial reconnaissance, and search and rescue missions assigned by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

CAP helps save 80 lives on average each year, but with more than one-third of fiscal 2018 remaining the organization has already shattered that number with 115 lives saved, mostly through the efforts of its National Cell Phone Forensics and National Radar Analysis teams.

"For 70 years now, we at Civil Air Patrol have been honored to provide support to the U.S. Air Force as its volunteer auxiliary. Our members stand ready to assist the Air Force whenever and wherever called upon to help carry out its vital missions," said CAP’s national commander, Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, who retired as an Air Force colonel in 2000 after 26 years of military service.

"The Air Force commends Civil Air Patrol for its invaluable support as our volunteer auxiliary not only today but over the last seven decades,” said Air Force Col. Michael Tyynismaa, CAP-USAF commander.

“CAP-USAF looks forward to helping ensure that this partnership continues to grow.”

As the anniversary approaches, CAP is highlighting the following major missions carried out in support of the Air Force:

  • Aircrews from wings across the U.S. fly CAP Cessnas on nearly 700 air defense intercept training sorties a year to help train and evaluate Air Force pilots who must intercept low and slow aircraft in their high-speed jets. CAP works with Air Force evaluators to check effectiveness and responsiveness during an intercept, while also supporting their day-to-day training events.
  • CAP assists Air Force missions out of Syracuse, New York, in which MQ-9 Reapers – a remote piloted aircraft used worldwide – are escorted from Syracuse to the Fort Drum training area. Flying four to six days a week, CAP aircrews ensure the Reapers are operating properly and are safely escorted from the Syracuse airport to military operating areas. 
  • CAP members participate in Green Flag operations in Louisiana and Nevada, flying Cessnas outfitted to simulate imagery provided by remotely piloted aircraft, often so well that troops on the ground don’t know the difference. This imagery is sometimes the only aviation aid provided for training because of commitments of other Air Force units.
  • Multiple CAP wings help carry out Defense Support for Civil Authorities missions for the Air Force in response to major natural disasters. Most recently, 1,061 members from 44 wings supported missions in 2017 in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, providing 498,397 images for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other emergency responders to use in evaluating damage and deciding how best to marshal relief efforts.

In addition, while CAP celebrates 70 years as the Air Force auxiliary, CAP cadets – as young as 12 –represent the future. Upon donning the uniform, cadets begin thinking of themselves not as kids but as airmen, challenged by Air Force Core Values. They’re physically fit and goal-driven, and they see themselves as part of America’s solution to the pilot shortage. This summer, 10,000 cadets will explore Air Force career fields, including pararescue, cyber, space operations and more.

CAP’s support for the Air Force also extends to the organization’s aerospace education program, which helps interest cadets and students from K-12 in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects that are vital in training the nation’s next generation of airmen.

As a recipient of National Defense Education Program funds administered by the Air Force’s STEM Outreach Coordination Office, CAP provides educators throughout the U.S. with free STEM Kits that enable students to explore programs associated with astronomy, flight simulation, model and remote-control aircraft, robotics, rocketry, weather, hydraulic engineering, computer programming, coding, circuitry and math.