First SE Region Female Commander: 'Never Stop. Never Settle'
CAP recognizes Women's History Month with a profile of Col. Andrea Van Buren, Southeast Region commander.
Cadet Col. Jennifer Torres
Aguadilla Cadet Squadron
Puerto Rico Wing
Exploring women's history in CIvil Air Patrol doesn't necessarily mean digging into the early records from the the organization's nearly 80-year history. Col. Andrea Van Buren's role as the Southeast Region's first female commander dates to August 2019; she previously served as head of the Georgia Wing.
During her tenure as wing commander, which followed service as vice commander and chief staff, the wing improved cadet participation in national and wing activities and increased orientation flights and the number of cadets attaining milestone awards. She had previously commanded the Peachtree-DeKalb Senior Squadron.
Asked what motivates her to continue her service to CAP, Van Buren’s answer is simple: “the cadets.”
Van Buren joined the organization in October 2000. “I was working at an airport and saw the airplane fly in with that red, white and blue color scheme,” she recalled. “I asked the pilot a lot of questions and knew I wanted to be involved somehow.”
As for advice to other females in CAP, senior members and cadets alike, Van Buren said, “It really is the same advice for everyone: Work hard to be the best at everything you do. Never stop. Never settle. ‘No’ is the beginning of a negotiation.
"You’re going to hit a lot of roadblocks and negativity, and you have to keep going.”
Overall, she added, “be the one. It takes one action, one thought, one word, to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Van Buren earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialty in aviation management from Auburn University. As part of the team developing the safety management system for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, she was motivated to learn more and pursued a master’s degree in aerospace science with a specialty in aerospace safety and safety systems from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
She’s a broker for an aviation insurance agency, helping private aircraft owners, aviation-related businesses and airports buy insurance. She runs the company’s day-to-day operations, including business planning and development, finances, forecasting and human resources – “a little bit of everything that makes a company run,” she said.
“My job is to give people a peace of mind,” Van Buren said.
As for other females in her field, she said, “it really depends – the higher, the fewer. It’s a niche business based on aviation, so the number of people in the industry are few and the number of women is fewer.”
Van Buren holds a private pilot certificate and single-engine land, multi-engine land and instrument ratings. She took her first flying lesson at age 11 and soloed at 16. Private pilot certification followed when she was 17.
In CAP, she has earned Master ratings in Command, Administration and Personnel and Professional Development as well as a Technician rating in Safety.