Smith Takes Over as CAP’s 24th National Commander
‘We Have the People, Resources and Passion to Excel in Our Service to America’
Civil Air Patrol’s newly installed national commander, Maj. Gen. Mark E. Smith, took the top leadership role in the 58,000-member volunteer organization with a clear set of aspirations for CAP at all levels.
Smith and the new national vice commander, Brig. Gen. Edward D. Phelka, were sworn in Sept. 2 at CAP’s 2017 National Convention in San Antonio. They succeed Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez and Brig. Gen. Larry Myrick, respectively. Both Smith and Phelka previously commanded CAP regions — Smith the Southwest Region, Phelka the Great Lakes Region.
Smith was sworn in by retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Judy Fedder, chair of CAP’s Board of Governors, which selected him as the organization’s 24th national commander.
“Gen. Smith has the right blend of leadership skills, qualifications and experience to lead Civil Air Patrol into the future,” Fedder said. “The members of the Board of Governors look forward to working with him to continuously improve the organization in support of the outstanding service our members provide to their communities, states and nation.”
Smith said he is counting on CAP members’ selfless service as the organization moves forward. “In Civil Air Patrol, it is not all about us. Rather, our focus is on others and how we can make a positive difference in people’s lives,” he said.
To that end, Smith said CAP’s professional personnel — volunteer and paid staff alike — are the most precious resource. “We all come from different backgrounds, yet every member of Civil Air Patrol is valued,” he said. “We treat one another with fairness and dignity and work together as a team.”
Diversity is an important component of CAP’s team-building efforts, Smith said. “Diversity makes our enterprise stronger, and thus inclusiveness is a critical part of how we do business,” he said. “Targeted recruiting at the local level is essential to offer the Civil Air Patrol experience to new members. Retention is addressed by providing a healthy organizational climate.”
Smith also endorsed the philosophy of servant leadership:
“First, we are leaders with a deep commitment to integrity.”
“Second, we are stewards of our organization and our people.”
“Third, we focus on our members, units and enterprise to help them achieve their full potential.”
As part of that approach, he added:
“We delegate responsibilities and empower our members to perform meaningful work, we hold our members accountable for their performance and celebrate their successes.”
“We genuinely care about our members, seeking to be aware of their well-being and empathetically helping one another through tough circumstances.”
“We mentor those who are less experienced to help them excel, and we train our next generation of leaders to succeed us.”
Smith also noted CAP’s inclusion in the Air Force Total Force, which he said makes “each of us … ambassadors, not only of Civil Air Patrol but of the United States Air Force.”In turn, he said, “We owe it to our parent service and myriad other stakeholders to operate with the highest degree of professionalism. We must continuously strive to adapt in what missions we perform, not just for the Air Force but all current and potential customers. Our ability to remain relevant depends on this constant quest for who can benefit from our services.
“We must be adept at leading change — crafting the vision, seeking buy-in, collaboratively building and executing the road map to get from here to there,” he added.
As CAP moves forward, Smith said he is mindful of the organization’s rich history of public service. “We recently celebrated 75 years of excellence in service to America,” he said. “This year we celebrate 75 years of our cadet program, America’s finest youth development program.”
“Civil Air Patrol’s future is bright,” he concluded. “We have the people, resources and passion to excel in our service to America for the next 75 years.”