Wilson, Secretary of Air Force, Hails CAP's 70-Year Role as Auxiliary
Lt. Col. Crystal Housman
Civil Air Patrol Public Affairs
Photos by Lt. Col. Robert Bowden
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson reflected on Civil Air Patrol’s seven-decade history as the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force along with her personal connection to the organization when she addressed CAP members Aug. 25 during her keynote speech at the National Conference in Anaheim, California.
An audience of 700 members and guests listened as Wilson told the story of her grandfather, George C. “Scotty” Wilson, who flew in Britain’s Royal Air Force and barnstormed around America before his love of aviation and desire to serve led him to CAP during World War II.
"He joined a group of volunteers,” Wilson said.
”He towed targets and chased submarines off the coast in various parts around New England.”
Wilson’s grandfather was one of 125,000 CAP subchasers during the war. They found 173 German subs off America’s coast and attacked 57.
The organization was founded Dec. 1, 1941, predating the creation of the Air Force in September 1947. CAP became the service’s official auxiliary on May 26, 1948, with President Harry S. Truman’s signing of Public Law 80-557.
It was the same year George Wilson, who logged more than 1,000 flying hours with CAP, took the helm as commander of CAP’s New Hampshire Wing. He served in the role from 1948 -1954.
The aviator passed his love of flying down to his granddaughter, who grew up spending Saturdays in an airplane hangar. “I saw joy in that hangar,” Wilson said, drawing a corollary between her youth in aviation and the experiences CAP cadets encounter today. Addressing the organization’s adult members, she continued, “and all of you here are responsible for what the next generation sees.”
She recalled meeting a nervous CAP cadet at the 2017 EAA Oshkosh AirVenture air show in Wisconsin.
“The young people you work with are learning skills, but they are also way out of their comfort zone ... in a safe place,” Wilson said. “It’s when you’re out of your comfort zone growing up that you’re learning what it means to be a responsible member of the community. It causes young people to grow into better versions of themselves.”
Two of those young people have grown to become pilots on this year’s U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 aerial demonstration team, she said.
“That’s not too shabby for kids who grew up flying Cessnas,” Wilson said, referring to CAP’s fleet of general aviation single-engine planes.
From inspiring the next generation of F-16 pilots to training those of today, Civil Air Patrol has a direct impact on the Air Force, she said. The auxiliary flies an average of 200 air defense missions every year throughout the country.
Federal Aviation Administration rules require remotely piloted aircraft to have an escort when they fly outside military airspace. Last year, CAP logged more than 600 flight hours escorting the New York Air National Guard’s MQ-9 Reapers from their home in Syracuse, New York, to nearby military airspace for training.
Turning to CAP’s long-standing work with the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Wilson credited the auxiliary with handling 90-95 percent of the center’s inland search and rescue missions.
“Henry David Thoreau was fond of saying, ‘the only people who ever get any place interesting are the people who get lost.’ That goes double for the people who find them,” she said.
The auxiliary has saved 146 lives since the fiscal year began in October.
“That’s 146 people who got to make that phone call home to say, ‘I’m all right. Civil Air Patrol found me,’” Wilson said.
She spoke of the organization’s work with other state and federal agencies, including support missions for the Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Shortly before her speech, CAP’s Texas Wing was lauded by AFNORTH for its work to provide aerial imagery for FEMA during Hurricane Harvey a year earlier.
As Wilson ended her remarks, she defined what the Air Force expects of its Auxiliary Airmen.
“We expect proficiency at your skills: flying, geolocation, emergency management [and] search and rescue,” she said. “We expect you to be good at what you do. We expect you to be safe in your operation.”
“I also expect you to engage the next generation in a way that is positive and meaningful,” Wilson said, turning her focus back to the 25,000 young people currently serving in CAP’s cadet program.
Before her speech, Wilson engaged one of them herself.
“Actually meeting the Secretary of the Air Force and sitting down and talking with her about our program was such an honor,” said Cadet Staff Sgt. Chloe Hirohata of Billie L. LeClair Cadet Squadron 31 in Riverside, California. “It warmed my heart, really, knowing that someone in such a high position of power … understands where we come from, understands our program and understands what we’re all about.”
CAP Draws Praise from National Conference Air Force VIPs
On the occasion of Civil Air Patrol's celebration of its 70th anniversary as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, high-ranking Air Force officers joined Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in saluting CAP's past and present-day contributions as a member of the Air Force Total Force.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Wade, Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia:
"It's an honor to be associated with the men and women of the Civil Air Patrol, our Air Force Auxiliary. A vital teammate on our Total Force, you support not only Air Combat Command but so many other federal, state and local agencies. Our command is better prepared and more lethal to support America's interests here and abroad because of the support you provide to 1st Air Force. As important as the work you do in support of defending our nation is the work your volunteers do in educating and generating youth interest in aviation. Thousands of active-duty, guard and reserve airmen serving today had their first taste of flying in CAP. It's nice to know that ACC always has the CAP at its wing. We depend on you!"
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, Vice Commander, 1st Air Force and Air Forces Northern Command, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida:
“As the Air Force Auxiliary, CAP does so much for the nation, both day-to-day and at times of great need. I’m grateful for the chance to represent our Secretary of the Air Force as a Board of Governors member, working to maximize CAP’s capabilities and impact. What a great group of Airmen!”
Col. Michael D. Tyynismaa, Commander of Civil Air Patrol-U.S. Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama:
“As the Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol provides critical support to a broad range of Air Force missions across the U.S. each and every day. I’m amazed at the incredible talent in our Auxiliary and more impressed with their commitment to our nation as 'true volunteer Airmen' teaching aerospace education, leading cadet programs and conducting missions in support of disaster response or homeland defense. As the CAP-USAF commander, I’m truly honored to serve alongside these outstanding Airmen, and I am grateful for their 70 years of faithful service as our Air Force Auxiliary."
Lt. Col. Jeremy Hodges, Chief of the Air Force Auxiliary Integration and Requirements Branch, Headquarters Air Force at the Pentagon:
“While only recently has Civil Air Patrol been formally recognized as part of the Total Force, this year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of CAP's official designation as the Air Force Auxiliary. Through this long partnership, the Auxiliary has helped meet the noncombat missions of the Air Force. Missions like disaster relief, search and rescue, aerospace education and cadet programs demonstrate the greatness of CAP's volunteerism, unpaid professional patriots, serving America and their communities. Today, Civil Air Patrol continues this legacy of support in emerging missions, STEM and developing aviation enthusiasm among young Americans. The Auxiliary plays a vital role in the Air Force's success, and we are proud that our relationship with CAP has never been stronger."
Tom Shubert, Retired Air Force Colonel; Director, Security Protection Directorate, Air Force Review Boards Agency:
“On the occasion of celebrating the 70th anniversary of CAP’s designation as the Air Force’s Auxiliary, I cannot emphasize enough my professional and personal appreciation and admiration of CAP’s volunteer Airmen’s selfless dedication and tireless efforts to contribute to the Air Force’s capability to fulfill its mission to ensure the safety and security of the nation.”
Bernard Skoch, Retired Air Force Brigadier General; Commissioner for the Air Force Association’s National High School Cyber Defense Competition, CyberPatriot:
"It’s tempting to define CAP’s value to the U.S. Air Force in terms of its 70 years of superior mission performance at an amazingly low cost. And that’s important. But in my view its greatest value lies in CAP’s unique ability to inspire youth to aerospace and STEM education, and to a life of service in our Air Force. I know, because that’s what it did for me."