One of the Civil Air Patrol’s earliest members, Dean Hammond, now holds the rank of colonel after being recognized with not only the new grade but also lifetime membership and the Distinguished Service Medal this month at the Mississippi Wing’s annual conference at Keesler Air Force Base. Hammond, who had already soloed in January 1938, joined CAP at the first organizational meeting in Wichita, Kan., where he was working for Boeing.
He soon found himself at Costal Patrol Beaumont Base 10 in Texas. He participated in the volunteer aviation program, flying coastal patrol and totaling more than 350 hours over the water.
After the Beaumont base closed, Hammond joined the Army Air Corps and stayed until the end of the war. He trained in B-25s and was on his way to the Pacific when World War II ended.
He later flew as a commercial pilot both for airlines and corporate employers. He didn’t stop flying until well into his 80s — by which point, he said, he had “stopped logging my flying hours at 25,000 hours.” He received the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2006, recognizing fliers who have demonstrated professionalism, dedication skill, and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 or more years.
When it seemed his flying days might be at an end, Hammond decided to take up glider piloting. At age 92, he now lives in Germantown, Tenn., and is working on his glider license.
Hammond is one of the World War II members whose service CAP hopes to honor with a Congressional Gold Medal. The organization is seeking support for identical bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives – S. 418 and H.R. 719 – that call for the awarding of the medal to CAP in recognition of the wartime members’ service.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 54 lives in fiscal year 2011. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to nearly 27,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 70 years. For more information: GoCivilAirPatrol.com
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