Today the Civil Air Patrol celebrates its 69th anniversary. The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization of more than 61,000 members was founded Dec. 1, 1941, less than a week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led to America’s involvement in World War II.
Its members soon proved their worth by conducting aerial patrols on their own, heroism that discouraged and eventually stopped deadly German U-boat attacks in American waterways. During the war, 59 members died, 26 were lost at sea, and seven others were seriously injured while carrying out CAP missions.
“Each day, through their volunteer efforts, our members help save lives and preserve liberty for all,” said Maj. Gen. Amy S. Courter, CAP’s national commander. “Be sure to say ‘thanks’ to these unsung heroes in your communities who provide such selfless service, often without fanfare.”
As the Air Force auxiliary, today’s Civil Air Patrol performs a multitude of missions in communities throughout the nation’s 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, including:
Disaster relief during hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and countless other emergencies – like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year, the largest modern-day mission in CAP history. During CAP’s four months as a participant in the massive oil spill response, aircrews launched more than 1,000 sorties in support of the mission, logging nearly 2,500 flight hours in more than 50 of the organization’s signature red, white and blue planes. In all, 150 CAP volunteers put in more than 20,000 hours.
Members are becoming more involved in homeland security, regularly acting as targets in various air defense exercises that support training for both U.S. air defense forces and the nation’s ground forces. Over the past year, two of CAP’s newest planes were outfitted as “Surrogate Predators,” used to help train the nation’s military ground forces in remotely piloted aircraft operations before they deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq.
CAP responds day or night when planes are overdue and emergency locator transmitters go off. Its volunteers perform 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions, as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and were credited by the AFRCC with saving 113 lives in fiscal year 2010. Members of the West Virginia Wing were honored recently with CAP’s Medal of Valor for their role in braving freezing temperatures and treacherous terrain to help rescue 17 crew members and passengers aboard a U.S. Navy helicopter that crashed into an icy mountainside in February.
CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education and mentors more than 26,000 young Americans through its cadet program. By partnering with 1,800 educators nationwide, members nurture the talents of generations of the nation’s sons and daughters with cadet programs that stress leadership and moral responsibility and teach aviation and emergency response skills. These cadets are involved in a wide variety of activities, including CyberPatriot, a national cyber defense competition in which two CAP teams finished in the top three in 2010. More than 150 CAP teams are registered for next year’s competition.
For more information: GoCivilAirPatrol.com