Civil Air Patrol members in 52 wings and in overseas squadrons are celebrating CAP’s commitment to serving America's communities, saving lives, and shaping futures. The South Carolina Wing of Civil Air Patrol is also marking this birthday with virtual birthday celebrations, outreach opportunities throughout 2022, and with a proclamation from Gov. Henry McMaster declaring 1 December 2021 “Civil Air Patrol Day in South Carolina.
Dec. 1 marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the organization, which became part of the U.S. Air Force “Total Force” in 2015. Over 56,000 members embody the organization’s core values of integrity, volunteer service, excellence, and respect as they serve—strengthening their communities and the nation with over $280 million worth of volunteer hours in fiscal year 2020 alone.
In South Carolina, sixteen squadrons with around 850 members serve local communities in three groups—the Upstate, the Midlands, and the Lowcountry. Community-based squadrons like Charleston, Aiken, Greenwood, Greenville, Sumter, Marion, Myrtle Beach, Cottageville, Beaufort, Lexington, Rock Hill, Spartanburg and Columbia are all part of the Civil Air Patrol organization. Civil Air Patrol members serve their communities in disaster relief—responding locally after Tropical Storm Joaquin (2015), Hurricane Matthew (2016), Hurricane Irma (2017), Hurricane Florence (2018), Hurricane Dorian (2019), and Hurricane Isaias (2020). Additionally, members respond to this emergency services mission after floods (Joaquin) and tornadoes (April 2020, Walterboro), as well as aviation disasters (recently, Colleton County plane crash).
Civil Air Patrol members, especially those who learn leadership through the Cadet Program, go on to serve their communities. Former South Carolina Wing cadets now serve their communities through their local school systems (Col. Jay Lindler), through the United States Air Force (1st Lt Josh Fugle), and as the current Regimental Commander of the Corps of Cadets at The Citadel (Cadet Col. Kathryn Christmas, former Cadet 1st Lt. in Civil Air Patrol).
The origins of Civil Air Patrol’s story began in 1936, when Gill Robb Wilson, World War I aviator and New Jersey director of aeronautics, returned from Germany convinced of impending war. Wilson envisioned mobilizing America’s civilian aviators for national defense. The proposal for a Civil Air Patrol was approved by the Commerce, Navy and War departments, and CAP was founded Dec. 1.
In January 1942, Germany U-boats started attacking U.S. shipping lanes along the East Coast. By June, enemy attacks had destroyed nearly 400 merchant vessels and oil tankers off the Atlantic coastline, often within sight of its shores. Civil Air Patrol was called into action by a short-handed military.
Using privately owned airplanes armed with light bombs, civilian volunteers became the eyes of the home skies, flying a total of 244,600 hours patrolling and safeguarding the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines and aiding the safe movement of war materiel to the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific.
Since World War II, Civil Air Patrol has continued making a difference in communities by training civilians to serve in three primary mission areas—aerospace education, emergency services and cadet programs.
CAP’s aerospace education mission has helped inspire youth and adult members alike to reach for new heights. Some notable members include Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, the first female Air Force Thunderbird pilot; Space shuttle pilot Col. Eric Boe; and SpaceX Crew Dragon pilot Dr. Sian Proctor.
The Emergency Services mission has given members of all ages the opportunity to respond after tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. Additionally, CAP members actively supported the responses to the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, Civil Air Patrol is training cadets to be leaders in many professional arenas through its aviation opportunities, cyber defense training and character development training.
Today’s Civil Air Patrol may look different than it did 80 years ago, but at its core the organization remains the same. It continues to support America’s communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development and promotion of air, space and cyber power.
To learn more about CAP visit, gocivilairpatrol.com.
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