New Civil Air Patrol Leadership Sets Lofty Goal
Cadet Master Sgt. Kaitlyn Shannon of the Oklahoma Wing prepping for an orientation flight. (Source: Capt. Brandon Lunsford, Sr. CAP)
by Capt. Brandon Lunsford, CAP, Oklahoma Wing
CAMP GRUBER, Okla. (July 25, 2021) – “We are stronger together,” Civil Air Patrol’s Col. Aaron Oliver stated to a packed room of members. Oliver took command of the Oklahoma Wing less than a week ago and has already raised aspiration levels.
“One hundred orientation flights in 60 days,” Oliver stated from a podium at the wing’s annual conference. “It won’t be easy, but I believe our passion for this program will bring us to do great things.”
Civil Air Patrol’s orientation flight program is a part of its Youth Aviation Initiative. Through the program cadets get the chance to take the controls of an aircraft and fly during the noncritical stages of the flight. In fiscal year 2020 (under the restricted operating environment of the COVID pandemic), CAP, AFROTC, and AFJROTC cadets flew a combined total of 19,184 orientation flights.
“Cadets love to fly,” Oliver stated. “Through the U.S. Air Force, we have the resources necessary to make these flights happen. This is a lofty goal, but I know this, we are stronger together. It is in that unity of purpose that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. With encampment coming up, I want us to focus on flight.”
With this year’s encampment occurring so shortly after the change of command, Col Oliver tasked the wing with bringing two great programs together. This year’s encampment capstone event will be a day dedicated to introducing cadets to aviation. Summer encampment serves as a leadership laboratory. It offers cadets the opportunity to further develop leadership skills under the careful supervision of highly trained adult leaders. Additionally, cadets are offered the opportunity to explore the aerospace sciences and related careers, commit to a habit of regular exercise and solidify their moral character. This year, Civil Air Patrol adult and cadet members from around the country will be hyper-focused on flying during the capstone event to be held on Friday, July 30th.
“The team has really come together,” 1st Lt. Tamara Shannan, the wing’s assistant orientation flight coordinator, said. “We have 14 pilots, 10 staff and eight aircraft on hand to provide 42 cadet orientation flights. The best part is that 39 of those will be first time flights. I am really excited that we are able to offer this opportunity at the encampment. This puts us at nearly half of Col. Oliver’s flight challenge in less than two weeks.”
Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees.
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About Civil Air Patrol
Now celebrating its 80th year, Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessna aircraft and more than 2,000 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and performs about 90% of all search and rescue operations within the contiguous United States as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Often using innovative cellphone forensics and radar analysis software, CAP was credited by the AFRCC with saving 130 lives during the past fiscal year. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. As a nonprofit organization, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education using national academic standards-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Members also serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs.