The Civil Air Patrol’s looking to start up branches in a couple Iowa towns to add to the 11 “squadrons” that now respond to natural disasters, search-and-rescue efforts and other missions of public service. Major Doug Janssen says he made a stop in Red Oak last (Wednesday) night to begin the process of reviving a local squadron there. According to Janssen, Red Oak was one of the “charter communities” to get a Civil Air Patrol squadron when the organization formed around the beginning of World War Two, and Fort Dodge also had a chapter it lost in the mid-1980s. So he’s going back to talk with people in those communities about reviving interest in new chapters of the patrol.
He says they need enough staffing to have adults to lead a local organization and train cadets, as well as respond to emergencies. They’ll also need to find community support, facilities to meet and train in, and some financial support to get the squadrons going. You don’t have to be a pilot, despite the Civil Air Patrol’s reputation for mounting air searches for missing or wanted persons.
Only about a quarter of the officers in the Civil Air Patrol are pilots. They have members who are local businesspeople, teachers, communicators, and also kids between the ages of 12 and 18. Janssen says by the time they’re 18, they can become officers and serve in “any number of capacities.” Janssen says a lot of people who can’t join the military can still do important work serving their community through the Civil Air Patrol. He says working with the Civil Air Patrol is a way civilians can work to support the Iowa National Guard and Homeland Security. “It’s crucial that we’re there to help stand up and volunteer to support them with their missions when we have so many people overseas, defending our freedom,” Janssen says.
According to Janssen, the Civil Air Patrol’s full of “everyday heroes.” He says cases can range from young children who’ve walked away from home to missing aircraft, where someone has to find the missing or downed plane and pilots. Also, he says they can aid Homeland Security by “patroling infrastructure to keep terrorists away from our area.”
There’s a meeting next Monday, October 24 in Fort Dodge at the 133rd Air Guard Base at Fort Dodge Municipal Airport, and another meeting in Red Oak next Wednesday October 26 at the local airport. Lieutenant Peter Klees in the Burlington Squadron of the civil Air Patrol says they could use a few more people, after years of being virtually invisible and overlooked.
As an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, C-A-P has three missions: cadet programs that train youth, aerospace education which can involve both adults and the cadets, and the emergency services. He says when the patrol’s called to a search and rescue they may do ground work as well as flying their planes to search for someone who’s reported missing. Klees says it’s a way for people who aren’t in the military or other organized service groups to do something for their community. It’s service, and there’s some satisfaction in doing things, he points out.
The sheriff’s department has reserves, there are police reserves and volunteer firemen, and the Civil Air Patrol’s like that. Plus, he says, sometimes you get to go flying. Small planes are a big part of the C-A-P’s search-and-rescue work and cadets get some flight training free. Klees says C-A-P is especially good as an experience for the young cadets. They can earn rank, like Cadet Colonel, Cadet Sergeant, and Cadet Airman. Klees says there are requirements to get the rank, like earning a merit badge, and he calls it “kind of a military version of Boy Scouts.”
Klees is with the Burlington CAP, which is looking to recruit new members after he says its membership dwindled because of its low profile in recent years. To join, find a chapter near you or learn more, surf to “join Iowa CAP-dot-org”