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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2012

Civil Air Patrol: A legacy of selfless sacrifice

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

From flying through the skies conducting search and rescue missions to training tomorrow's leaders, one volunteer organization has been leading the way in making profound differences in America's communities.

The Civil Air Patrol is a congressionally chartered, non-profit, national corporation that was founded in 1941, one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, by more than 150,000 citizens who were concerned about the defense of America's coastline.

The organization has three primary missions; aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency systems and is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force with approximately 1,600 units nation-wide and more than 55,000 members.

"One aspect of CAP is aerospace education," said (Ret.) Col. Robert Townsend, CAP Coastal Charleston Composite Squadron deputy commander. "We provide classroom materials, teacher training and other educational aids at no cost to America's teachers and homeschoolers."

"CAP has one of the largest fleets of single-engine aircraft in the world," said Townsend. "We have more than 550 aircraft nation-wide with the mission of orienting and preparing cadets, as young as 12, towards careers in leadership and aviation."

"CAP is a great program," said Col. James Clavenna, 437th Maintenance Group commander, 437th Airlift Wing. "It allows cadets, as well as CAP's senior members, an opportunity to grow professionally"

Clavenna's son, Jack, has been a member of the CAP Coastal Carolina Composite Squadron in Charleston for nearly a year and is a CAP cadet airman.

According to Clavenna, Airmen volunteering for CAP create an exceptional opportunity for themselves and for the Air Force. Volunteering for an organization that develops skills that may be applied to an Air Force career is positive for service members' professional development, as well as for the Air Force.

"For many cadets," said Clavenna. "CAP is their first exposure to the Air Force. The exposure is crucial for developing tomorrow's leaders."

"I've noticed my son is very motivated for weekly CAP meetings," said Clavenna. "In addition, he has pride in his CAP uniform."

"Unlike other youth leadership programs, CAP has a bigger mission that extends to our senior members," said Townsend.

One of the senior members is 18-year Air Force veteran Tech Sgt. Peter Axiotis, 437th Airlift Wing, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron - Gold training monitor at Joint Base Charleston - Air Base. During his free time he volunteers to wear a different uniform.

For more than a decade, Axiotis has volunteered for CAP and he is a CAP major within their ranks.

"Originally, I just wanted to learn more about aviation," said Axiotis. "That's why I joined CAP more than 12 years ago. Today, I've noticed being a member has made me a better leader and wingman."

Axiotis has had opportunities to do things in CAP that weren't available to him in the Air Force, such as being a flight line supervisor.

As a flight line supervisor for CAP, he supervises and assists in aircraft movement on and off the flight line. His experience in CAP has given him a greater knowledge of the challenges other Airmen face in the Air Force.

Another CAP mission is emergency services, which includes disaster relief, humanitarian services and Air Force support.

"CAP enjoys a proud legacy of selfless sacrifice and service to country and community that spans decades," said CAP Maj. Gen. Charles Carr, CAP national commander and 23-year retired Air Force veteran. "Today, CAP handles 90 percent of inland search and rescue missions with approximately 75 lives saved each year."

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, all commercial aviation was grounded. However, CAP had the first airplanes in the air photographing and transmitting images all over the world.

"CAP has been instrumental in providing help in many U.S. disasters, including Hurricane Katrina," said Townsend. "CAP also conducts aerial humanitarian missions for the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other civilian agencies."

CAP has also partnered with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Administration and United States Forest Service in the War on Drugs. In 2005, CAP pilots flew 12,000 hours and helped agencies locate more than $400 million dollars worth of illegal substances.

"CAP makes a huge impact each and every day, going above and beyond to make a profound difference in America's communities," said Carr.

To become part of the 'profound difference' and join the volunteer Civil Air Patrol program, contact (877) 277-9142 or request additional information by visiting