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Civil Air Patrol aids in search and rescue

  • Published
  • By Greg Hoffeditz
  • Civil Air Patrol
A little known unit at Scott plays a significant role for the Air Force. Many people may only see its members at the annual air show or possibly catch sight of their somewhat unique uniforms at the Base Exchange now and then. Who are they? They are the Scott Composite Squadron of the Air Force's civilian auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol, or CAP.

What? You've never heard of the Civil Air Patrol or the Scott Composite Squadron? Get lost! No, not like that! But if you did get lost, search and rescue is one of the key functions of the CAP. They are involved in about 90 percent of all continental United States search missions tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall AFB, Florida (previously located at Scott from 1974 to 1993).

The Civil Air Patrol is a federally chartered, benevolent civilian corporation with approximately 56,000 members in 1,600 units across the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It was founded on December 1, 1941, and has three primary functions: emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education. CAP operates a fleet of roughly 530 single-engine aircraft in support of those missions. Public Law 106-398, states, "The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer civilian auxiliary of the Air Force when the services of the Civil Air Patrol are used by any department or agency in any branch of the federal government." A federal government entity, such as the Department of Homeland Security, obtains Civil Air Patrol support through the Air Force.

Search and rescue is probably the most well known portion of CAP's emergency services, or ES, function. One recent high profile search was the 2007 quest to find Steven Fossett's aircraft in California. Another ES role involves natural disaster response. The Scott squadron took part in relief efforts during the 2009 ice storm that hit southern Illinois and northern Kentucky, and the 2008 mass flooding of local rivers. CAP is sometimes called upon to deliver time-sensitive medical supplies and body tissues. The Civil Air Patrol has an extensive communications network that enables immediate response to meet any emergency need.

The second function of the Civil Air Patrol is the cadet program, which includes approximately 22,000. While cadets play an active part in the ES mission, the primary purpose of the program is: leadership development, aerospace education, fitness, and character development. Cadets achieve ranks, similar to the Air Force, through knowledge and abilities in the four program areas. They can learn to fly (both powered aircraft and gliders), and they can take part in the International Air Cadet Exchange Program with other nations. Many opportunities await for young men and women ages 12 to 18 (21 if a cadet prior to reaching 18 years of age) in the Civil Air Patrol. Cadets who excel can earn scholarships, appointments to the Air Force Academy, or enlist in the Air Force at a higher rank.

CAP is not just for youth. Over half of the total organization is adult. Senior members have vital roles in each primary function. Adults run the ES missions, fly planes, and coordinate a multitude of other activities. They are assigned to positions essential for the efficient operation of squadrons, groups, wings, regions and national headquarters. Senior members also earn military-style ranks based on technical expertise. There are over 20 specialty tracks to choose from, such as logistics, information technology, emergency services, or even public relations.

The entire community can benefit from CAP's Aerospace Education, or AE, function. AE curricula are developed, published and distributed for kindergartners through college-aged students. Plus, CAP provides training on how to use the material in classrooms at no cost to educators. For additional AE information for educators, go to:
The Scott Composite Squadron has a role in each of CAP's functions. The squadron is the largest unit in Illinois Wing's Group 1. Members attend the weeklong summer encampment and the flying encampments each year, assist with the base air shows, and participate in Emergency Services missions in the southern Illinois region. This month, the squadron was credited with locating the source of an Emergency Locator Transmitter signal at the Vandalia airport. An ELT emits a radio signal aiding in the search for downed aircraft. Signals, picked up by passing aircraft, can be activated by a sudden jolt or electrical malfunction. In this case, the signal came from a parked aircraft. During the 2009 air show, the CAP was sent in search of an ELT emanating from the Scott flight line--one of the aircraft on display.

There have been many Scott cadets go on to flourishing careers, both civilian and military.

The Civil Air Patrol and the Scott Composite Squadron, meetings are held every Thursday from 7:00-9:30 p.m. at the Chapel 2 Annex.

For more information, contact the squadron commander, Major John Brendel at or 920-0418.