Best known for its members’ work in search and rescue and disaster relief missions, CAP is expanding its role in the 21st century to include an increasing number of homeland security operations and exercises. CAP also performs counterdrug reconnaissance missions at the request of law enforcement agencies and can do radiological monitoring and damage assessment. CAP members undergo rigorous training to perform these missions safely and cost-effectively.
Civil Air Patrol was established just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For a detailed history of CAP, click here. CAP’s founder Gill Robb Wilson believed that war was imminent, and he understood that the vast general aviation fleet could be utilized to help defend the homeland, freeing up resources to fight the war abroad. After the start of the war, CAP was tasked with missions by the Army Air Corps. During most of World War II, CAP performed many homeland security missions, including the most well-known mission; coastal patrols searching for German submarines and was even credited with sinking two of them.
Shortly after the war, the Air Corps became the United States Air Force, and the Civil Air Patrol became its Auxiliary. As the USAF Auxiliary, CAP performs many emergency services missions. CAP performs eighty percent of all inland search and rescue missions. CAP also helps with disaster relief efforts, local agency support, counter-drug efforts, homeland security missions, and much more.
CAP has many resources to perform its tasked missions, including over 500 aircraft, a fleet of ground vehicles, and a wide array of communications and imaging equipment. But the most critical resource we have is our personnel. Our emergency services members are trained in a broad range of mission-related skills, from pilots and aircrew members, ground search team members, communication and imaging specialists, and incident commanders and mission staff personnel.
To participate in actual missions, members must train and qualify for the job they wish to perform. This process involves initial training in general emergency services knowledge and skills followed by classroom and hands-on training towards a specific job. The final steps in the qualification process are evaluation exercises. Once qualified for a particular mission job, members must remain current in that job. Currency training is provided on an on-going basis to all ES members. There are many venues for both initial as well as currency training, including local training as well as state-wide training exercises and event. The Air Force funds many training exercises and provides assistance to make Civil Air Patrol one of the best-trained volunteer emergency service forces in the country.
The Southeast Minnesota Composite Squadron has an active emergency services program. We have members trained to participate in just about any mission role. We have a diverse membership, including both current and former military personnel as well as civilians. We have pilots from the airlines to former military to general aviation. Our members include amateur radio operators, EMS and law enforcement backgrounds, civilian backgrounds including engineering, medical, manufacturing, and countless other areas of interest. Some come from a professional emergency services background while others start with no background at all. But all our members have some basic things in common: they all want to put their particular skills and interests to work serving their community and nation.