In September 2018, the Civil Air Patrol squadron in Charleston acquired a new name to reflect its strengthened capabilities in serving the community.
Formerly known as the Charleston Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, the Capital City CAP organization is now called the Charleston Composite Squadron, which means that it now offers an adult or “senior” component to the program.
Maj. Debbie Butler-Case, squadron commander, said one of her goals when she assumed command was to get the Charleston CAP unit redesignated as a composite squadron.
“I petitioned National Headquarters to change our designation and they granted my request. We continue to offer a premier youth program, but now we have added new components to the squadron allowing adults to be more involved in training and serving our community as well,” Butler-Case said.
As a cadet squadron, the Charleston CAP could not be issued an aircraft to meet the emergency services air missions.
As a composite squadron, “We can now offer those services in this part of the state,” she said.
Butler-Case said West Virginia has 14 CAP squadrons and about 700 members statewide. There are also seven aircraft available to respond to missions, conduct cadet orientation flights, teacher flights and Junior ROTC flights.
“In Charleston, we have grown tremendously since we redesignated as a composite squadron. We currently have 34 cadets and 14 adults active in Charleston. We are looking for anyone who would like to volunteer for this historically active service organization.”
The Civil Air Patrol is a congressionally chartered, volunteer organization that is the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. CAP has three missions: cadet programs, aerospace education and emergency services.
The change to a composite squadron allows the organization to grow and serve more fully in all three missions, in addition to providing more educational opportunities for youth in the cadet program.
Giving back to aviation
Licensed and certified pilot William White, 30, of Charleston joined the squadron in April as a way to give back the aviation community.
At a recent CAP meeting at the West Virginia Air National Guard headquarters in Charleston, White said introducing the cadets to aviation was another reason he joined the composite squadron.
“The joy of taking a cadet who would otherwise never have the chance to experience aviation was a big deciding factor. I have had many people help me through my career in aviation, and Civil Air Patrol was a way for me to give back to the aviation community,” White said.
White also wants to be in a position to help other pilots, such as participating in search and rescue and tracking missions.
“We pilots like to assist other pilots any way that we can if the need would arise, and this helps me to increase my capability to do so. There are so many specialties in Civil Air Patrol that anyone can come in and find something that they love to do,” he said.
“I have been involved with emergency service in one way or another my whole life, so that is the route I took when I joined. If you love to fly, help others or enjoy helping shape young minds, then Civil Air Patrol can bring a person so much joy in doing so.”
Lt. Col. Richard Judy and Lt. Col. Connie Moody, who are Wing Level officers of the state CAP, were special guests during the meeting and spoke to the cadets in attendance.
Afterward, they spoke about Charleston’s change to a composite squadron.
“We had adults [in the program] before, but they were a support group for the cadet squadron,” Moody said.
As a composite squadron, the Charleston CAP group now has senior members — 18 and older — who can explore all the opportunities that CAP provides.
“They can fly in an airplane, become a mission scanner, mission observer, work on different specialty tracks, be it logistics, IT or leadership,” Judy said.
Judy, a licensed pilot, said all 14 CAP squadrons in West Virginia are now composite squadrons.
A Morgantown native, Judy said the squadron there “has been going strong since 1941.”
He said pilots joining the Charleston Composite Squadron have opportunities to learn new skills.
“They have to come to us already with their pilot’s license, and what’s very advantageous for them is if they have a very low number of hours, we can start them on the path of what’s called the Mission Pilot rating. The rating allows them to go out on an actual search and rescue mission with a full crew to look for whatever we’re looking for, be it a downed aircraft or missing person,” Judy said.
Additionally, pilots who become senior members of a composite squadron have opportunities to fly CAP aircraft for “proficiency” reasons at a low cost.
“It’s lower than any other rental agency in the state,” he said.
Moody said it’s not just pilots who are encouraged to join the Civil Air Patrol. The organization can use people with a variety of backgrounds and experience.
“We have people from all walks of life. We have doctors, we have nurses, we have lawyers,” Moody said.
“Anybody that has an interest in helping their fellow man in times of need — contact your local squadron,” Judy said.
“There’s a place in Civil Air Patrol for everyone,” Moody said.
Cadets still a priority
The Charleston Composite Squadron maintains its commitment to young cadets who join the program.
Cadet 2nd Lt. Anthony Dixon, a 17-year-old student at Poca High School, has been a member of CAP for three years. He serves as the cadet commander.
Dixon joined CAP because of his interest in the Air Force.
“I had been looking at the program, because the Air Force has always been one of my goals. I found that there was a squadron in Charleston, and here I am, three years later,” Dixon said.
Although CAP is the civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, Dixon said CAP does not recruit for the military.
“We are a leadership program that builds the leaders of the future.”
Dixon said squadron members are cadets until age 21; past that age, they must join the senior side of the squadron.
Dixon is also active in the Boy Scouts, and he said being in CAP has prepared him well for that and for other aspects of his life.
“It’s wonderful. It’s prepared me a lot, especially with Boy Scouts and everything that’s going on with my life.”
When Dixon graduates from Poca High, he plans to either join the Air Force or go to West Virginia University and earn a degree in business.
Teachers take flight
One of Civil Air Patrol’s main missions is aerospace education.
In May, three teachers from Sharon Dawes Elementary School in Cabin Creek experienced that firsthand through CAP’s Teacher Orientation Program flights, part of the organization’s Aerospace Education Member (AEM) program.
“CAP’s strategic plan is to provide aerospace/STEM education to the public, particularly to schools. This is accomplished through academic programs and through contacts between CAP members and our communities. One such program is our Aerospace Education Member Program,” Butler-Case said.
“The AEM program is for grades kindergarten through 12 and informal educators at schools, youth organizations, museums and libraries,” she said.
Teachers Amy Berry, Tenille Cooper and Lois McPhail took a flight May 24 on a CAP aircraft piloted by Col. Paul McCrosky. The flight provided valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) resources to the teachers, which they can take back to their respective classrooms.
In an email, Berry said the group wanted to take part in CAP’s teacher program “because it provides us with many resources, opportunities to collaborate with fellow teachers, and learning opportunities to better ourselves as teachers so that we may strengthen our skills and bring what we have learned into the classroom.”
Berry said the flight helped her and the other teachers to better understand CAP’s mission.
“The purpose of the flight is to connect real-life experience to the learning. Col. Paul McCrosky was our pilot and we were given instruction on the geography of the area, the physics of flight, the mechanics of a plane and the science behind its motion. We also learned about the technology used in flight, history of the Civil Air Patrol and, with additional training, we would also be able to participate in search and rescue efforts,” she said.
On the flight, the teachers took turns sitting in the front seat with the pilot. The first leg of the journey took them from Yeager Airport to Beckley.
“We were able to fly over our school and the children held signs outside as we circled the building. We were then flown over our hometowns of Hansford and Pratt as all three of us live within a few streets of each other,” Berry said.
The second leg of the flight took them from Beckley to the Summersville area. McCrosky flew them over the New River Gorge Bridge.
“On the third and final leg, we flew from Summersville back to Charleston, and we were taken over Summersville Dam and the lake.”
Berry praised their pilot, McCrosky.
He “was a very informed and gracious host and as well educated in his field and experience. We could not have asked for better.”
Butler-Case said those participating as AEMs are eligible for the Teacher Orientation Program flights.
These flights “allow CAP Wings to support these educators both in and out of the classroom/learning environment. Educator members are a vital and key resource in CAP, as they have access to, and influence upon, the future of our country and our nation’s youth,” she said.
So far, the Charleston Composite Squadron has recruited 58 Kanawha Country school teachers into the AEM program. More teacher flights are scheduled.
“Some have videotaped their flights to use in their classrooms later to get students excited. In addition to the flights, they have access to CAP’s STEM projects to use in their classrooms to excite students in careers and areas they may not otherwise think about.”
Looking for future leaders
Brig. Gen. Christopher Walker, assistant adjutant general-air and commander for West Virginia Air National Guard, said the Charleston squadron’s change from a cadet squadron to a composite squadron will benefit the young cadets.
“I’m most excited about the new ability the Charleston Composite Squadron has, which is securing one of the CAP aircraft, on a rotational basis, so that the cadets in our capital city can be better exposed to aviation careers. When my organization is looking for future leaders and aviators, we will have a deep bench to pick from with the Civil Air Patrol cadets,” Walker said in an email.
The Charleston Composite Squadron meets at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday at the 130th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard.
Charleston CAP Commander Maj. Deborah M. Butler-Case can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org