By Master Sgt. Timm Huffman, Headquarters Individual Reservist Readiness and Integration Organization
/ Published March 23, 2017
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- For Airmen who want to continue serving their country, but can no longer commit to a monthly or annual schedule, the Civil Air Patrol Reserve Assistance Program may be their next career move.
The program, CAPRAP, utilizes officer and enlisted Reserve Airmen as liaisons between local CAP squadrons and the Air Force.
The program is operated by Civil Air Patrol-United States Air Force, an active-duty unit under 1st Air Force and headquartered at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Most CAPRAP Airmen are Participating Individual Ready Reservists. PIRRs are category E reservists who participate for points towards retirement only, though they can occasionally earn pay and points by volunteering for certain duties. They must complete 50 points each year to remain eligible for the program; each point equaling four hours of service. While they retain some military benefits, PIRRs are not eligible for TRICARE Reserve Select.
According to Lt. Col. Nathan Healy, the CAP-USAF director of operations, the program is a good way for Reservists to continue serving when they don’t have the time to do the traditional reserve program. It’s particularly appealing to pilots who don’t want to remain current in their airframe but still want to serve, he added.
There are also opportunities for Individual Mobilization Augmentees and Traditional Reservists to serve in CAPRAP as an additional duty.
Civil Air Patrol is an all-volunteer organization that serves as a vital link in the homeland defense equation, providing search and rescue, disaster relief, humanitarian services, Air Force support and counter-drug operations. CAP also trains the next generation of aviators through its cadet program, which engages thousands of young people, ages 12 to 21, in aerospace education, leadership, physical fitness and moral leadership training.
According to John Desmarais, the CAP headquarters director of operations, in 2016, CAP supported 4,055 missions, flying 91,484 sorties for nearly 105,000 flight hours; 81 percent were flown as Air Force assigned missions. 10,000 hours were flown in support of counter-drug and drug interdiction missions, assisting in locating over $1.5 billion in illegal drugs and 1,957 arrests.
CAP also operates the largest fleet of Cessna aircraft in the world, with over 500 powered aircraft, as well as 50 gliders and three hot air balloons. They also maintain a fleet of about 1,000 ground vehicles.
CAPRAP Airmen are the primary link between the Air Force and CAP and support the program by conducting unit and equipment inspections and operational evaluations, instructing at cadet encampments, and providing general oversight to squadrons within their region.
There are eight geographic regions covering the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, so reservists regularly serve near their homes. Each region has an active-duty office with a commander, director of operations, senior NCO, and one or two civilians, in addition to PIRRs.
“We’re always looking for people all over the country,” Healy said. “In CAPRAP you can serve where you live because Civil Air Patrol is all over the country.”
Lt. Col. Michael Schwartz, the Regional Reserve Forces Director for the southeast region, joined the program in 2012 after time on active duty and in the Air National Guard. During his five years in the program, he has found it a great way to stay in touch with the Air Force but with the added flexibility he needs. He said CAPRAP reinvigorated his career, allowing him to continue serving as a reservist, and acted as a sort of re-bluing. He also likes the opportunities it offers him to mentor the next generation, earn points toward his retirement and participate in real-world operations.
While most duty as a category E reservist is points-only, there are opportunities to participate for pay and points. Schwartz said he often supports the CAP-USAF headquarters at Maxwell AFB in pay status and has also spent time working at the 601st Air Operations Center, which is the main interface between the operational Air Force and CAP when real-world needs arise.
He said the program is great for self-starters and that reservists in the program find areas that are fun and interesting to them.
“You don’t really hear the grumbling that you hear in other organizations because people pick the things they’re interested in,” he said.
Maj. Jacqueline Fleming, Schwartz’s counterpart from the Great Lakes region, came to the program in 2014 when she found the demands on her time from the traditional reserve program were too great. Between 2003 and 2011, the C-5 pilot was frequently called upon to defend her country, including a two-year activation for Iraq and a one-year activation for Afghanistan. Fleming, who flies a Boeing 777 as a civilian, said that when the balance between her civilian job, reserve duties and family life needed a reset, her commander recommended CAPRAP.
“It was the best decision of my career,” she said.
One of the things Fleming enjoys most about CAPRAP is the ability to work with the civilian volunteers who come from all backgrounds and walks of life. The 56,000 CAP volunteers are very professional, prepared and knowledgeable, even though they are unpaid, she said.
“The volunteers restore my faith in humanity, especially the cadets. They’re out there working hard and learning, and when an emergency happens, they’re some of the first ones called,” she added.
Some of the responsibilities Fleming has as a regional reserve forces director in her six-state region include speaking at encampments, planning search and rescue exercises, and helping with inspections. She also helps out at CAP-USAF headquarters about every other month to work national-level issues.
While both Schwartz and Fleming hold leadership positions in CAPRAP, the average Airman is there to extend the geographic reach of the regional CAP-USAF commander to the local units. They often attend squadron meetings, inspect vehicles, aircraft, logbooks and facilities, and meet with local and regional CAP leadership to build and strengthen relationships. According to Schwartz, they can also support national-level cadet activities, such as the Glider Academy, the Powered Flight Academy, the Undergraduate Pilot Training Familiarization Course, civil engineer and pararescue jumper orientation courses, and the Cadet Officer School, which is similar to Air Force company grade officer professional military education.
In addition to opportunities to serve in CAPRAP as PIRRs, traditional reservists and Individual Mobilization Augmentees can also participate with a signed letter from their commander authorizing the additional duty. This allows those members to earn extra points towards their retirement without leaving their normal reserve billet.
To learn about CAPRAP openings in their region, Reservists should call their regional CAP-USAF office.
Reservists who transfer into the CAPRAP program as PIRRs will begin working with Headquarters Individual Reservist Readiness and Integration Organization (HQ RIO) Detachment 6, Operating Location Hurlburt Field, Florida, which manages the readiness for all CAPRAP PIRRs. HQ RIO is the organization that oversees the entire Individual Reserve program, which includes IMAs and PIRRs. The headquarters is located at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, and its seven detachments and eight operating locations are scattered around the globe. To learn more about the Individual Reserve, visit www.arpc.afrc.af.mil/HQRIO.aspx.
“The (CAPRAP) program is interesting, diverse, fun and rewarding, said Schwartz. “You get to give back to the future and provide much needed oversight in the present.”
To learn more about the mission of Civil Air Patrol, visit http://www.gocivilairpatrol.com/. To learn more about CAP-USAF, visit http://www.au.af.mil/au/holmcenter/CAPUSAF/index.asp.