New opportunities in National Capital Region: Civil Air Patrol stands up new squadron

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nicolas Z. Erwin
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Civil Air Patrol’s National Capital Wing activated a new squadron located in Washington, D.C., to provide opportunities for a diverse range of new members.

The newly created Howard Town Civil Air Patrol squadron stood up due to interest within the local community, the proximity to a local Reserve Officer Training Corps program and its location in the inner-city of Washington, D.C. The squadron’s placement aims to attract individuals interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, who may not have the ability to travel to other Civil Air Patrol squadrons for similar opportunities.

“The National Capital Wing includes all of D.C., parts of Virginia and parts of Maryland,” said Col. Janon Ellis, deputy chief of staff of cadet programs for Civil Air Patrol’s Mid-Atlantic region. “The focus of establishing a squadron here was because the Civil Air Patrol has very little presence inside the city of D.C. It’s also where there is an underrepresented population that could benefit from the opportunities provided by this Air Force program.”

The Civil Air Patrol, which is an official part of the Air Force, performs approximately 90% of the continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. The Civil Air Patrol also helps recruit and educate individuals on ways to serve within the total force.

“Back in 2015, it was established in doctrine that the Civil Air Patrol is now part of the Total Force of the Air Force as the Air Force Auxiliary,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher S. Walker, special assistant to the director of the Air National Guard for Diversity and Inclusion. “From enlisted or officer-hood, this program is capable of nurturing future members. From their teens into the early stages of their careers, students can get their pilots license earlier and help diversify rated and non-rated career fields in the Air Force by teaching students … from multiple backgrounds … the opportunities provided to the Total Force.”

A challenge the Civil Air Patrol has is recruiting cadets with more diverse thoughts and experience, however, the Air Force helps relieve some financial costs for individuals who may not have the funds to go to events like annual summer encampments. 

“When I went to mentor Civil Air Patrol encampments, I looked at the audience and thought ‘the audience all looks the same,’ … something isn’t right,” Walker said. “There wasn’t a group representing any inner-city community, and that had to change. As a major feeder of recruitment for the Air Force, we had to get more squadrons in more diverse areas like in urban cities.”

This new squadron will provide opportunities to a diverse range of new members in the area. Some of the programs include flight orientations and training, cyber defense competitions, computer programming courses and other education programs and products for students and educators of the program.

Ellis added that some of the opportunities include providing educators with free educational programs and products as well as services that include teacher orientation flights. He mentioned that there are multiple scholarship-based incentives and military-related benefits for joining the Civil Air Patrol from a young age. 

Developing future leaders also comes with teaching them the importance of taking care of the community. The Civil Air Patrol has 59,268 volunteer youth and adult members nationwide, and volunteers to assist with Federal Emergency Management Agency-directed aid, or normal community service as needed.

"We want our Civil Air Patrol membership to reflect our local communities, which is why having squadrons in all parts of the greater Washington, D.C., area is important to us,” said Col. David Sterling, Civil Air Patrol's National Capital Wing commander. “Our Auxiliary Airmen volunteer where they live so they can help their fellow citizens no matter who they are." 

Another obstacle that the Civil Air Patrol and Air Force Office of Diversity and Inclusion are actively working to overcome is finding volunteers with experience and commitment to serve as senior members of the Civil Air Patrol.