Civil Air Patrol’s Noncommissioned Officer Corps provides adult members and cadets an invaluable resource – access to an entire lexicon of knowledge based on the depth of the NCOs’ military backgrounds.
Many NCOs continue to serve on active duty or have a long career in the military with a special emphasis on helping brothers and sisters in arms be successful. That expertise pays dividends for CAP’s adult NCO corps and for mentoring cadets.
CAP members of any age or grade can turn to the NCO Corps, 439 members strong, as a resource for leadership lessons and advice on life skills and future careers, whether in the military or the private sector.
“Our NCO Corps members bring in a refined sense of military life through mentoring, basic military knowledge, life and leadership skills, and their own experiences,” said Chief Master Sgt. Todd Parsons, CAP’s fifth national command chief.
“We are member-focused,” Parsons said. “We take care of people. When people succeed, the mission succeeds”
One advantage for the organization, Parsons said, is that he and other NCOs can reach out more easily to the senior enlisted leaders in all military branches because of the special relationship and trust that’s the hallmark of the NCO Corps.
A member since May 2011, Parsons resigned as a CAP major in December 2017 to become a chief master sergeant based on his rank and experience in the U.S. Army. Before accepting the national post in February 2022, he served four years as Mid-Atlantic Region command NCO.
Senior Master Sgt. Frank D’Angelo, Parsons’ public affairs adviser, joined Civil Air Patrol as an officer in October 2010 while serving as an active-duty U.S. Air Force NCO.
“One morning the first sergeant emailed a listing of several different volunteer opportunities,” D’Angelo recalled.
Since D’Angelo’s father had been a CAP adult member, he felt this would be a great fit.
And after he attended the first meeting?
“I was blown away by the cadets’ level of maturity and the well-structured squadron, the drills, everything,” D’Angelo said.
After acheiving the CAP rank of captain, he crossed over to the NCO Corps in September 2019 and served as Illinois Wing command NCO for three years.
“It takes a certain [type of] person to be an enlisted member in CAP,” he said.
“It’s not about the privilege of wearing a certain rank on my uniform. It’s what’s best for the mission and our nation.”
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass spoke about CAP’s relationship with the military and the NCO Corps’ importance during the 2023 Air Mobility Command Airlift/Tanker Convention in Grapevine, Texas, in November.
“CAP helps support the Air Force with real-world humanitarian operations,” Bass said. “We can’t do this alone.
“To be the force our nation needs, we have to be able to tap into organizations like CAP and really encompass that Total Force ‘One Team, One Fight.’”
Bass said all service members have valuable advice to share. “When an NCO retires, CAP offers a direct volunteer opportunity to give back to your community and pour your experiences into that next generation,” she said.
One very important step in the journey to serving as an NCO is the transition from one who has been cared for to one who cares for others so they can take care of the mission, Bass said.
“The stripe and the roof [of the insignia] make up the senior NCO rank; that roof above signifies the ‘care for’ role you have with the subordinates you lead,” she said, adding that especially holds true for CAP.
Bass said the most valuable piece of advice she received was from her mother: “’Do your job and do it well.’
“It applies to anyone – officer, NCO, student, CAP cadet or chief master sergeant of the Air Force,” she said.
“With every struggle and challenge comes opportunity,” Bass said. “As long as you are confident, competent, and committed, you’ll go far.”
Overall, she said, “what I love about Civil Air Patrol is they grow people of character; I don’t know of another better training experience for that very thing than CAP.”
CAP Tech. Sgt. and Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Deyton Talley, a CAP member since 2012 and part of the NCO Corps the last two years, was participating in Air Force Junior ROTC at La Quinta High School in Westminster, California, when he and his fellow cadets were asked to help with an air show at Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport.
Once there, working alongside the CAP cadets, he found them to be more professional and involved in a program that offered more opportunities and better training.
After a stint in Air Force ROTC at California State University in San Bernardino, he joined the Texas Air National Guard as a full-time guardsman working with remotely piloted Q-9 Reapers.
He’s now NCO adviser to the Texas Wing’s Ellington Composite Squadron.
“The credibility is the one thing I loved as a cadet about the NCOs,” he said. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in my military career. [CAP’s NCO Corps] allows me to bring my experience to the table.”
Talley tells his cadets to “accept, adjust, and overcome. Just keep moving forward!”
CAP Staff Sgt. and U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Eve Waterman may well be the newest addition to the NCO Corps, having promoted from senior member on Nov. 16.
Waterman was thinking of joining the military when her mother took her to a meeting of the Texas Wing’s Irving Composite Squadron in 2012
“I wasn’t interested at first, but I stayed because of the leaders I met,” she said. “I wanted to be worthy of their respect. I wanted to earn the same kind of respect I had for them.”
The NCOs she met in CAP were a large part of why she chose to enlist in the Navy rather than receive a commission after graduating from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, Waterman said.
“I respect officers; my job is to support their goals,” she said. “But … I am a petty officer second class, an NCO in CAP terms.
“That means attention to detail, professionalism, hard work, knowing what your people need — and fighting for them.”
Now a member of the Virginia Wing’s Hampton Roads Composite Squadron, she tells cadets she’s mentoring two very important things: Never walk past something you know is wrong and never lose your idealism.
“Applying this to your life means staying late at work and doing a lot of things that are not in your job description,” she said.
“It also trains your attention to detail; it makes people around you trust you and it builds a sense of pride and responsibility in all you do.
“You are some of the best people I have known, and I challenge you to stay that way. Your idealism always challenges me to try to be the hero I saw in every uniform when I was your age.”
Joining the NCO Corps
Chief Master Sgt. Todd Parsons, Civil Air Patrol national command chief, said the Noncommissioned Officer Corps is a great opportunity for NCOs either after retirement or separation from the military or while still serving.
“NCOs can continue wearing their chevrons,” Parsons said. “It allows that pride they have to shine through and, by using their skills and talents, they can continue their affiliation and give back.”
Senior Master Sgt. Frank D’Angelo, Parsons’ public affairs adviser, said the first step is to find someone in the corps and undergo mentoring.
Current and previous E-4s and above can be a part of the NCO Corps, D’Angelo said. Rank plus time in grade and other factors determine what NCO grade is commensurate with their experience, he said.
“All NCOs can attend Airman Leadership School and the NCO and senior NCO academies. The skills learned there definitely help the cadets,” D’Angelo said.
Parsons’ immediate predecessor as national command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Dandridge, began serving on CAP’s main governing body, the Board of Governors, on Nov. 10.