Civil Air Patrol members throughout the United States and in overseas squadrons are celebrating the organization’s commitment to community service today — a commitment that began on Dec. 1, 1941, and has continued for 80 years.
More than 56,000 members, youth and adult members, volunteer their time and talent to perform essential emergency services, advance aerospace and STEM education, and provide youth programs that build character, enhance physical and mental fitness, and shape the leaders of tomorrow.
“Civil Air Patrol members draw strength from our 80 years of history,” said Maj. Gen. Edward D. Phelka, CAP’s national commander and CEO. “On this milestone anniversary, today’s volunteers take great pride in continuing the important work of our predecessors. Just as we did in CAP’s early years, volunteers continue to perform vital missions for America, including homeland security, youth training, the advancement of science and technology, and so much more. Our proud past is a launching pad for us to rocket into the future.”
Civil Air Patrol was founded in December 1941, one week before the U.S. entered World War II. Since then, its mission has evolved over the past eight decades to meet the ever-changing needs of America’s communities with advanced lifesaving technology and world-class programs in youth development and education.
As the operator of the world’s largest fleet of single-engine aircraft, CAP also serves as the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force to perform emergency services duties as assigned, including conducting search and rescue missions; supporting local, state, and federal agencies after natural disaster; providing pandemic relief; participating in joint training exercises; and more.
In 2015, Civil Air Patrol became a Total Force partner of the Air Force in a noncombatant role, complementing the combined efforts of the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard to preserve life and relieve suffering.
“Congratulations, and happy anniversary, Civil Air Patrol. I’m happy to be here with you, and to be working with you as a partner every day,” said Brig. Gen. William D. Betts, vice commander, First Air Force and Air Forces Northern Command, who touted the organization’s ability to always adapt so that its members stay mission-ready.
“Some of the technology used in emergency services missions today did not exist decades ago — GPS, forward-looking infrared, 3D scanning capabilities, digital photography, cell forensics, and more have changed the way CAP operates and the results are impressive, saving more lives, preserving property, and relieving human suffering in ways that could not have been imagined decades ago. This is what makes CAP an invaluable Total Force partner. The investment in dollars and lives saved is a hallmark of CAP.”
Civil Air Patrol’s education programs for youth span grades K-12 with science-based aviation and aerospace education curriculum, interactive STEM kits, and career exploration. Volunteer University, the organization’s adult learning center of excellence, provides online, on-site, and on-demand opportunities for adult members to hone existing skills and learn new ones to help create a highly trained and effective volunteer workforce.
Programs for CAP cadets aged 12-18 focus on developing well-rounded community-minded servant leaders by integrating education, enhancing physical fitness, increasing confidence, and more. Civil Air Patrol is also helping address the looming national pilot shortage with innovative programs like Cadet Wings that provide scholarships to train cadets 17 and older to be private pilots — an opportunity that can change the trajectory of a young life.
Today’s Civil Air Patrol looks different than it did 80 years ago, but at its core the organization remains the same — serving in meaningful ways that meet the nation’s needs in ways no other organization can match.
“You should all be proud of the work you do as selfless volunteers of serving America’s communities, saving lives and shaping futures,” Betts said. “You should be equally proud and grateful for the work of those who came before you, to bring us this far, and prepare Civil Air Patrol for the next 80 years.”