Maj. Margot Myers
Public Affairs Officer
Col. Martha C. Morris assumed command of the Southwest Region from Col. Joe R. Smith in a virtual ceremony Aug. 28, with the participants attending via Zoom from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Maj. Gen. Mark Smith joined from his home in New Mexico just two days after relinquishing the position of Civil Air Patrol national commander to Maj. Gen. Ed Phelka. He said Morris, who commanded the Arizona Wing from 2016-2020, was chosen from a deep and highly qualified pool of candidates seeking to lead the Southwest Region.
“Col. Morris’ tenure as wing commander was highly successful, with the wing garnering high praise for its performance and mission execution in its inspections,” Gen. Smith said.
A 40-year member of Civil Air Patrol, Morris previously served as Southwest Region director of operations as well as Arizona Wing commander. Starting in CAP as a newly certified flight instructor in 1981 with 300 hours in her logbook, today she is a captain with JetBlue Airways with more than 22,000 flight hours.
“Who I am – and where I am today – is a direct result of walking into a Civil Air Patrol squadron 40 years ago,” Morris said during the ceremony.
“My first squadron commander – Lt. Col. Anne Rood at Falcon Composite Squadron 305 – was instrumental in shepherding me through the start of my CAP career. She gave me a chance to perform as a check pilot for the squadron and everything grew from there.
“It would take a lifetime to give back to CAP all that it has given me. The opportunity to serve as Southwest Region commander enables me to continue to give back to the organization that transformed my life,” Morris said.
Gen. Smith recalled meeting Col. Smith, whom Morris succeeded as region commander, for the first time at a New Mexico Wing Conference early in his Civil Air Patrol career. When he was later selected to lead the Southwest Region, Gen. Smith chose Col. Smith to serve as vice commander, and when Gen. Smith became national commander, Col. Smith assumed command of region.
“He has brought to the organization a wonderful blend of leadership acumen and emotional intelligence, providing truly outstanding leadership,” Gen. Smith said.
Before relinquishing command, Col. Smith received a Distinguished Service Award second bronze clasp. The citation noted that he began his tenure at the region with the massive response to Hurricane Harvey that ultimately earned the Air Force NORTH Commander’s Award for Most Meritorious Mission of 2017.
The award citation also recognized Col. Smith’s strong emphasis on safety and risk management, mission readiness and continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic response, and leadership of the senior member core values working group.
In his remarks, Col. Smith thanked the Southwest Region command team, staff, CAP-USAF liaison team, wing commanders and all of “the amazing volunteers in the Southwest Region.” He made special mention of his wife, Lt. Col. Harriet Smith, “the best-ever chief of staff” for the region, and his daughter, Lt. Col. Sandra Hudson. “Their support has been critical, not just for me, as I remember multiple occasions when we were each at different CAP events in different locations,” Col. Smith said.
Gen. Smith noted that, echoing the early days of Col. Smith’s command and the challenges of Hurricane Harvey, Morris assumed command as Hurricane Ida was bearing down on Louisiana. Shortly after the change of command ceremony ended, Morris was fielding calls from Louisiana Wing leaders as arrangements were made to move CAP planes to safer locations and preparations were underway for the disaster relief mission that would follow.