The Civil Air Patrol has come a long way from dropping ordnance on German submarines, but although the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary’s mission has changed over the decades, its output remains the same.
“We’re building a better foundation of citizenry,” said Maj. Charles Robertson, the commander of Augusta’s chapter of the Civil Air Patrol, which celebrates 70 years today.
The Civil Air Patrol was established a week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 as a union of private pilots scouting for the enemy. The War Department armed some of the pilots on the East Coast with depth charges, and they promptly sank two U-boats. A German submariner later admitted that they ceased operations on the coast in 1943 because of the patrol’s “damned little red and yellow airplanes.”
The first record of Augusta’s operation is an advertisement in the April 26, 1942, edition of The Augusta Chronicle giving notice of its meetings in the civilian hangar at Daniel Field. That meeting room is still in use today, its history represented by decades of photos, awards and proclamations adorning the walls.
The focus has shifted from reconnaissance in the 1940s and search-and-rescue in the 1970s and 1980s to developing the next generation of model citizens in 2012.
The military backbone of the Augusta group – 15 senior members and 32 cadets – is still present in the mandatory drill classes and rank promotions. Members say it offers more than a Junior ROTC with its fighter pilot training classes, helicopter rides and aerospace education.
“That’s something your average kid wouldn’t do,” said Lt. Col. John Tucciarone, a former commander and a member since 1997.
The biggest event for the Civil Air Patrol is the annual Boshears Skyfest at Daniel Field. The rest of the year is filled with character development classes, physical education, search-and-rescue training and disaster preparedness.
“It’s not just about flying,” Capt. Chris Champlain said. “It’s about the cadets and giving back to your community.”
Building future leaders is the focus of most of the senior staffers. Only a small number of cadets enter the military after high school, but those who do are already armed with a basic knowledge of rank and how to maintain bearing. The majority finish their classes with strong morals and experience making decisions, Tucciarone said.
“They show initiative, take on responsibility and learn to volunteer,” he said. “It creates a lot of opportunities.”