1st Air Force
The storied history between the U.S. Air Force and Civil Air Patrol added yet another chapter June 24 during a Transfer of Authority ceremony held to recognize the realignment of the Civil Air Patrol-U.S. Air Force – or CAP-USAF – from Air Education and Training Command to Air Combat Command.
The Commander of ACC assigned the unit to 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern). First Air Force currently approves all Civil Air Patrol operational missions performed in its role as the Air Force Auxiliary, which includes approximately 8,000 missions flying 20,000 hours a year.
CAP-USAF has the critical mission of ensuring that CAP is organized, trained, and equipped to fulfill Air Force-assigned missions. CAP-USAF provides day-to-day support, advice and liaison to the CAP, and provides oversight for CAP programs, with particular emphasis on safety and programmatic requirements. Additionally, CAP-USAF personnel are the primary functional interface between other Federal agencies, state, and local agencies.
"Civil Air Patrol is an important aerospace education organization, but it's also a vital part of the operational Total Force," said Lt. Gen. William Etter, commander of Continental U.S. NORAD Region-1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern). "Volunteer Civil Air Patrol pilots and aircraft, operating in an Air Force Auxiliary capacity, already fly thousands of sorties every year in support of civil authorities and Homeland Defense, so I'm pleased to officially welcome then to the First Air Force and Air Forces Northern team today."
The ceremony began with the arrival of a CAP C-182 Cessna carrying CAP’s National Commander CAP Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez and the CAP-USAF commander, Col. Mike Tynismaa. The aircraft landed and approached Tyndall Air Force Base’s base operations, rolling through a ceremonial greeting of fire trucks pumping arching water sprays high over the aircraft.
Nearly four dozen members from the CAP, 1st AF and Florida CAP took part in the ceremony that featured comments from Etter and Vazquez.
“This is a monumental day for 1st Air Force and CAP-USAF, and CAP is proud to be a part of this amazing team. This realignment presents tremendous opportunities for synergy and improved mission effectiveness for all three of our organizations," said Vazquez.
The ceremony also included a symbolic “patch swap” during which Etter swapped the AETC and Air University patches for the new ACC and 1 AF patches on the uniform of Tynismaa.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James approved the realignment on May 10 to reassign CAP-USAF, completing a three-year effort between CAP, AETC, ACC and 1st AF to work out a seamless transfer.
“Since the Secretary of the Air Force has currently delegated approval of all the operational missions in the United States to First Air Force, having CAP-USAF’s mission of supporting and providing oversight of CAP under First Air Force makes perfect sense and will garner by operational and administrative synergies and efficiencies” said Lt Col Mac Yates, 1 AF Director for Air Force Auxiliary operations. “There will be no change in mission or concept of operations due to the proposed reassignment; CAP-USAF and its subordinate organizations will transfer from AETC to ACC without any changes to its internal organization structure. This simply aligns CAP-USAF to the agency it very often works closely with at 1AF.”
The transfer reflects the ever-increasing operational role CAP performs as the Air Force Auxiliary in support of the Air Force and other federal agencies.
Reassignment of CAP-USAF to ACC and providing 1AF the authority to approve missions streamlines operations and resources, bolster mission execution and communication, and promote synergy with other ACC programs to ensure more effective use of CAP’s resources in its role as the Air Force Auxiliary. The realignment also maintains a focus on education and cadet initiatives while increasing attention of the predominant role emergency services have taken.
In addition to streamlining operations and resources, the reassignment also more closely aligns CAP to its primary Air Force customer 1st AF and AFNORTH’s Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.
The AFRCC routinely coordinates search-and-rescue efforts with CAP. Also, when tasked, CAP conducts an array of emergency response aviation missions for AFNORTH, such as flying-imagery collection missions during firefighting efforts to gather information to firefighting agencies battle fires. CAP also supports numerous air defense training exercises in order to add realism to the training.
CAP-USAF is currently staffed with approximately 75 Air Force Reserve and civilian personnel at CAP’s National Headquarters at Maxwell AFB, Ala, and at nine geographic locations in New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, California and Florida.
CAP's storied history dates back to December 1941 when it was formed to provide civil air support to aid the war effort of WWII through border and coastal patrols, military training assistance, courier services and other activities. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman established CAP as a federally chartered nonprofit corporation, and Congress passed a law on May 26, 1948, designating CAP as the Air Force Auxiliary and giving CAP three primary missions – emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education.