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Local Civil Air Patrol squadron accepts national award, celebrates 50 years of service in Mesa

(City of Mesa)

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in Arizona was recently awarded the 2016 National Emergency Management Volunteer Organization of the Year by the International Association of Emergency Managers in a ceremony conducted at the organization’s annual conference in Savannah, Georgia. Receiving the award on behalf of CAP was Lt. Col. (Dr.) Bob Ditch, commander of CAP’s Falcon Composite Squadron 305, based in Mesa.

“The award recognizes the ‘too numerous to count’ state-wide and national-level achievements and contributions provided by the Arizona CAP volunteers in the areas of Homeland Security, Emergency/Disaster Services, and Search & Rescue Response,” Ditch said.

Falcon Composite Squadron 305, headquartered at Mesa’s Falcon Field Airport, has been a part of that effort for five decades, sustaining some of the most diversified missions. Its 64 volunteer members support one of Arizona Wing’s primary Incident Command Posts. It also houses one of the wing’s 13 operational aircraft and provides both aircrew and ground team members for all operational missions. In addition, the squadron operates one of the nation’s High Frequency (HF) long-range radio stations, supporting the Department of Defense’s nation-wide emergency HF radio network. This capability has allowed for continuity of communications during disaster operations when conventional communication, such as telephone and internet, have been lost.

The squadron is noted not only for its past experience supporting state-wide searches for missing persons and missing or overdue aircraft, but also for providing support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Arizona Division Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, and many state and county public safety agencies during disasters and other emergencies. In the past year, the squadron has also continued to support emergency blood transport operations as part of the “Flight for Life” program.

Squadron members provided additional service as part of an internal CAP mission dubbed “Operation Smoke Detector.” During the mission, squadron members who detected smoke in wildland forest areas during routine training flights alerted the U.S. Forestry Service with information about the location of the smoke as a means to help prevent wildfires. The squadron also participates in Falcon Field Airport and community events throughout the year.

Last month, the squadron hosted the Arizona Wing’s celebrations to honor CAP’s 75th anniversary. This month the Falcon Squadron will recognize its own 50th anniversary with a formal ceremony for its members. Since 1966, the unit has served across the state and the nation, exemplifying its enduring motto: Semper Agile (“Always Agile”).

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees. CAP, in its Total Force role, operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually. Civil Air Patrol’s 56,000 members nationwide also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Civil Air Patrol members additionally play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program. Performing missions for America for the past 75 years, CAP received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014 in honor of the heroic efforts of its World War II veterans. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit http://www.capvolunteernow.com for more information.

The Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, with 21 squadrons across the state, has more than 1,100 youth and adult members, 13 light aircraft and 22 multi-purpose vehicles. These assets are available when CAP is tasked to support missions that may also involve federal, state and county governments, emergency responders and law enforcement agencies to perform search and rescue, homeland security, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and counter-drug missions. Learn more about the Arizona Wing at www.azwg.org or facebook.com/AZWingCAP.

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