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Commander’s Commentary—April 2014

This will be my last commentary after serving four years as your wing commander.  It has been an honor and privilege to lead the amazing group of unpaid professionals that make up all the members of Maryland Wing.  Let me share a couple of things that we have achieved together.

During this period the wing's cadet program staff helped mentor and provide our cadets with opportunities that resulted in 12 cadets earning the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, the highest award a cadet can earn in CAP.  We sent two wing color guard teams to compete at the National Cadet Competition in 2011 and 2013.  Twenty-four units earned the Quality Unit Award during this four-year period.  Our Cadet Programs Development Officer was recognized as the National Cadet Programs Officer, and the wing saw one cadet earn the National Brewer Aerospace Education Award.

Locally, the wing has developed a robust cadet training program including a nationally recognized encampment. During this period the encampment has offered nearly 1,000 cadets the opportunity to further their leadership development.  Our solo flight school will celebrate its 24th anniversary this year, giving almost 150 cadets the opportunity to solo since its inception and 24 cadets over the past 4 years.  Maryland Wing hosted our international partners during the annual International Air Cadet Exchange Program each year.  Most importantly, while providing a solid mentor program, the wing saw nearly all cadets who participated in the cadet program go on to study at the university level, with large numbers earning national CAP scholarships.  Notably during this period more than 10 cadets earned a commission in United States military, five of them earning this commission by attending a federal service academy.

 The development of our senior members is a key priority and has resulted in 40 Loening Awards, 28 Garber Awards and 13 Wilson Awards during this four-year period.  Additionally, nearly 130 senior members earned the Yeager Aerospace Award. In an effort to serve all senior members, the wing has started a distance education program and runs a blended online/classroom Unit Commanders Course using emerging education technologies.

The wing's emergency services program saw tremendous success and has significantly enhanced and served our state and nation during a period of some of the most difficult times that the wing has ever seen.  The wing has participated in key missions including, most recently the response to Super Storm Sandy.   During the four-year period our wing has responded to and has been credited with 71 missions, 52 finds and 8 saves along with providing aerial reconnaissance for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency during key missions.

The significance of Maryland Wing member contributions has been recognized by the State Legislature and the Governor.  Through the Maryland Wing government affairs efforts in conjunction with the Wing Legislative Squadron, two pieces of legislation were passed during this four-year period directly affecting wing members:  the Civil Air Patrol Leave Act of 2010 protecting the jobs of our members and the Income Tax Subtraction Modification Act expanding tax benefits to CAP members.

In order to "get people out of the stands and into the game" the wing developed an in-depth training program dubbed “Soup-to-Nuts,” which has resulted in increases in ground teams, ground team leaders, mission pilots, mission observers and mission scanners.  To ensure that we are always ready to respond, the wing pioneered a joint SAREX on five separate occasions with PA, WV, DC, and DE wings.  These multi-wing exercises afford the coordination and training of our ground and air team members furthering their ability to hone their skills.  The wing maintains 11 corporate aircraft and for the past four years has exceeded the NHQ goal of 200 hours per aircraft.  During this period the wing was also recognized by the Air Force as "highly successful" during two separate SAREVAL exercises.  Committed to the State of Maryland, the wing has provided non-stop aerial coverage of the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months and key critical infrastructure throughout the state, ensuring a safer community for all.   Additionally, the wing has continuously served the Maryland Air National Guard by providing over 15,000 man-hours of service during every unit training assembly providing key manpower to support ongoing missions of national and international significance.  

Committed to providing a comprehensive leadership development program for all of the wing members, Maryland Wing boasts one of the most comprehensive annual training programs as well as an annual balance scorecard goal program to track and motivate mission success.  The Maryland Wing has grown in size, including the addition of two squadrons and two middle-school programs.

The wing has also continued to serve our national priorities and programs by providing cadets and senior members annually to support the National Legislative Day in Washington, D.C., as well as providing significant support during the annual Wreaths Across America program, and operational manpower and equipment to support the National Joint Service Open House at JB Andrews.   During the four-year period, Maryland Wing Public Affairs Officers have been awarded eight Balsem Awards from CAP National PA.

A key contribution on the national level was serving as the host wing to the 2012 National Conference, Cadet Conference, PAO Academy, Board of Governors and Command Council Meetings in Baltimore. 

Maryland Wing members lead the nation with numerous members serving in dual-hat positions as National Staff Officers, National Committee members, Activity Directors and key staff officers.  The wing continues to shine at the national level earning awards such as National Government Affairs Officer, Brewer Lifetime Awards and Outstanding Squadron and Squadron Commander.  Maryland Wing grew in membership and opportunities for members to serve our community, state and nation. 

The final thing in reviewing the wing's accomplishments over the last four years that I want to share with you is the agreement on a new wing headquarters.  The lease was signed last month by the state of Maryland.  We have a 30-year lease on the 27-acre site in Woodstock, Md., with options to extend.  It was built originally as a Nike missile base in the 1950s and was turned over to the state of Maryland and converted into offices and a training academy for the state department of public service and corrections in the 1980s.  They moved to another location in the mid 2000s and since then it has been used by the Maryland State Police for a training area for their K9 units.  The MSP will continue to use part of the site for their training and we will occupy the two main buildings at the front end of the property.  This move will give us a permanent and professional location for the wing for many years, as well as some land for training.  Offices for the staff, including supply, will be in both buildings.  Classrooms will be available for training sessions and we will have our own historical display in one of the rooms.  There have been many people involved in getting this accomplished but it would not have happened without the help of Lt. Col. Dave Argentieri and 1st Lt. Jonathan Ebbeler.  As the government relations and the grants officer respectively, they have helped us move mountains to find our new home.  We still need to do some rehab work on the buildings before we move in but our goal is to start the move in the May/June timeframe.  The address of the site is 3085 Hernwood Road, Woodstock, Md.  You can use Google Earth to see some images of the site.  

There are many people whom I am indebted to for their help and support, way too many to list here but I do need to mention a few. First, Col. (Select) Parris, wing vice commander, and Lt. Col. Winter, wing chief of staff, have done an amazing job.  Ms. Sherry McManus, wing administrator, who does 100 things a week to help all of us.  All the group and squadron commanders are the heroes that make things happen every week across the state.  The wing staff has ensured that the programs keep us mission ready.  Col. Weiss, our former wing commander, who not only served as a sounding board for me but also agreed to take on the assignment as the wing's A3/5 (operations and plans). Col. Ragland, the region commander, who has supported our wing and provided me help and guidance.  Maj. Brenda Reed, who not only has helped me edit these commentaries but also created a distance learning UCC, stepped up to serve again as our PAO, and has worked with Lt. Col. Winter and I on taking the wing's annual training plan to the next level. 

Finally, I want to thanks my family for their patience and support, especially my wife, Teri.  They have put up with a lot of missed dinners, weekends, weeks...well, you get the picture.  Serving as a wing commander is a full-time job that often takes more than 40 hours a week.   Since I also have a regular full-time job, it doesn't leave a lot of free time.  These past four years have gone by quickly but together we have accomplished a lot.  I will remain working as an incident commander for the wing as I accept the job as the national liaison for CAP to the National Guard.  I hope to see all of you at the change of command on April 26th.

JOHN M. KNOWLES, Colonel, CAP
Commander, Maryland Wing