RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
Randolph is one of two bases chosen to evaluate a program that could expand the Civil Air Patrol's role on installations throughout the Air Force.
The program, Volunteer Support to the Air Force, will provide CAP members with an additional non-combat role, filling a variety of needs on bases.
Col. Richard Clark, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, said the program will break new ground for the Air Force.
"Randolph is the test bed along with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio," he said. "Depending on the pilot program's success, it will branch out to all Air Force bases. This represents a change in history. It may become an everyday occurrence to see Civil Air Patrol uniforms on Air Force installations."
Craig Duehring, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said last week the VSAF program "will provide greater volunteer opportunities for citizens through the CAP while enhancing Air Force capabilities as a part of the Air Force's Continuum of Service program."
Continuum of Service is a Department of Defense initiative that seeks to provide opportunities for service along a continuum from military active duty to civilian volunteer.
The Civil Air Patrol, the auxiliary of the Air Force, was founded in 1941 and was charged by Congress in 1948 with three missions - aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services. It now conducts 90 percent of inland search-and-rescue missions in the United States.
A Civil Air Patrol official said the organization welcomes the new opportunity.
"The members of the Civil Air Patrol, all patriotic American citizens, are proud to have this opportunity to help the brave men and women defending our country and the loved ones they leave behind when they deploy," Brig. Gen. Amy Courter, interim CAP commander, said in a statement last week.
The program at Randolph will originate in the 12th FTW, Colonel Clark said.
"We're focusing on the 12th Flying Training Wing to get the process initiated and streamlined," he said. "As it grows, we want to offer other Team Randolph members the option to bring in volunteers to augment their offices. That will take place several months down the road."
Lt. Col. Jack Burns, 12th FTW director of staff and the base VSAF officer, said the program will help fill personnel needs created by drawdowns and deployment. In some cases, services that have been eliminated could be restored.
He said staff has identified 15 possible positions for CAP volunteers to fill, including three administrative support slots and six skilled positions in civil engineering, from interior design to environmental science. In addition, five volunteer opportunities are available in services.
"Our greatest need is in administrative support," Colonel Burns said, "but we will try to employ the volunteers' particular skills sets. If they come and want to give, we will do everything we can to accommodate them."
He said 22 Civil Air Patrol members - all of them from the greater San Antonio area - are already interested in participating in the program. Local CAP officials will ensure that volunteers meet the criteria that the organization has established for participation in the program.
Colonel Burns said the hours of service they provide will vary, depending on their personal situations.
"Whatever time they can give, we will use," he said.
Volunteers will wear "uniforms identifying them as Civil Air Patrol members" and should be visible in the coming weeks, Colonel Burns said.
Colonel Clark said volunteer opportunities will grow as the program matures.
"We will continue to refine the program until it meets all Air Force requirements," he said. "We'll find those areas where volunteers can feel like they are a valuable part of the 12th Flying Training Wing, that their time is well-valued and well-received."
The program could have a long-term positive impact on the Air Force, Colonel Clark said.
"The Civil Air Patrol is a great organization," he said. "I'm very excited that their members are coming out to Randolph and will put into motion a program that potentially changes the way the Air Force operates for the next 50 years."