Bowie Civil Air Patrol earns state, national awards
Squadron honored for event management, boosting youth recruitment
Bowie's squadron of the Civil Air Patrol earned national and state level distinctions this year for assisting in the management of a major air show and achieving a high level of training for its cadets and adult members.
The Maryland Civil Air Patrol chose the Bowie squadron from among 25 units in the state as its Squadron of the Year, and squadron commander Capt. Jeffrey Welch as Squadron Commander of the Year.
Welch also was presented with a National Commander's Commendation Award for his work as a liaison between the Civil Air Patrol and the U.S. Air Force during a Joint Service Open House held at Joint Base Andrews in May.
The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Bowie's squadron was formed about 40 years ago and consists of 35 cadet members and 35 adult members.
Cadets, who range in age from 12 to 18, train for search-and-rescue missions such as locating downed aircraft, while adult members volunteer for flight missions out of Freeway Airport in Bowie, including patrolling for boaters in distress in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer.
The skills shown by the squadron's members, along with their ability to handle challenging situations, such as the management of the Andrews event, showed state leaders that the group was worthy of the award, said Lt. Col. Wes LaPre, a group commander who oversees nine squadrons in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Calvert and St. Mary's counties.
The squadron was presented with two banners that signify the honors, which will be displayed on their patrol flag. Welch will receive a silver star to wear on his Commander's Commendation Ribbon. The squadron will receive a proclamation for its award at the Prince George's County Council meeting Jan. 7.
Welch took command of the squadron three years ago and created a cadet basic training program that he said is responsible for growing and retaining the squadron's membership. The program served two important purposes, Welch said getting new cadets up to speed quickly so they would be less likely to drop out and allowing advanced cadets time to work on their training separately so they would not become bored.
In the last year, the cadet squadron promoted three members to the rank of lieutenant colonel, marking the first time in at least 10 years that the squadron has had a cadet member of that high a rank, Welch said.
The squadron also runs a high number of missions approximately 50 per year for adult and cadet members, Welch said.
Adult air missions have included weekend bay patrol and Air Defense Missions, in which pilots fly into restricted air space over Washington, D.C., to give Air Force pilots practice maneuvering intruder planes away from the capitol. Cadet members have volunteered for several ground missions in which they have assisted search-and-rescue efforts to find downed aircraft or missing persons.
The missions allow cadets to put their training in radio communications, survival tactics and operation management to the test, said Cadet Lt Col. John Brennan, 17, of Gambrills. Membership in the squadron also gives cadets a chance to experience a taste of military involvement and learn valuable leadership skills, he said.
At the Andrews event, Brennan said he was in charge of ensuring that cadet-run stations, such as a recruiting station and perimeter security for the VIP section, were manned and rotated.
As a member for three years, Brennan said the awards the squadron received this year did not surprise him.
"We had all worked really hard," he said. "Sooner or later I knew that the hard work would pay off."
E-mail Andrea Noble at firstname.lastname@example.org.