Civil Air Patrol has been around for 75 years

Published 11:01 am Tuesday, December 6, 2016

One week before Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer organization under the Army Air Corps was formed. They’re still going strong 75 years later and the Oxford branch is no exception.

Through the decades, the auxiliary organization has led search and rescue missions, flown medical supplies during wars and establishing a long-running cadet program.

CAP began its cadet program in its first year back in 1941 with the goal of getting young people and volunteers of any age interested in aviation and aerospace education. Cadets can join when they turn 12 and stay a cadet until they’re 21 years old. While many will go on to serve in the Air Force, this is not a requirement. Once cadets turn 21, or if they joined CAP after turning 19, they’re considered senior members.

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All in the family

Hugh Sloan IV, the Oxford squadron’s Deputy Commander for Cadets, has been a member of CAP since he was 12 years old.

“My dad took over running the local squadron in 1993 and was the commander for several years,” Sloan, 25, said. “I grew up hanging around their squadron meetings on Saturday mornings.”

The Oxford branch of CAP meets at the Ole Miss Airport (every Thursday night at 6:30) after originally having meetings on the university campus. Those interested in joining are encouraged to attend any of their meetings to learn more.

Sloan IV says that being a part of the Air Patrol helped in molding his life and values.

“It’s been a very big part of my formation as a person,” he said. “Locally, I’ve met a lot of motivating people and learned a bunch of things week in and week out.”

One of those motivating people is Sloan IV’s father, Hugh Sloan III, 75, who has been involved with CAP or the Air Force in some capacity since he was 14 years old. Sloan III became a fixture of the Oxford squadron in 1993 and served as its commander off and on for 14 years. He currently serves as its Recruiting and Retention Officer as well as its Aerospace Education Officer.

“Our squadron has always been fairly small,” Sloan III said. “Now, we’re at 17 people. When I took over, Jeff Meaders (a former CAP commander), said to me, ‘Don’t ever let this squadron die.’ I tried to live up to that.”

And Sloan did just that. Under his auspices, the squadron continued to flourish with one of his proudest moments being when his group performed a successful search and rescue mission for Michael Steinbock, a pilot. Steinbock crashed ten miles from Oxford and was stranded in a tree upside down for three days.

“One of the cadets in my squadron found him,” Sloan III said. “They walked around a little bit and couldn’t find him. When they found him, they said, ‘we’re from Civil Air Patrol and we’re here to help you.’ He said, ‘I knew you’d come.’”

Steinbock went on to write a book called “Miracle in Mississippi” about his ordeal and rescue by CAP.

Sloan III is also proud of his son keeping the CAP tradition alive within the family.

“Having him interested in this organization is blamed on me all the time within our family,” he joked. “He’s doing a wonderful job, he’s my pride and joy.”

Dwight Frink, the current Oxford Squadron Commander, says that with the CAP’s three main focuses (aerospace education, emergency services and the cadet program), there’s something for everyone.

“One thing that’s become apparent to me after I took over this job, is what phenomenal opportunities for adults there are too,” Frink said. “They’ve got more training and learning and development programs than you can imagine. There’s a lot of opportunities for the young and adults alike.”

Frink noted that last weekend marked the official 75th anniversary of the organization. To honor CAP, a national gala was held in Washington D.C. featuring the Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James as the key speaker.

“She was responsible for elevating the status of CAP to an element of the Total Air Force of the United States,” Frink said.

With an estimated 56,268 people currently enrolled in Civil Air Patrol nationwide, the organization shows no signs of slowing down.

“There are a lot of opportunities for the young and adults alike,” Frink said. “Since I’ve taken over as commander, I’ve been compelled to learn a lot more. I wish I had engaged at this level a lot sooner. I’m more pumped up than I’ve ever been.”