June 7, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
In December 2011 the Civil Air Patrol will celebrate 70 years of service saving lives, providing aerospace education, and introducing young people to aviation through its cadet programs that are such a familiar presence at many of the nation’s airports.
The anniversary year also will be marked by a major award to be presented this June, when the CAP will be honored with a World Peace Prize by a missionary organization that has been recognizing contributions to the cause of peace since 1989.
Retired U.S. Rep. Lester Wolff of New York, chief judge of the World Peace Prize, announced that on June 14 CAP will receive a Roving Ambassador for Peace Award from the World Peace Corps Mission in a ceremony at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
The CAP “makes a huge impact going above and beyond to make a profound difference in America's communities; saving lives and preserving liberty for all,” he said in a news release. “CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 113 lives in fiscal year 2010. They are generally the first on the scene transmitting satellite digital images of the damage within seconds around the world and providing disaster relief and emergency services following natural and manmade disasters, including such phenomena as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Texas and Oklahoma wildfires, tornadoes in the south and central U.S., North Dakota flash flooding and the October 2006 earthquake in Hawaii, as well as humanitarian missions along the U.S. and Mexican border.”
The nonprofit World Peace Corps Mission also will issue two Top Honor Prizes at the ceremonies. One honoree is H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, to be recognized “for his selfless devotion to an immensely wide scope of healing and rescue-relief activities directed at people from different communities throughout the world.” The other prize will go to Benjamin A. Gilman, “a life-long champion of human rights: fighting world hunger, narcotic abuse and trafficking,” who served 15 terms in Congress.
Past honorees of the awarding council of the World Peace Prize have included President Ronald Reagan, President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia, and President Kuniwo Nakamura of Palau.
“Civil Air Patrol is delighted to be chosen for this prestigious international honor,” said National Commander Maj. Gen. Amy S. Courter. “This reflects greatly upon our 61,000-plus members, who work diligently in their communities to serve their fellow citizens.”
On Dec. 1, the CAP will celebrate its birth and mark the occasion 70 years ago when efforts by many aviation enthusiasts to put their aircraft and skills to use in defense of their country bore fruit, according to a history of the CAP that appears on its home page.
“After the war, a thankful nation understood that Civil Air Patrol could continue providing valuable services to both local and national agencies. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 incorporating Civil Air Patrol as a benevolent, nonprofit organization,” it said.
On May 26, 1948, Congress passed legislation establishing the CAP as the auxiliary of the new Air Force, its primary missions defined as aerospace education, cadet programs—that now serve about 26,000 youth—and emergency services.
In a recent example of the activity that brought the CAP its recognition from the World Peace Prize, volunteers from CAP’s Alabama Wing played a key role photographing and helping to assess damage from devastating tornadoes that struck Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties.
And don’t think of aerospace education as a classroom pursuit. On June 1, CAP members were on the ground at the Naples, Fla., airport, installing telescopic cameras to help photographers capture images of the space shuttle Endeavor’s re-entry to the atmosphere and its path over southwestern Florida in advance of its 2:20 a.m. landing.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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