Commander's End of Year Letter
Members & Family of the George H. W. Bush Composite Squadron --
At last, here we are. We have persevered through nine months of challenging obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to show our resolve and commitment of volunteer service. While I realize that simply saying "thank you" to each of you for your ongoing support and dedication to the program is hardly enough, please know that I sincerely appreciate and value the work each of you has put forth to better yourself, each other, and the Civil Air Patrol organization overall during this time.
Even though most of the year was spent in a remote meeting environment, we have made some impressive accomplishments and I would like to highlight some of them for you.
- We saw the successful onboarding of four new cadets and three new senior members during 2020, not including three cadet and two senior member transfers. When we set out in the first half of this year to sustain the squadron's cadet program, Capt Lamphear and I agreed that we would not accept new cadets until we could properly give them the new cadet experience. However, as our contingency operations went on through the summer, we realized that plan was not practical. The cadet programs leadership and cadet staff were instrumental in welcoming and indoctrinating our new cadets that we gained throughout the year, and we now sit at 16 cadet members in our squadron.
- We have well exceeded the standards set by Civil Air Patrol for cadet orientation flights, to the tune of 600%. Through Capt Paiva's leadership, six cadets have already received orientation flights since October 1. Because we do not have an aircraft assigned locally, this effort requires coordination with other units, and often other pilots, to facilitate the flights. Only three eligible cadets are without at least one orientation flight as of today, which is a major accomplishment even under regular circumstances.
- The one constant that has carried us well through this entire remote meeting period has been character development and aerospace education. My sincere thanks to Lt Col Hudson, Maj Brown, and TFO Wissel-Littman for continuing to deliver absolutely solid virtual character development and aerospace education programs that have gone well above and beyond just simply reading a book and checking a box--they continue to be engaging and innovative, even when done remotely.
- We awarded an impressive 18 cadet promotions and two senior member promotions and this year, with 14 of them being presented virtually. A special recognition to Cadets Marlow and Rockhill for completing four achievements during the remote meeting period. Suffice it to say, once we resume meeting in person a lot of ranks will be changing out. As a reminder, waivers are still in place for the drill and CPFT portions of achievement completion requirements, encampment requirement for the Mitchell Award (for cadets at least C/MSgt by 1 May 2020), and the RCLS requirement for the Eaker Award (for cadets at least C/Capt and 19 years old by 1 May 2020). Take advantage of this opportunity to continue progressing in the program. I'll be asking cadet staff to work with individual cadets on their requirements once we return in January.
- While the first half of the year was slow in terms of meeting the benchmarks for Quality Cadet Unit Award (QCUA), and we fell short of being eligible to receive the QCUA for 2019-20, we have ramped up significantly in the past few months and are already eligible to receive the award for 2020-21. Everyone should continue to do their part to recruit new cadets and retain our existing cadets, and the rest of the QCUA benchmarks will naturally fall into place.
The one question that I continue to get asked, and that I wish I had a better answer for, is "when do we resume regular in-person meetings". There are two items that I must constantly take into consideration as we proceed:
- The Texas Department of State Health Services guidance, of which any restrictions supersede Civil Air Patrol guidance, precludes any groups larger than 10 individuals without implementing 6 foot separation between groups. Our meeting facilities do not feasibly allow this, and so we cannot resume in-person meetings of the full squadron compliment until either this restriction is lifted, or we identify another meeting location or arrangement for small groups. It is not clear to me when this guidance may be revised, but I expect it will be revisited after the holidays.
- Once the State of Texas allows groups larger than 10 individuals, Civil Air Patrol currently has authorized Texas Wing to operate in Phase 2 of the remobilization plan, which permits groups of up to 50. However, wings are required to monitor the status of COVID-19 within their state. Texas has been holding steady at a medium-to-high rate of infection since September, while the positive test rate and ICU headroom usage has continued to steadily climb during that time. While Brazos County is relatively below the state average (ranked 154 of 254 counties), these numbers have the potential to impact Texas Wing's remobilization phase. So while we are authorized to convene in groups up to 50 by Civil Air Patrol today, that may be different two weeks from now.
While I expect us to continue our meetings as currently established for the near future, we have been slowly expanding our meeting dynamic. First we brought the senior members together in-person on the first meeting of each month (less than 10 in the large conference room), and then the cadets together in-person on the third meeting of each month (for outdoor physical fitness activities). I will continue to work with the cadet programs leadership once we return in January to consider other options that allow us to facilitate in-person meetings while working within the constraints established by the State of Texas. Monitor the unit online calendar at https://tx041.cap.gov/calendar to remain aware of meeting locations and schedules.
As a reminder, there will be no meeting this week due to Christmas, and next week due to New Year's. We will resume our regular meetings on Tuesday, 5 January as shown on the unit calendar. I hope for those who observe Hanukkah it was enjoyable, and wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year. I look forward to seeing everyone in January.
Lt Col Nicholas McLarty, CAP