Albany Composite Civil Air Patrol Squadron cadets are put through the paces during one of the squadron’s recent meetings at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — One week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, more than 150,000 American volunteers who shared a love for aviation and a concern for the defense of the country’s coastline successfully lobbied for the right to form the Civil Air Patrol.
Spearheaded by three-time New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Force, Civil Air Patrol pilots — generally men and women who were physically unable or deemed too old to fight in World War II — flew more than 500,000 hours, were credited with sinking two German U-boats and were involved in the rescue of hundreds of wartime crash survivors.
Wing Cmdr. George Winship Nunnally, whose family founded the Atlanta-based Nunnally Candy Co. and later became a part of the vast Coca-Cola empire, guided the first Georgia CAP squadron, which was formed in Albany less than a month after the organization was officially sanctioned nationally. And in the 72 years since the establishment of the GA002 squadron, hundreds of area volunteers have served as homeland protectors in times of war and peace.
The proud tradition of the Albany Civil Air Patrol squadron, officially named the Albany Composite Squadron, is embodied in Cadet Noah Kimsey, who will receive the prestigious General Billy Mitchell Award Tuesday in a 7 p.m. ceremony at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport during the squadron’s regular weekly meeting.
“This is such a huge honor and it opens up all kind of opportunities for me,” Kimsey, 15, said Thursday afternoon. “It feels good to know what we’re doing in CAP can contribute to our community. It’s pretty cool to feel that you can make a difference.”
The award winner, who is homeschooled, has been a part of the Albany Civil Air Patrol squadron for the past year and a half.
“I had a friend who was involved, plus I was interested in the military,” Kimsey said. “I want to keep my options open, but if I decide on a military career, this is certainly going to prove beneficial. It’s good to know that I’ve committed to something that can impact my future in a good way and can have a positive impact on my community.”
As recipient of the Mitchell award, Kimsey will be promoted to Cadet 2nd Lieutenant, a milestone achieved by less than 10 percent of the CAP’s 25,000 cadets nationwide. Kimsey also will be eligible for advanced placement to airman first class if he decides to join the U.S. Air Force.
“Cadet Kimsey is a qualified ground search and rescue team member who has participated in a number of actual training missions to locate downed aircraft,” retired Marine Lt. Col. Greg Frich, the deputy commander of cadets for the Albany Composite Squadron, said. “He has been trained in use of VHF and HF communications equipment, first aid and CPR, FEMA emergency management procedures, land survival skills, search techniques, rappelling and operational risk management. He has participated in four orientation flights in the cockpit of Civil Air Patrol search and rescue aircraft and several state-level summer encampments.
“This young man serves as a fine example for all our cadets,” Frich said.
Under the guidance of Frich, squadron commander Lt. Col Fred Broome and assistant deputy commander of cadets 2nd Lt. Henry Kim, the Albany Composite Squadron has seen a dramatic recent increase in membership. Cadet Lt. Col. Frederick Broome, a Marine Corps reservist with Smyrna-based Bravo Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion and a recent graduate of Marine boot camp, noted the changes at a recent squadron meeting.
“When I joined (in 2009), there were three cadets in the local squadron,” said Broome, noting that there are now 29 cadets and 17 senior members of the Albany Composite Squadron. “Interest has just taken off lately. I was gone for 10 months (for boot camp), and when I came back I didn’t know half of the cadets in the squadron.”
Kim, who teaches physical science and graphic design at the Baconton Charter School, said he got involved with the program because of his passion for working with young people.
“The focus of our program is to build young leaders, and we are fortunate to have a group of cadets who are eager to learn,” Kim said. “They’re growing as individuals, and that’s important to their future. As a teacher, I’m well aware that most students these days tend to do nothing. Our cadets are active, they’re learning important skills that will help them become our future leaders.”
As a “composite” squadron, the Albany unit includes both cadets (usually ages 12 to 18) and senior members (18 and above). Other squadrons include senior- and cadet-only participants. More than 25,000 cadets and 34,000 senior members are part of the national CAP program, which has squadrons in all states and is credited with saving an average of 100 lives a year.
The Albany squadron, which trains its cadets in military leadership, aerospace education, physical fitness, emergency services and character development, has members from Tifton, Cordele, Edison, Newton, Americus Leesburg and Albany. Two of the Tifton members are pilots, which has allowed for more flight education.
“Civil Air Patrol has three primary missions,” Jim Shaw, CAP’s national assistant chief of safety education and training, said. “We concentrate on cadet programs, aerospace education and emergency services. We utilize a 16-step program to teach progressive skills that will benefit cadets in all aspects of their lives.”
Frich points out “real-world” application of these skills.
“Last year, if you’ll recall, a plane went down in Tifton,” he said. “Members of our squadron helped with the sector search. They didn’t actually locate the crash victim, but they were a vital part of the search effort.”
Frich, who currently serves as a member of the Lee County Commission, said he’s proud to have two sons and a daughter participating in the CAP program.
“I’m so impressed with the ethos of this organization,” he said. “It strengthens not only the young people who take part in it, it also strengthens our communities. It’s really amazing to see these young people from different backgrounds — young men and women with urban and rural experiences — working together toward common goals.
“No CAP cadet is obligated to serve in the military; I see this as more of a community service organization. The emphasis is not on the military but on helping young people realize their leadership potential and become responsible citizens.”