The Civil Air Patrol (CAP), founded in 1941 as a way to protect the nation’s shorelines from German submarines just before World War II, has evolved into a public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions in the air and on the ground – including here in northern Michigan.
“The Traverse City Civil Air Patrol started in 1955 and has been in continuous service ever since,” says Wayne “Buzz” Bauers, a retired U.S. Navy pilot who serves as the group’s public affairs officer. Other northern Michigan squadrons are in Grayling, Alpena, and Cadillac.
Northern Michigan CAP members have been involved in a number of search and rescue missions over the past few years. When a plane went down off Mackinac Island a few years ago, the CAP took part in the search. And when a group of hikers got lost in the Upper Peninsula last year, CAP aided in the efforts to locate them. The four squadrons share a 230-horsepower four-seater Cessna based in Cadillac.
The northern Michigan squadron has 25 cadets, ages 12 to 21 years old and 35 senior members over 21. The Traverse City squadron has 12 active cadets. The TC group meets from 7-9pm every Monday at the American Legion Hall.
Nationally, CAP has 56,000 members in 1,500 communities.
Bauers is quick to note that CAP is seeking more members, both youth and adult, adding that the group is not military and members do not have to be interested in aviation to take part in activities (they could use a volunteer lawyer and a chaplain).
“We really need adult leaders,” says the former Navy pilot who recently spoke to a group of eighth graders about CAP. “For the cadets, Civil Air Patrol helps them develop leadership skills, develop new friendships, get involved as a crew member in real missions, take part in encampments and other training and refine some career skills.”
“Traverse City had a huge squadron until 2011,” recalls Major Jo Hendrix, Group Commander of the four northern Michigan squadrons. “We had an aircraft here and a donated hangar at the airport, but then the owner of the hangar rented it out to a commercial operation and the plane went to Cadillac. We had eight pilots who just walked away.”
Two TC squadron alumni have gone to high achievements in the military. U.S. Air Force Capt. Seth [call sign "Toro"] flies a B-2 Stealth Bomber, while U.S Army Capt. James Kozacek is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, according to Hendrix, an urgent care nurse who has been active in CAP for 19 years.
In April, hundreds of CAP members gathered for a statewide conference at Great Wolf Lodge. This weekend members of the Traverse City squadron will be assisting officials at the Wings Over Northern Michigan air show in Gaylord.
On July 1-8, Alpena will host the CAP Flight Academy, a week-long encampment where cadets can end up soloing in a fixed wing aircraft.
Pictured: Civil Air Patrol Public Affairs Officer Wayne “Buzz” Bauers and the squadron’s Cessna.