Nacogdoches lands Civil Air Patrol Texas headquarters
By Katie Saiz
During the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, air travel was virtually shut down across America. Neither commercial nor private planes were allowed to fly.
The Civil Air Patrol was the only organization other than the military that was permitted in the air, documenting the tragedy with memorable, vital aerial photos.
But few know what the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is, much less what they do. Even fewer know the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force has located its new Texas Wing headquarters in Nacogdoches.
Outgrowing their site in Waco, the CAP started looking for a location to better serve in times of need. Traditionally, the organization locates on Air Force bases, but leaders soon realized that could prevent them from reaching their full potential. After looking at several other cities, the CAP chose Nacogdoches for several reasons. At other proposed locations, the CAP faced building from the ground-up. Nacogdoches offered a ready-made building – the former armory – located at A.L. Mangham Regional Airport, saving a substantial amount of money, according to Captain Morgan Montalvo, the Public Affairs Official for the Texas wing. Nacogdoches is a prime location on major highways – U.S. 59 and U.S. 259. The town is also not far from Louisiana, where the Texas CAP may need to assist from time to time. From a location also in relative proximity to both the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Houston, the CAP felt that it put them in a “much better position to help” in time of natural disaster or man-made calamity.
After several months of remodeling and renovation, the old armory shines with new possibilities. When in education mode, it offers five classrooms and a large dining area for training sessions for cadets and adult volunteers. The Texas CAP eventually plans to move their powered flight academy and glider academies to this location as well, according to Colonel Brooks Cima, the Texas Wing Commander. “When we are in the operational mode, the building has all of the capabilities of an Emergency Operations center – multiple sources of phone service, radio communications equipment, multiple large screen monitors for sortie tracking, weather and news, and both wired and wireless internet,” Cima said.
Although many people are unaware of what the CAP is about and why they were formed, they are still a very important organization. Founded just a week prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, the CAP was an outlet for civilians to help America during a troubling time. “Knowing that the U.S. didn’t have the necessary resources, many citizens donated their planes and flying skills to show support for their country,” Montalvo said. Despite starting out as purely support, the CAP expanded after the war to include services such as civil defense, missing aircraft search, homeland security, and natural disaster relief, among many others.
Today, CAP continues to focus on three primary mission areas: aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services.
Because the U.S. Air Force oversees the CAP, it is responsible for a portion of the organization's funding. The Air Force buys aircraft and reimburses the CAP for fuel costs, in addition to a few other expenses. But CAP members pay for their own uniforms and specialty equipment and donate time spent documenting thousands of crashes and other incidents, according to Montalvo. In addition to the cooperation they receive from the U.S. Air Force, the CAP is always in need of more donations and/or volunteers to help the organization prosper.
With more than 60,000 volunteers nationwide and 3,600 volunteers in Texas alone, the CAP has grown immensely. In addition to their rescue services, they also implement cadet programs that include aerospace education, technology and aviation, and model rocketry as well as physics. “Their cadet program is great for kids who are unable to participate in ROTC in high school or for kids who are home-schooled,” Montalvo said. “It’s also a great opportunity for them to discover themselves, learn study skills and self-discipline. Even with their progression, they are always looking to expand their organization to include more people.”
Since the move to Nacogdoches, the CAP hopes to increase awareness and encourage volunteerism. Stephen F. Austin State University students are creating a marketing campaign while the organization takes advantage of its membership in Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce.
CAP leaders are confident the public will understand exactly what the CAP does and how it is vital to our lives. Montalvo said of the CAP, “Every day, volunteers are trying to live up to our missions. There is a lot of training and time away from families to make sure we are ready when the community calls us.”
The Texas wing is located at 556 Terry Crawford Dr. For more information, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or contact Randy McDonald at 936-645-2018.
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Katie Saiz is journalism major at Stephen F. Austin State University interning with the Nacogdoches County Chamber.