65,000 Members Left Civil Air Patrol Over Last 3 Years

Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol Headquarters, Montgomery, AL

Aggregated by AuxBeacon News Staff

65,000 members have left Civil Air Patrol over the last 3 years. Those are audited numbers from NHQ. We don’t have a recruiting problem, we have a retention problem.

What are we going to do about it?

To improve the membership in the CAP, we first have to look at the top. The General has to be go, he has gone a long way to show his true colors. I will leave the rest to you, but I am walking. This is not what the CAP is all about. The mission is on it’s rear end. It only has one way to go and that is down with less membership until we can install some real leadership at the top. Someone will step up to the plate and turn this around, but has to be real soon.

You couldn’t be more wrong. CAP lives and dies at the local level. The majority of our members do little besides go to local meetings and participate in local activities. If National can do anything to solve our retention problem, it is to provide the resources squadrons need to provide an engaging program that will keep members coming back.

Unfortunately, I do get it — having served from every level of CAP from Squadron to Region, one does deal with the cards dealt. There are times, however, where because of the decisions made at NHQ, those cards adversely effects how we can effectively serve those whose CAP careers we are entrusted with.

It is very disturbing to share with new members the Core Values of the CAP… Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence, and Respect — only to see those at the highest level of our organization bend the values to the point of being the Core Suggestions.

It has been a privilege to serve the members of the squadron, group, wing and region in which I have held various assignments…the interaction from cadets and senior members alike have enriched my personal and professional life. However, there comes at point when one has to honestly face the decision whether or not it is worth the time, energy and money in an organization where the leadership is often isolated in their thinking and actions from the membership they have the privilege of serving.

Prior to serving in CAP, there were other community organizations where my skills were utilized…they still exist and hopefully I can find a place to contribute.

I’m one to believe that retention isn’t a problem. It is a symptom of a more serious disease; a disease that Civil Air Patrol has been infected with for quite some time. Strangely enough, it’s many other symptoms bear a disturbing resemblance to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Civil Air Patrol, as a whole, has forgotten where we came from and therefore have found it difficult to chart a clear course.

New members join this organization for what they see on the surface and quickly find that regardless of what they were told when they joined, they are still destined to the same fate.

I agree that a lot of our problems reside at the top of CAP. For well over ten years, National Commander after National Commander has been the medic that this organization needed to survive, but survival is not enough anymore. We need a doctor! We need a cure.

To use another analogy; if membership were related cash flow, Civil Air Patrol would be defined as bankrupt. Most corporations in our situation would cut their losses and reorganize. I firmly believe this is the path we need to take and we should count on our Air Force counterparts to guide us were we need to go.

For twenty years, CAP as chosen to ignore the Air Force example. Perhaps, to distance ourselves from the military or to merely do things the our own way. On the contrary, the Air Force has thrived and has become the premiere military branch in the most powerful country in the world. Furthermore, the Air Force didn’t accomplish this by sacrificing its people or its many other assets. As a matter of fact, quality of life for Air Force personnel has only improved greatly over the last twenty years.

Also, the Air Force didn’t rise to the top by maintaining a non-standard organizational structure that every commander was entitled to embrace or ignore on their own whim. Speaking of the Air Force organizational structure: it works. Why don’t we pick up AFI 38-101 and go to it?

Now, no organization is without its flaws and the Air Force is no different, but that is what puts CAP in a unique position. A position to pick and choose what aspects work best and which ones we would care to do without.

This all being said, action must be taken now. It must be highly visible, highly justified and even more highly supported by all echelons of command; from the lowest airman to the highest general.

We need more skilled personnel, more professionals and members with mission essential skills that have a reason to stay… They’re utilized!

Civil Air Patrol is going to have to become professional both in operation and appearance to survive. In an age of increasing technological advances and national security concerns, we cannot afford to look like “the good ol’ boys flying club teaching youngsters about aviation”; an appearance that I admit, has served us well for the last sixty-five years, but this is the 21st Century. It is time to move on and take on more responsibility… Grow up, if you will.

Civil Air Patrol should strive be become the premiere air response agency in the country with advanced ground support. We must have complete aerospace intelligence in all our missions to protect our assets and our people in addition to being an organization that is invaluable to the federal government and any other agency that requires the skills we have the potential to possess. For example, we could use staff meteorologists to brief pilots and perform resource protection for all inter-agency assets on the ground. Skills that will prove very useful in response to any natural disaster or prolonged search and rescue.

The Cadet Program is going to have to become the key to the ignition. For without it, we can’t go anywhere. It is the essence of our future not only as an organization, but as a nation as well. Cadets willing and capable may need to take on greater responsibility and larger tasks. Especially those age 18 and up.

No amount of discussion in this forum is going to incite change. That change again, is tied to the top levels of Civil Air Patrol, but I am a firm believer that this type of overhaul is going to change the impression that CAP members have about this organization and their willingness to stay in it.

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3 Comments on "65,000 Members Left Civil Air Patrol Over Last 3 Years"

  1. CAP, where children and adults think they’re military.

  2. Also, they gave away thousands of memberships to teachers to fluff up the numbers. They are still doing it to inflate their stats.

  3. I was a member of Civil Air Patrol for well over 20 years. I joined as a Senior-Member officer- because active duty US Air Force, US Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units were reducing officer positions in the 1970s- By the time the USAF started its buildup- I was over the age for a commission. My father was an active duty USAF rated master navigator who died on active duty- after serving almost 30 years- in both the USAF and Air National Guard. Our units had many retired USAF officers who wore the uniform and wanted to continue to serve because they feel the same way I do- this is the greatest country in the world- and this nation has the best Air Force period. Sadly, the active USAF considers the CAP a joke- Our organization was constantly referred to as “Phony Air Force” and “Fake Air Force” by the active duty components. I reached a point where I just gave up. The auxiliary units in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are important components of the overall force.

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