By AuxBeacon News Contributor
[Editor’s Note: We would to thank our new friend down in Florida Wing that sent us copies of Gator Capers and Florida Facts newsletters. The CAP National Commander, Maj Gen Paul M. Bergman and his Vice, Brig Gen James C. Bobick attended this conference. This article covers the Southeast Region cruise ship scandal that later contributed to the FBI raids in 1999. The USAF auditors discovered that CAP staff members claimed per diem for this conference even though the cost of the cruise was inclusive of meals. The cruise ship was paid for by public funds, CAP funds which came from the Air Force. Some members requested and received per diem, even though the cost of the cruise had been paid for by taxpayer money. Many of the members mentioned by name in this story have become notorious.]
FLORIDA FACTS: Civil Air Patrol Florida Wing
VOLUME 3, ISSUE 3 JULY/SEPTEMBER 1998
Maj S. Buddy Harris, 192 Gulfport Ct, Marco Island FL 34145
Southeast Region Conference was Smooth Sailing
by Lt Col Kay Cunningham
The first Civil Air Patrol Region Conference aboard a cruise ship was proclaimed a success by the 120 CAP members who enjoyed smooth sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign of the Seas during a four day high-sea adventure from Miami to Cocoa Cay and Nassau. After signing in with the ship’s officials, members were directed to a special CAP sign-in table to pick up conference schedules, name tags, a ‘special’ button and raffle tickets.
[Some members, who did not attend, felt that God had spoken on the hedonism when] horizontal rain, hail and strong wings of 56 mph halted the boarding around 1330 when the gangway was blown away from the ship. Embarkation resumed shortly thereafter and everyone feasted on a sumptuous buffet before the ship sailed from Miami. Invocation at Friday evening’s opening assembly was rendered by SER Chaplain, Lt Col James Melancon.
[Southeast Region] Commander, Col Richard Bowling, welcomes the assemblage and introduced National Executive Director Col Paul Albano, the Region Staff and the Conference Staff. Major Joel Katz, Conference Chairman and Major Carol Fresnada, Cruise Coordinator were promoted to Lieutenant Colonel during the assembly. Capt Brenda Allison, the Conference PAO advised everyone that she had a large quantity of cadet and senior member brochures for passing out to all the other ship passengers. SER Legal Officer, Lt Col George Graves reminded all that no uniforms or articles of clothing identifying them as CAP members were to be worn in any foreign ports of call.
Saturday morning’s sessions by NHQ personnel encompassed the theme of the conference – “Training and Retention”. Mr James Mallett, Director of Aerospace Education and Senior Training gave an excellent presentation about ‘rules’ to link education with training for senior members.
SER Direction of Aerospace Education, Major Dave Garner emphasized using Interest to access information for units. Mr Tom Hicks , Director of Financial Management, covered responsibilities and duties of commanders in CAP financial matters including audits, property donations, fund raising, and reimbursement for mission and orientation flights. Director of Mission Support, Mr Paul Capicik addressed the Unit File Disks and the importance of the member information it contains.
He stated that a new information technology specialty track is being developed for senior members. Capt Matt Eddinger and 1Lt Catherine Sullivan , Cadet Programs, addressed cadet orientation flight procedures. Director of Plans and Requirements, Mr Don Rowland highlighted key strategic training and education, increasing member involvement and implementation of technology. Closing the morning sessions was Col Roy Gibbons, SER Director of Counter Drug Operations speaking about CAP’s CN Program.
A full schedule of seminars was set on Sunday morning and at Sunday Evening Awards Ceremony, forty-six awards were given including; SER Cadet of the Year-C/Lt Col Yahaira Santana, Puerto Rico Wing, Sr Member of the Year-Lt Col Pat Cureton, Tenn. Wing; SER PAO of the Year-1Lt Richard Williamson, Georgia Wing; SER Safety Officer of the Year, Major Lyle Letteer, Jr Georgia Wing; and SER Chaplain of the Year, Major James Hughes, Georgia Wing;.
Docking in Miami on Monday morning brought an end to a wonderful and safe region conference. A special thanks to Col Richard Bowling for setting a new standard for CAP activities. Plans are underway for a unique 1999 South East Region Conference.
Seven months later in July of 1999, the FBI raided Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters as was noted in this article and in Lt Col Allan T. Stein’s autobiography.