Downward Spiral in Civil Air Patrol Membership

Phillip Blansett

By Alex | AuxBeacon News Contributor

[Editor’s Note: We received this from one of our contributors. Thank you for your contribution. To keep the Federal funds flowing, the Civil Air Patrol corporate headquarters has been lying about the membership numbers for years. Most of CAP’s membership growth is from freebies or honorary such as teachers, educators, Congressional, war veterans, etc. And according to NHQ stats, 65% of new members quit the first year, but the CAP keeps them on the books to inflate the numbers.]

MESSAGE: (from CAP Member)

Just remember the figures that slipped out of Gen Wheless’s pen just before they canned him: “We’ve got to figure out why 50% of all new cadets who join CAP quit at the end of the first year. We’ve got to figure out why 80% of all new Senior Members who join CAP quit at the end of the first year.”

The fact is, no one wants to explore the reasons, and certainly no one in the higher atmosphere of “leadership” believes anyone lower knows the answer. Hence the short lived requirement going to a 3 year re-enrollment for Seniors. That would stem the increasing shortfall caused by 1st year joiners bailing out…. in a true Ponzi scheme that would collapse at the end of the third year. They did keep the option to renew for more than one year, but did not make it mandatory.

Truth be told, the seniors and cadets that bail out every year don’t do it at the end of their membership year… by far the most have done it long before the year is up, but Corporate doesn’t recognize it until the re-enrollment check doesn’t appear.

A symptom of organizational disease… all “proposed solutions” were dictated from on high downward with very limited and fearful conversation in the committee meetings leading up to the Ponzi Scheme’s unveiling and with NO solicitation of input from the grunts in the trenches.

By the way, I remember reading about the Bowling Trench Warfare that took place just before he left as National Commander and took his seat on the BOG. That Bowling Trench Warfare, as I recall dealt with the forced removal (or strongly encouraged resignation) of some members of the BOG to make room for Bowling’s own appointees.

Can someone refresh my memory on that?

Dr. Phillip Blansett, Maj, CAP
Tennessee Wing

RESPONSE 1: (from CAP Member)

Don’t get too attached to the apparent membership drops. This has been happening since the beginnings of the organization when it had over 100,000 initial membership. It has been “discussed” to death. I even did a study back in 1989-1992.

As I recall, during that period we were able to show in Florida alone, over 7,000 members who joined and were active enough to obtain their Radio Operator’s Permit were not still members after 3 years (1995). That was particularly disturbing because it represented the “active” early membership. These were folks who were members where there were active meetings with ROP instructors giving classes and the members had to actually study and take tests. These weren’t the members who were simply abandoned because the recruiting units didn’t have a plan or resources to advance the members enthusiasm into the organization.

Fortunately for Florida Wing, there was sufficient recruiting during the examined period to almost completely offset the losses due to all reasons, but at least some of that could be explained by the Gulf War spike.

And, of course, there was the period when those of the general public who were “recruited” to obtain a CAP credit card (I forget if it was MC or Visa) were reported as “associate members” in the statistics. Boy that period looked really good, up from around 35,000 to around 65,000 members in one year. But even that wasn’t the first such attempt. There were the Aviation Associate members who were counted back in the 1970’s or 1980’s (you didn’t have to wear a uniform – there was a tee shirt and baseball cap you could buy – or attend meetings, just pay your annual dues).

The organizational membership issues are endemic to the current structure and upper level management focus. While various specific problems and issues have risen to the top over the years, the fundamental schizophrenic focus (or lack thereof) on mission capability, training, and implementation tears at the membership as much as draws them in. Because of momentum and patriotic fervor, the organization will continue to draw at least enough membership to look like an effective force. However, there are structural issues that continue to impede its realization of potential and thus cause retention to be an ongoing problem.

Ken Massey, Lt Col, CAP
Florida Wing

RESPONSE 2: (from CAP-USAF Officer)

HEY THERE GENTS… Birds of a feather flock together.

1. Did the CAP scribers (or scriblers) of the stats bother to figure in the AFROTC Cadets, the Aerospace Education Teachers, the AFA Cadets, etc.?

2. Perhaps the biggest problem(s) for accession and retention were the facts that:

A. The ‘upper echelon bureaucracy’ was in a mode of dead slow pace in processing the Cadet and SM documents for membership but yet the money was paid up front!

B. Parents kept complaining about the lack of administrative rapidity and why in the hell are they paying out money for equipment, uniforms, etc. and dues (especially when they didn’t have it [$$$] and want a better life for their kids) and the kids couldn’t go on field trips, participate in external activities and whatever because the children weren’t covered by insurance or have a membership card!. Why send their kids to attend or watch from the curbside like those not picked to play dodge ball???

C. Parents complained with good reason that the ‘extra Cadet studies’ was interfering with the Cadets’ school work in FL and thanks Gov Bush for the FCAT preparation!

D. Some Cadets were in conflict with membership in their school’s JROTC vs. CAP attendance and mixed signals of “Do and Don’t do” this and that! Furthermore, the JROTC Cadets are inculcated with the ideals and “RESPONSIBILITY” that goes along with being a Citizen and as a member of a paramilitary like organization. They weren’t made to feel like non understanding individuals. There is a certain amount of “jumping into one’s stuff to make them become responsible.” Discipline training is not hazing. It is for building character and makes them think without being an automaton!

E. One major conflict is JROTC (to the envy of CAP Cadets) allows its Cadets to handle firearms in a safe and controlled environment, whereas in CAP even thinking and touching a firearm is verboten! As a Cadet in the 1960s, I attended the Ranger Camp at Hawk Mountain, PA where we got familiarization’s with M1 .30 Cal Garands and no one was hurt… how the times have changed! They may be kids to be sure, but they are also maturing into adults and when you are surrounded with things like airplanes that can kill you, you need to be aware/cognizant of your surroundings and conditions!

F. Cadets and SMs being told that there was flying but all Air activities were solidly ‘grounded’ in actuality and scope!

G. Many SMs had job conflicts. Of course, many SMs were supposed to be ‘leadership’ role models and couldn’t ‘lead their way out of a paper bag!’ Attempts to provide training for the non GI SMs was either frowned upon of in conflict with work, vacations, holidays, etc.! There has to be some personal sacrifice to get the job done.

In my capacity as a former South Florida CAP-RAP, I failed to see a lot of continuity in training plans, activities, and such. I realized that there was just so much that could be slotted and done in actuality and there were very few folks who could accomplish the missions or took responsibility for their appointed actions!!!.

For instance, after speaking to an alleged CAP Squadron ‘powers that be’ about dates, times and scheduling my visitation, I arrived at a Cadet Squadron and only two Cadets (attired in just the so called “Uniform X’ tee-shirts) showed up . . .no one else!. After waiting over an hour for the SMs and other Cadets to arrive at the school where the meeting was, I got on my cell phone and complained to the so-called responsible person in charge. I was told that the meeting was cancelled because so in so’s high school had a dance and most of the Cadets were there and the SM in charge had a cold.

I was furious and demanded to know why these two Cadets nor I had not been informed by the responsible persons. The Cadets nor I had been told of the cancellation. Why wasn’t there a 100% communications response? I got no answer! This was gross negligence and irresponsible leadership!

If I hadn’t been there, what in Heaven’s or Hell’s name could have happened to these kids and CAP in all of its glory would be civilly liable. Talk about the abuse of minors and the failing to adhere to the Child Protection Program and lack of leadership and responsibility. There is no ‘take charge attitude’ being infused in the powers, but hey imagine if this was the NASCAR race and there was no one to show the flag. . .tragedy!!!

H. Many former GI folks were literally discriminated and looked down upon by the ‘Gray Suited Geezers’ and GI Wannabees who wore their uniforms either like slobs or were hollow shelled Prussian Field Marshals! This is not the image that should be projected to fertile and impressionable minds!

Tell me why the rolls are diminishing???

Captain, USAF Retired

RESPONSE 3: (from CAP Member)

Dr. Phil,

The thing to remember here is that the Board of Governors was established to re-assert Air Force control over the CAP. Along the way, however, the National Board was able to subvert the process, and gain the authority for themselves to appoint the members of the Board of Governors — or even force their removal. So, it was right back to the same old way of doing business.

The BoG that they do have only meets twice a year, anyway — not nearly enough to exercise any meaningful control over the organization.

One can only imagine the number of members — both senior and cadet — that the CAP would have if wing commanders did not have the authority to get rid of anybody they just don’t like. There are some cases where wing commanders have 2B’d [terminated] members of their wings that they had never even met, just because they p.o.’d them with such things as an e-mail message.

So, the CAP members spend their time recruiting new members, only to see some wing-ding wind up throwing them out. No other organization of its kind that I can think of does this. Not the Red Cross, not the Big Sisters and Big Brothers. Not the Boy or Girl Scouts. Certainly, that happens in those organizations for people who get convicted of heinous felonies, but they don’t throw out their volunteers simply upon somebody’s whim.

And, in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, if you want to get rid of a volunteer, you’d better have a darn good case — and be able to convince the Commandant of the “real” Coast Guard that they should go. Of course, throwing somebody out when the military has control of the process is not nearly such an easy thing to do.

Perhaps, if the CAP had to get the approval of the SecAF to get rid of somebody who had for years volunteered their time, their machines and their own money to the organization, things would be very different.

Skip Munger,
News of the Force

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