National Commander Told to Apologize to Air Force

Brig Gen Lyle W. Castle
Brig Gen Lyle W. Castle

By Donna Leinwand | USA TODAY

A group of former Civil Air Patrol national commanders has issued an ultimatum to the organization’s highest-ranking leader: Apologize to the Air Force by Friday or we’ll do it for you.

The ongoing feud between the Air Force and its civilian auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol, has reached all the way to Congress, which is considering a proposal to either give the Air Force more control of the organization or send in its investigative agencies to rake through the books.

The Air Force in April accused the 60,000-member volunteer Civil Air Patrol of squandering federal funds, squelching dissenting members and losing track of equipment. The CAP, known for its search-and-rescue missions, responded with a point-by-point rebuttal and a public relations firm to make its case on Capitol Hill.

To the eight former national commanders who serve on the CAP’s National Advisory Council, the dispute that began as a professional disagreement disintegrated into embarrassing name-calling and disrespect.

“Sadly, CAP has chosen to conduct personal attacks on top Air Force leaders, rather than focus on the issues,” former National CAP Commander Brig Gen Lyle W. Castle wrote in a June 14 letter to current CAP Commander Gen James C. Bobick. “In several instances, press releases by CAP National Headquarters have cross the bounds of proper decorum.”

Gen Castle cites letters from region commanders that “referred to actions by top Air Force leaders as ‘slimy,’ called them ‘liars,’ and proclaimed them worthy of ‘removal from office.'”

Gen Bobick did not return phone messages left on Monday. CAP spokeswoman Mary Nell Crowe said Gen Bobick is traveling and has not commented on the letter. But, she said, the advisory council did not overstep its authority with its memo.

“As they said in the memo, our constitution and our bylaws allow them to provide advice and counsel,” Crowe said. “I think they’ve done this in their memo.”

Eight of the 11 living former national commanders who make up the National Advisory Council to CAP met June 7 in a teleconference to discuss the dispute between the Air Force and CAP, the letter said. The National Advisory Council provides advice and counsel to the national commander and the 67-member national CAP board.

The council first offered to assist the CAP board in a March 15 letter to Gen Bobick. Gen Bobick did not respond, Brig Gen Castle said. The concerns the council raised then still exist, Brig Gen Castle wrote.

“All prior CAP National Commanders have disagreed from time to time with Air Force officials during the policy formulation process, which is proper and expected,” Brig Gen Castle wrote. “Many CAP and Air Force issues have been hard fought in the Pentagon and Congress. None have been waged on a personal basis as in CAP’s recent campaign. Unless corrected, these attacks will permanently breach the CAP-Air Force relationship.”

To repair the breach, the advisory council “strongly feels that you, as the present CAP National Commander should issue a public apology to appropriate Air Force leaders,” Castle wrote to Bobick. “We strongly believe that CAP’s past, present and future belongs with the Air Force as the Auxiliary member of its family.”

The advisory council wants Gen Bobick’s response in writing by June 25.

“Failing that,” Brig Gen Castle wrote, the advisory council “has resolved to issue an apology to Secretary (F. Whitten) Peters, Gen (Michael E.) Ryan, Deputy Assistant Secretary (Bryan E.) Sharratt, and the 600,000 men and women attired in the Air Force uniform that CAP is also privileged to wear.”

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