More than 800 Civil Air Patrol members will convene this week from Thursday through Saturday in Orlando, Florida, for the organization’s 2015 National Conference, devoting several days to training, networking and focusing on the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary’s path for the future.
“I hope our members’ experiences in Orlando provide them with inspiration, enthusiasm and a renewed commitment to serving their communities and our nation,” said Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, CAP national commander.
The conference at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort will culminate with a banquet at 7 p.m. Saturday featuring a keynote speech by U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold, commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida. The command is the Air Force component of U.S. Special Operations Command, which provides Air Force special operations forces for worldwide deployment and assignment to unified combatant commanders and includes about 19,000 active-duty, Reserve, Air National Guard and civilian professionals. Heithold’s staff assignments include positions on the Air Staff and a unified command staff. Previously he was vice commander of the Special Operations Command.
Also Saturday, top CAP members will be honored for their service during an Awards Recognition ceremony set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Those being recognized include Cadet Col. Benjamin C. Jakeman of the Colorado Wing as Cadet of the Year and Col. Steven W. Kuddes of the Nebraska Wing as Senior Member of the Year. Several CAP units will also be honored, including the California Wing’s Fresno Composite Squadron 112, selected as the 2014 Squadron of Distinction.
In addition, Saturday will feature Cadet Day activities for CAP’s younger members, highlighted by a visit to the Orlando Support Center and "JetBlue University" facility of the activity’s sponsor, JetBlue. Participating cadets will get hands-on experience in flight simulators and will also hear speakers from JetBlue, including commercial pilots, airline personnel, mechanics and engineers.
Former national commanders
Eight former national commanders are scheduled to attend the conference – Brig. Gens. Hal Du Pont of Vero Beach, Florida, who served in that position from 1970-1973; Howard Brookfield of Whittier, California, national commander from 1982-1984; William Cass of Seminole, Florida, 1984-1986; and Richard Anderson of Woodbridge, Virginia, 1993-1996; and Maj. Gens. Richard Bowling of Knoxville, Tennessee, 2001-2004; Dwight Wheless of Manteo, North Carolina, 2004-2005; Amy Courter of South Lyon, Michigan, 2007-2011; and Charles Carr of Columbus, Ohio, 2011-2014. A Town Hall Meeting with the eight is set for 10:30-noon Friday. Anderson will be inducted into the CAP Hall of Honor as the 35th person so honored during the next night’s banquet.
In addition, some 60 learning labs planned for Friday and Saturday. The seminars, led by CAP National Staff and other experts, will focus on such topics as finance, communications, safety, logistics, aircraft operations, professional development and leadership, fundraising, recruiting and retention, the chaplaincy, government relations, CAP history, information technology, cadet programs, aerospace education and public affairs.
Nine preconference workshops are being offered today through Thursday. Those sessions, customized to fulfill members’ professional development needs, include a Cessna G1000 Ground School; a class on Geospatial Information Interoperability Exploitation Portable go-kits, which feature self-contained communications equipment and other hardware that allows for real time or near-real time full-motion video; examinations of fundraising and government relations; and two-day sessions aimed at public information officers, public affairs officers, inspectors general and leaders of cadets.