Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks to the 75th Anniversary Gala gathering about CAP’s long history of support for not only the Air Force but also the U.S. Beside her is a replica of “Total Force Partners,” the painting noted aviation artist and former CAP member Rick Broome created earlier this year in observance of CAP’s anniversary and its legacy of service as Air Force Auxiliary and, since August 2015, a member of the Air Force Total Force.
(From left) Rafael Gomez of CITGO; retired U.S. Army Gen. Julius Becton, a CAP cadet early in World War II; former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin; Barbara Suelzer O’Malley, a CAP lieutenant in the Indiana Wing during World War II; and Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, CAP national commander. Becton and O’Malley are holding the Congressional Gold Medical replicas presented to them. Gomez is vice president of strategic shareholder relations, government and public affairs for CITGO, major sponsor of not only the 75th Anniversary Gala but also the Dec. 10, 2014, gala in Washington, D.C., during which other CAP World War II members were honored with replicas of the gold medal CAP received for its wartime volunteer service.
James and Vazquez hold the framed cover her presented her of the July issue of CAP’s quarterly magazine, Civil Air Patrol Volunteer, featuring her May 4 visit to National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Vazquez and Harkin hold the “Total Force Partners” print the national commander presented to the retired senator, a longtime supporter of CAP, former commander of its Congressional Squadron in Washington, D.C., and member of the organization’s Hall of Honor.
Vazquez addresses the gala audience about CAP’s legacy of service and achievement.
An overhead view of the gathering.
Photos by Lt. Col. Christopher Roche, Maryland Wing
Civil Air Patrol marked its 75th anniversary Thursday night in an appropriate setting – the aviation history on display at the Smithsonian Institution Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.
The 500 CAP leaders, members, staff, supporters and friends assembled for the 75th Anniversary Gala heard Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James praise the organization’s performance over the decades as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. That role dates back to May 1948, some 6½ years after the organization was founded on Dec. 1, 1941 – six days before Pearl Harbor.
CAP’s volunteer role in defending the homeland and in helping preserve wartime security during World War II was honored with a Congressional Gold Medal in December 2014. Eight months later, in August 2015, the organization was added to the Air Force’s Total Force, joining active-duty Air Force personnel, the Air National Guard, the Air Force Reserve and retired Air Force and civilian employees .
“In 1941, as today, our ability to remain relevant to the needs of the communities we serve has remained steadfast and has positioned CAP to be a highly sought-after premier public service organization, a Congressional Gold Medal recipient and the U.S. Air Force’s newest member of its Total Force,” CAP’s national commander, Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, told the gathering.
“Congratulations to our founding members, and the representatives of the Air Force, Congress and Civil Air Patrol, as well as our many friends and supporters across the nation, for your vision, dedication and leadership that has brought us to this milestone moment in our history. Each of you has played a significant role in posturing CAP for its success both in the past and in the future,” he said.
The master of ceremonies for the event, retired Air Force Col. Ken Goss, who received CAP’s top cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, in 1967, recounted CAP’s long history and continuing record of achievements in its three congressionally chartered missions – emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education.
“During that time our technology and the missions we conduct have changed, but our commitment to our communities, our states and our nation has not,” Goss said.
“Our first 75 years is a story of service, sacrifice, honor and heroism," he concluded.
The 75th Anniversary Gala came nearly two years after CAP’s Congressional Gold Medal banquet Dec. 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C. That event paid tribute to CAP’s living World War II members and to the survivors of other founding members, all of whom were saluted with presentations of replicas of the gold medal.
Two more replicas were presented Thursday night – to retired U.S. Army Gen. Julius Becton Jr. and Barbara Suelzer O’Malley.
O’Malley joined the Indiana Wing’s Group 523 while attending high school in Fort Wayne. She rose to the rank of CAP lieutenant and later worked in the office of the Flying Service, earning her private pilot certificate in 1946. She came to the nation’s capital in 1949 to work for U.S. Rep. Edward Kruse, D-Ind., and later filled a national post with the Young Democrats of America. She also worked for the Democratic National Committee.
A former docent at the National Air and Space Museum, she has served as a receptionist for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the last 29 years. Her six children include former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was present Thursday.
Becton joined CAP as a teenaged cadet in 1942 in Philadelphia. Becton subsequently joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in July 1944, serving with the 93rd Infantry Division. He later fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars, commanded the 1st Calvary Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and the VII Corps in Europe, and was honored with the Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Combat Infantry Badge, 2nd Award, the Parachutist Badge, two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merits, two Bronze Stars, two Air Medals with Valor Devices, two Army Commendation Medals and two Purple Hearts.
After retiring from the Army, he served as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1985-1989.
The original gold medal was on display for the gala in a special case in the museum.
Also welcomed as a guest of honor was former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who introduced the Senate resolution calling for the Congressional Gold Medal. Harkin is the former commander of CAP’s Congressional Squadron in Washington. Before his retirement last year, he was inducted into CAP’s Hall of Honor.
Vazquez presented replicas of “Total Force Partners,” the painting that noted aviation artist and former CAP member Rick Broome -- in attendance at the gala -- created earlier this year to mark CAP’s legacy of service to the Air Force, to Harkin and to:
- Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Dailey, the John and Adrienne Mars director of the National Air and Space Museum.
- Bob Gibbs, vice president of special missions for Textron, supplier of the single-engine Cessna aircraft that make up most of CAP’s fleet of 550.
- Rafael Gomez, vice president of strategic shareholder relations, government and public affairs for CITGO, major sponsor of both the Congressional Gold Medal and the 75th Anniversary galas.
- Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Bernie Skoch, Air Force Association senior vice president for education and commissioner of the AFA's CyberPatriot national high school cyber security competition.
The painting depcits a CAP Cessna 182 from the Maryland Wing being intercepted near Washington, D.C., by an Air Force F-16 from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Serving as targets for intercept training missions is one of CAP's major missions in supporting the Air Force.
The national commander also presented James with the framed cover of the quarterly Civil Air Patrol Volunteer magazine’s July issue, featuring an article on her May 4 visit to CAP National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.