Members of the “Black Sheep Squadron” of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), based here at the Marco Island Executive Airport, will join with members across the country on December 1st to celebrate the 75th birthday of the founding of the CAP.
It was ironic that the organization came into existence only six day prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1945, and played an important role in protecting the homeland. It would eventually be made a permanent Auxiliary of the United States Air Force on May 26, 1948, a relationship which continues today.
Since 1981, Marco Island has had a squadron stationed here at the Marco airport facility with a membership of approximately 60 members from the greater Marco area. “One of the biggest misconceptions about the CAP is that all our members are aviators. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Wing Commander Major Robert Corriveau. “Every member, whether flying or on ground duty, is an integral portion of the job we do,” said Corriveau in an interview last spring when the Wing held an open house for the public.
TheCAP has handled many assignments during its first 75 years of existence. It began flying reconnaissance missions in search of German U-boats off the east coast of the country after the start of the war, and has been credited with deterring the attacks against freighters and tankers that were bringing much needed supplies to the European Front during World War II.
During World War II, the CAP flew 24 million miles, and located 173 submarines off of our coasts. Out of the located submarines, the CAP attacked 57, hit 10 and sank two. Throughout those missions, 64 CAP members lost their lives.
The CAP was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in December 2014 for those early efforts in keeping America safe on both the east and west coasts of the nation.
The missions taken on by the CAP include, but are not limited to, search and rescue, intelligence gathering for law enforcement, and natural disaster assistance.
During its 75 years of existence it has concentrated on a three-fold mission. The first two, are emergency services and aerospace education. The third segment of that mission lies in its cadet program, and its dedication to serving the American public through education, welfareand personal development services. As technological and societal needs change the CAP adapts to meet those needs, according to Corriveau.
Today, the cadet program is run out of the Naples squadron.
Most recently the squadron was busy supporting governmental operations, which monitored the effects and potential impact of Hurricane Matthew. The strong hurricane was the first to threaten the coast of Florida since 2007.
The squadron was also called into action to monitor the effects of the BP Oil Spill, and tracked its presence along the Southwest Florida coastline just a few years ago.
On the weekends the CAP will fly regular sunset coast patrols in an effort to keep an eye out for mariners in distress. They also fly at least two missions a month to help support Homeland Security and its mission to keep our nation safe.
Marco’s Police Chief Al Schettino complimented the squadron on its professionalism and dedication to their mission. “We are a small agency, but with the assistance of this great group of volunteers our capabilities to help save lives and assist those in distress is greatly enhanced.”
Should members of the public be interested in further information about the organization they should visit the squadron’s website at units.flwg.us/fl376.aspx.