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Master sergeant stays vigilant with the Civil Air Patrol

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Treven Cannon
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
As the sun peaks above the horizon and paints the sky gold on a perfect Saturday morning, Master Sgt. Armando Carrion, 551st Special Operations Squadron linguist schoolhouse superintendent, is sipping his coffee and checking the current weather patterns on his tablet.

Soon he will unlock the hangar door, and pull out the boldly colored red, white and blue Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182 airplane. Walking around the plane and conducting seemingly ritualistic pre-flight checks, Carrion mentions the plane is 30 years old, but no one would know it the way it’s been taken care of.

Carrion is a linguist by trade, but for the last 22 years, right after he joined the Air Force, he is devoted his time to the CAP. Currently he serves as the Clovis High Plains Civil Air Patrol Composite Squadron operations officer.

The CAP evolved in 1941 during WWII from what was then known as the Civil Defense Force. CAP is now the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Today the CAP is commonly known to most people involved in aviation.

“What most people do not know is that there are actually members of CAP who are trained to conduct ground search and rescue efforts on foot, assisting FEMA and other emergency agencies,” Carrion said.

Members of CAP cover a diverse spectrum of age and background. Any given day at the Clovis airport, CAP members ranging from Vietnam veterans, to 14-year-old cadets can be seen together, discussing the single common denominator among them all; the love of flying.

“You get to meet people in your community who come from all walks of life” Carrion said. “The training an individual acquires follows them wherever they go; should they move to another state, they are still allowed to continue training there.”

Carrion believes flying can be achieved by anyone who possesses the will to do it. Once an individual gets their private pilot’s license, it is good for life. He says for the cadets it looks great on college applications, and for the senior members it is a good way keep their skills sharp and be a positive influence on the community, as well as share that valuable knowledge with other younger members.

“The biggest misconception about CAP is that it is a flying club, or some kind of exclusive organization,” Carrion said. “Following the events of September 11, 2001, CAP became a professional organization funded in part by FEMA, and trained by Homeland Security.”

CAP members also assist local state police when necessary, another means by which CAP has made itself an undeniable asset to the community and the people it serves. Appropriately, their motto is “Always Vigilant”.

“Once you have taken your first flight lesson it is just something you cannot shake, and it is definitely in your blood once you start doing it,” Carrion said.

Carrion encourages those wanting to learn more to contact their local CAP squadron, and pay them a visit to see if they are ready to take their ambitions sky high.