September began a little slower than August and I was thankful for the time to work with the staff and commanders on goals, planning, and budgeting. The work we do now in these areas will provide a solid foundation for our work over the next year. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
I always log into eServices and review recruiting and retention numbers on the first of each month. The members we recruit now are the future of our organization. We need to engage and keep as many members as we can to be able to provide personnel for future missions for our communities, state, and nation. Recruiting and retention numbers can tell one a great deal about the health of a unit. I was very pleased to see that South Dakota has had some amazing growth. On 1 September, Col Small and his team had 16% annual growth overall, 13% growth in cadet membership, and 7% growth in senior membership compared to this time last year. In addition, his 90 day growth was 5% overall, 2% in cadets, and 7% in senior membership. Well done! If you want some tips on recruiting and retention, I would ask South Dakota Wing. Kansas Wing was also growing nicely with 14% overall annual growth, 15% annual growth in cadet membership, and 7% annual growth in senior membership. Kudos to Kansas as well!
I met Col John O’Neill, the Missouri Wing Commander, in Wichita, Kansas on September 5th to complete his initial CAPF40. Col O’Neill was traveling across Kansas on his way home to Missouri from the Cloudbusters Rocket Event in Argonia, Kansas and we had a great discussion. That evening I had a phone conference with Col Anita Elliott for the same purpose. Yes, even wing commanders and other senior leaders get performance evaluations; we can all benefit from this type of activity. Completing these forms and this process, at the direction of BG Myrick, has been a valuable experience. The wing commanders and I enjoy it and I have learned more about the wings of NCR in the process. It is a great time to look at the data for a wing, analyze it, and discuss it. As leaders, our decisions should be data-based. The Commander’s Dashboard provides a great start for looking at wing and unit data. Other e-services reports can also lend great information for leaders. I would encourage everyone to access the information available in e-services and use it to be more effective in your position. Between these two sessions, I received the sad news that Col Emmit Williams passed away after a motorcycle accident. Col Emmit Williams was a strategic figure in North Central Region and Missouri Wing. He served as Missouri Wing Commander, North Central Region Vice Commander, and in numerous staff positions in each organization. Many commanders relied on his sage advice over the years and he will be greatly missed. He leaves behind his wife Major Marsha Williams, the commander of MO-117, and his daughter Col Erica Williams, who serves on both the Missouri Wing and North Central Region staff. Please keep the Williams family in your thoughts as they journey through this difficult time.
On September 7th, I dropped in on one of the region small team meetings led by Col Tom Theis, who is one of two vice commanders for NCR.
The region staff is quite large and due to our geographic distribution, we have to communicate electronically. A phone call with the entire staff is not a practical way to discuss items, so we meet in four smaller teams. Col Weston, Col Theis, Col Plum and I all lead a small group. As I mentioned above, our groups are currently working on goals and budgets. I am hopeful that these team meetings will increase the flow of information up and down the chain of command and engage the staff more effectively.
On September 10th, I attended the funeral of Col Emmit Williams in Marshall, Missouri. It was clear how important a figure he was in that small town when we stopped for fuel at Casey’s. A gentleman in the store stopped me and asked me if I was there for the services. He recognized the CAP uniform and told me what a wonderful person the town had lost. He was not alone in those sentiments. Many CAP members, in addition to fire and EMS personnel, attended the services and spent time with the Williams family that day.
The week of September 12th was mainly dedicated to phone calls. I completed the North Dakota wing commander’s F40 and had a phone conference for the Leadership Development Working Group. This group, under the leadership of Southwest Region Commander Col Mark Smith, is tasked with revising professional development for five different groups of CAP members: region commanders, wing commanders, squadron commanders, mid-career officers, and NCOs. My team is working on squadron commander development and the new Unit Commanders Course. We have three sub-groups working on the content for the new course which will be available 1 January 2017. Col Steve Kuddes, who is in Nebraska Wing and is a former North Central Region commander, is leading one small team that is working on a module of the course that focuses on leadership skills. Col John O’Neill, who is the Missouri Wing Commander, is leading a second small team that is working on the nuts and bolts of command from the lifecycle of a member to e-services and more. Lt Col James Peace, who is in Texas Wing is leading the third group. The third group is building the module on Squadron Organization from taking command to staffing the unit and missions. We have been working on this project for many months. Our journey has seen us come up with a laundry list of 200 things unit commanders need to know how to do, a map of CAP professional development course content, incentives for learning, and more. We are enjoying the work and we hope it makes command easier for future leaders.
On September 15th, NHQ notified the region commanders that the CAP fleet had grown to over 600 aircraft and had to be reduced to a more sustainable 560. The reduction plan indicated each region had to lose a percentage of its aircraft. North Central Region was asked to identify 6 aircraft that might be disposed of, sold, or transferred. Col Bill Kay, the North Central Region Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, began gathering aircraft data for me and I asked the wing commanders to identify which aircraft they could lose. Of course, no wing commander wants to lose an aircraft.
I understand that this was a difficult process for the wings and I appreciate their hard work and inputs. I also appreciate the work done by Col Kay, Col Weston, Col Theis, and Col Plum on this project. I also reviewed dashboard statistics in eServices including numbers of pilots, numbers of orientation flights, and more in making this decision. We also looked at geographic territory and other factors. Finally, we identified six aircraft for disposal/sale/transfer from Minnesota, Missouri, and South Dakota and submitted their tail numbers to NHQ.
On Saturday the 17th, I called in to the NCR CAC meeting on Google Hangouts to thank the council for their service and welcome new members. Due to technical difficulties, I had to type my comments in the chat box and they were delivered by NCR CAC Chair C/Col Caleb Couture. I can proudly say that the NCR CAC is one of the best councils in the nation. They met monthly over their term of office and sent several proposals to the national level. The CAC had several functional, productive committees and a great corps of officers. Kudos to C/Col Couture (chair), C/Lt Col Klosterman (Vice Chair), and C/Capt Leonhardt (recorder) for their hard work as council leadership. Thanks also to all the representatives who engaged and did so much good work. You have set the bar high for the next council! We also announced the new officers. In the coming term, the council will be led by C/Lt Col Klosterman who will serve as chair, C/Capt Leonhardt who will serve as vice chair, and C/Major Horn who will serve as recorder. Col Rick Franz, the former Kansas Wing Commander, will serve as their advisor. I can’t wait to see the good work the new council will do! We are already planning for a face-to-face meeting in Des Moines in November to kick off the term.
The week of the 19th was a busy one. A Kansas Wing flight crew of Capt Skylar Caldwell and 1st Lt Tom Page flew with me to Minnesota to present some awards on the 20th. It was a beautiful day to fly and we had a wonderful tail wind on the way to Minnesota. Col Tom Theis, North Central Region Vice Commander, picked us up at the airport and kindly treated us to dinner on the way to the church where the 130th Composite Squadron meets. The 130th is the biggest unit in North Central Region with a total of about 122 members. Of that total, 85 members are cadets! The 130th is known for excellence and innovation. In 2015, they earned the Squadron of Distinction Award for NCR. Among other things, their membership statistics for promotions and testing are very impressive. We were greeted warmly by members of the unit and Minnesota Wing Leadership. Col Garlough, Lt Col Sorenson, and Lt Col Heinz were present from the Minnesota Wing leadership as well as Col Theis and Lt Col Mikitta from the NCR staff. Major Ray Phillips, commander of the 130th, did a great job ensuring all was in order and proceeded flawlessly. C/Major James Craig served as my guide for the evening and helped me navigate the meeting and explained several 130th traditions; he did a great job! I was able to circulate and observe cadets participating in a timely character development lesson on the emotions surrounding suicide (October is Suicide Prevention Month). The small group discussions were all led by cadet officers or NCOs and it was very well done. Each of the sub-groups reported out to the main group via a spokesperson at the end of the session. During the awards and promotions portion of the evening, I was honored to present C/Lt Col Philip Cappitelli with the General Ira C. Eaker Award and C/Major Craig with an Air Force Association Award also. C/Major Craig also passed his review board for C/Lt Col that evening. Finally, I presented C/Lt Col Boaz Fink with a long overdue and well deserved Region Commander’s Commendation for his leadership of the NCR CAC. I learned a couple neat things while visiting the 130th. First, C/Major Craig told me about Exploration Night. The 130th uses the fifth Tuesday to have members visit other organizations and talk about CAP. What a great recruiting strategy! The second interesting practice I observed at the 130th was that of each person who was promoted or received an award saying a few words of thanks to those who helped them or giving those following in their footsteps some sage advice. This was very meaningful and made the night even more special. Unfortunately, I did not have much time to stay at the 130th as we had to fly back to Kansas. The pilots had the aircraft ready when I arrived back at the airport and we took a beautiful night flight back to Kansas. Many thanks to all those who made this wonderful trip possible. On the 22nd, I completed a F40 with the Nebraska Wing Commander and on the 25th I completed a F40 with the Kansas Wing Commander.
Quality Cadet Units were announced in September. These units, with at least 10 cadet members as of the start date of the program, were recognized for excellence in having achieved at least six criteria out of ten being monitored including recruiting, retention, activities, etc. Sadly, more than 20 units in North Central Region did not meet the minimum membership requirement of ten cadets and were not eligible for the award. Minnesota Wing had ten units earn this distinction and Missouri Wing had five. Iowa Wing, Kansas Wing, and Nebraska Wing each had two units recognized. South Dakota Wing had one unit earn these honors. Congratulations to all the units recognized by these awards. A lot of hard work and dedication go into this program and I am proud to see so many NCR squadrons achieve this mark of excellence. I would also like to recognize three units in North Central Region that met at least six criteria but had fewer than the ten members required and did not receive the award. Kudos to Crazy Horse Composite Squadron (NCR-SD-068), Trail of Tears Composite Squadron (NCR-MO-127), and Warrensburg Composite Flight (NCR-MO-139) in the small but mighty category! I am pleased that small units offer quality programs also.
The next week flew by with more phone meetings. I had another call with the Leadership Development Working Group. The region staff also worked to finalize the budget, on our recruiting and retention plan and on our aircraft fleet reduction response.
As this Command Trajectory draws to a close, I am looking forward to a busy and productive October. As always, I want to recognize some units and individuals for their accomplishments also.
Iowa Wing: 16-M-0647, find; DR mission
Missouri Wing: 16-M-0688, find and save
Kansas Wing: 8 American Red Cross missions
Awards and Recognition:
Craig Goodrich, SD WG, promotion to Lt Col
Major Jason Suby assumed command of the Viking Squadron, Minnesota Wing
Lt Col William Hienz assumed command of Group III, Minnesota Wing
Lt Col Dan Peterson, NE-001, Gill Robb Wilson Award
Quality Cadet Units: IA-002, IA-129, KS-055, KS-061, MN-021, MN-131, MN-048, MN-130, MN-047, MN-122, MN-030, MN-121, MN-017, MN-116, MO-160, MO-110, MO-153, MO-018, MO-005, NE-058, NE-002, SD-031