March began with travel to Washington DC for Legislative Day and the Command Council Meeting. I departed from Kansas City on 1 March. Col John Swain and others offered valuable training for our organization’s leaders that afternoon and evening. Legislative Day is the day that CAP leaders make appointments to visit Congressional Offices on Capitol Hill to talk about key issues of importance to Civil Air Patrol. Each wing commander makes as many appointments as possible in advance and most bring a Government Relations Officer, a cadet, or other members to assist them in sharing what CAP does and how Congress can help us accomplish our missions. On 2 March, members of CAP turned the hallways at the Capitol blue as we all visited congressional offices.

This year, our goals included:
• Full funding for CAP’s FY18 Operations and Maintenance Budget. This funding will allow CAP to purchase aircraft, vehicles, avionics upgrades, communications equipment, and computer upgrades.
• To explain how members of Congress can be members of CAP.
• To invite members of Congress to events celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Cadet Programs.

That evening, we celebrated our successes at a reception. I was able to meet up with Col Jason Bailey of North Carolina Wing and Col Arlinda Bailey of Tennessee Wing. It’s always a pleasure to meet up with relatives who live far away!

Female Leaders met for breakfast and collaboration on 3 March. Lt Col Leslie Vazquez and Lt Col Peggy Myrick organized the event. I was joined by Col Rose Hunt of Wisconsin Wing, Col Arlinda Bailey of Tennessee Wing, Col Linette Lahan of Kansas Wing, Col Martha Morris of Arizona Wing, Col Celeste Gamache of Colorado Wing, Col Carol Lynn of Nevada Wing, and Lt Col Andrea Van Buren of Georgia Wing. It’s always valuable to spend time with other leaders and share experiences and expertise. Thanks to Lt Col Vazquez and Lt Col Myrick for their efforts to plan this event!

The Command Council Meeting began later that morning with comments from MG Vazquez. He highlighted the 75th Anniversary of the CAP Cadet Program. This anniversary is especially meaningful for North Central Region because the Cadet Program began in Minnesota Wing! After opening remarks, we moved on to safety and recognition for members of the Command Council at their first or last meeting. I will be sad to see my friend Col Dan Leclair leave the Command Council. I have learned much from him in the months we served together as region commanders. Thank you for your service Col Leclair! We also welcomed some new region commanders—Col Jon Stokes in Pacific Coast Region and Col Tom Kettell in Rocky Mountain Region. Welcome to the team! The updates provided by NHQ personnel are always helpful. Thanks to all the NHQ staff members who presented! After lunch, each region was given time to meet as a group and work on initiatives. Each member of the NCR team read a chapter of a book on recruiting and retention then shared key information with our colleagues. The book we read was called 365 Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining, Motivating, and Rewarding Volunteers by Sunny Fader. Recruiting and retention are key topics in CAP so this book was very interesting. Col Linette Lahan (KS Wing) read a chapter that covered problems that can arise when working with volunteers and how to handle them. Col James Garlough (MN Wing) shared wisdom from the book on how to set volunteers up to succeed. Col John O’Neill (MO Wing) talked to the group about empowering volunteers. Col Darrell Nelson (NE Wing) shared how we can create a volunteer friendly environment. Col John Steiner (ND Wing) talked about how to cultivate a long-term commitment from volunteers. Col David Small (SD Wing) shared how we can motivate volunteers. Thanks to all the wing commanders for their preparation and the ideas that were shared. Several commanders were joined by members of their wing or staff for the discussion and business meeting. I would like to thank Col Kevin Sliwinski (NCR/GRO), Lt Col Steve Aubuchon (MOWG/CV), Lt Col Ken Schuler (NDWG/CV), Lt Col Dan Peterson (NEWG/DO), and SM Arthur Weaver (NEWG) for joining the discussion and sharing their thoughts as well. Our group had an assignment to provide input on new initiatives that would improve the CAP experience. Several members of the region sent ideas forward that were tweaked by the commanders and submitted to Major General Vazquez. Thanks to all those who contributed ideas! We finished the day with a town hall type meeting where we discussed leadership issues.

The Command Council Meeting continued on 4 March. We had a few more updates and then an open time for questions of importance. Following the open questions, we went to breakout sessions. I attended a particularly informative session on Operations. Thanks to John Desmarais for his presentation and the valuable information! Following our breakout sessions, the CSAG met with the National Cadet Advisory Council. I always enjoy hearing the opinions and proposals of the CAC. This group is the voice of the cadet program to command. As leaders, we must engage this valuable council and allow them to help shape the next 75 years of the cadet program. C/Lt Col Joshua Klosterman of SDWG serves as the NCR CAC Chair and representative to the NCAC. The NCAC did a wonderful job with proposals on the SDAs, cadet access to information in eServices, test banking for college age cadets, and opening more specialty tracks to cadets.

The evening of 4 March, I attended the Spaatz Association dinner where C/2d Lt Jack Schneider of MOWG earned a Spaatz Association Flight Scholarship. Congratulations, Cadet Schneider! I sat with Col Mark Smith, SWR/CC; Mr. Tom Schubert and his wife; and other region commanders. It was a lovely evening. I also met Mr. Kenneth Goss, Spaatz #39. We reminisced about how powerful our experiences were on the International Air Cadet Exchange. Thanks for your support of CAP and IACE, Mr. Goss! I departed for home on 5 March.

The wrap up WebEx for the UCC was on 12 March. I can’t give the students who took part in this course enough credit for their excellent work. I was blessed with a truly outstanding class of current and future commanders. I very much enjoyed interacting with the students and I can’t wait to see the good work the graduates do in the future for CAP. Congrats to Roger Eaton, Stephen Gillespie, Andrew Harsfield, Valerie Jaffee, Jeffrey Malott, Larry Morgan, John Quinn, Michael Scott, Susan Sennett-Dewitt, David Wallace, and Austin Worcester. Thanks to Lt Col Beth Ryan from Oklahoma Wing for her assistance in teaching the course.

I have several conference calls for the Unit Commander’s Course in March. We talked about how to roll out the Just in Time Workbook as well as how to proceed with updates to the content. For each onsite pilot and in the online course, we gathered a lot of data from students on how to improve the course. In the next few weeks, we will tweak the material and make changes based on the student feedback. Many thanks to all those who made suggestions for course improvement!

On 24 March, I departed for Bellevue, Nebraska for the North Central Region/NE WG Conference. It was a pleasure to join the members of Nebraska Wing for the event. We began our event with a social on Friday night. Cadets and senior members dropped in for snacks and quality time catching up. I met many senior and cadet members. One member I met at the social was SM John Krause. John joined CAP just days before the conference. Welcome aboard, John! Cadets joined Col Steve Kuddes for a table top SAREX that evening also. The cadets did a fantastic job! The conference began on Saturday morning with breakfast meetings. I met with the NCR wing commanders. We talked about a variety of topics including changes in the IG program, Safety, and Operations. NCR/IG Lt Col Jeffrey Morris flew in from his post teaching at West Point in New York to attend. Thanks for your efforts, Lt Col Morris! After breakfast, the conference began with briefings. I briefed on the state of the region and each wing commander talked about his or her wing. I talked about a variety of metrics available in eServices or on the Commander’s Dashboard. Some items are expectations; some were emphasized because it is the 75th anniversary of the Cadet Program. For each metric, I tried to provide some context as to how our region compares to others.

Here are some highlights:
• With just fewer than 4,000 members, NCR is 7th out of 8 regions in size. Our membership goal for 2017 is to be at 4025 by December. This will require everyone to recruit friends, family, and neighbors. It also requires us all to help encourage members who might otherwise leave CAP. On a positive note, NCR is 5th in overall growth, 5th in cadet membership growth, and 1st in senior member growth. Keep up the good work NCR!
• Our goal is to have 3 mission pilots or more per aircraft. IA and ND need to add mission pilots to meet this goal. As a region, we are 5th in this area with 3.07 mission pilots/aircraft. Let’s help more of our VFR pilots (we rank 3rd in this area) become mission pilots!
• Aircraft utilization is an area where we need more emphasis. The goal is 200 hours/aircraft per year. No wing is meeting that goal. South Dakota Wing has the highest use with just over 100 hours per aircraft. Iowa had the lowest at just over 27 hours per aircraft. We rank 5th in this area as a region. We need to fly our aircraft or we may lose some.
• Cadets who get an orientation ride are more likely to stay in CAP. We have two stats that address this in eServices. Iowa Wing leads our region in the percentage of new cadets getting an orientation ride in 180 days. Iowa Wing and South Dakota Wing are both doing well ensuring 70% of cadets or more get an orientation flight. As a region, we are 3rd in orientation ride percentage for new cadets in 180 days and 4th in overall orientation ride percentage. The goal is 70% and our region is at 66.7%. Keep flying cadets!
• Cadets who progress stay in CAP. Senior leaders with TLC lead a stronger cadet program. All NCR wings exceed the goal of 50% of cadets earning the Curry Award in 8 weeks. Most wings exceed the 2 TLC graduations per unit goal. North Dakota Wing needs more members with TLC. As a region, we rank 3rd in the percentage of units with two officers having had TLC and 6th in Curry Awards in 8 weeks. Good work, NCR!
• Aerospace Education is one of our missions. One measure of internal AE is the percentage of units participating in AEX. South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri have good AEX participation. Overall, NCR ranks 5th among the regions in AEX percentage.
• The percentage of Quality Cadet Units in a wing is a measure of success of the Cadet Program. Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri have the highest percentage of QCUs in NCR. Overall, NCR ranks 2nd among the regions in this area. Great work!
• NCR is a great place to be a cadet. NCR leads the other regions in percentage of cadets who earn the Wright Brothers Award. We are within 1% of the national average for Mitchell Awards. NCR exceeds the national average for Earhart Awards. We also lead the other regions in the percentage of Eaker Awards.
• The number of open reports of survey in the region gives us an idea of good stewardship of resources. I am proud to share that we have the 2nd lowest number of reports of survey with 9. In addition, NCR was one of only two regions to complete 100% of its annual inventories on time. Great work!
• Every member can help NCR continue to excel. Recruit and retain members. Focus on the missions. Help cadets fly, promote, and excel. Participate in AEX. Fly and train in Emergency Services. Continue your good stewardship of resources.
• I shared with conference attendees that we can learn a lesson from Lindy, the Missouri Wing mule. I related a story of Lindy getting stuck in a crevice while working in the Logistics section at Pathfinders at Fort Leonard Wood because the Safety Officer failed to do adequate ORM. They just couldn’t get Lindy out and then rocks and dirt started to fall in the crevice. Lindy didn’t despair, hem, haw or complain. Lindy just shook off the dirt and stepped up on it. Pretty soon Lindy was not in a crevice any more. She was eating grass in greener pastures. My challenge to the region is to be like Lindy. Let’s shake off our challenges, step up, and show everyone that NCR is where success is grown!

On Saturday afternoon, I joined conference guest speaker Brigadier General Richard Anderson for an open forum where members could ask questions. It was a nice opportunity to share some of CAP’s initiatives and my experiences with members. It is always a pleasure to work with General Anderson. I first met him when I was a cadet at Region Cadet Leadership School at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. He was then serving as CAP’s National Vice Commander. I have always followed his successes and his work in CAP has always been an inspiration to me. General Anderson is a former cadet who earned the Spaatz Award. He served as Nebraska Wing Commander, North Central Region Commander, National Vice Commander, National Commander, Chairman of the Board of Governors, and more. He currently serves in the legislature in Virginia. It was great to catch up with him. I always learn something when I am around General Anderson! The banquet on Saturday evening was a wonderful event. I had a great time celebrating the successes of the members of our region. The conference planning team did a splendid job and the decorations were beautiful. I sat next to Brigadier General Keith Schell of the Nebraska Air National Guard. He is a great supporter of CAP and I enjoyed chatting with him. I was particularly pleased to see the families of members receiving awards present to celebrate with them. Family support is critical for success, especially for cadets. Thanks to the families of three cadets for the support they provide: C/Lt Col Kole Tilson of Missouri Wing, the NCR Cadet of the Year; C/Major Luke Young of Missouri Wing, the Brewer Award Recipient in the Cadet Category; and C/CMSgt Austin Hermanson of Iowa Wing, the NCO of the Year. I know your cadets also appreciate your support!

After attending the tabletop SAREX on Sunday morning, I departed for home. The first joint North Central Region and Nebraska Wing Conference was a remarkable success. I want to extend special thanks to the host wing and to the planners. On the Nebraska Wing planning team Col Steve Kuddes, Lt Col Madeline Kennedy, Capt Amanda Peters, and Lt Rachel Peters did an amazing job. Col David Plum led the NCR team of Col Tom Theis, Lt Col Bonnie Braun, SMSgt Mike Mudry, and C/Capt Ethan Compton.

Congratulations to South Dakota Wing and Missouri Wing on earning the right to represent North Central Region at the National Cadet Competition this summer.

March was a busy month for operations.
Iowa Wing conducted SAR training.
Kansas Wing conducted AFROTC flights, damage assessment, and 10 American Red Cross missions.
Minnesota Wing conducted SAR training and an ELT search.
Missouri Wing conducted AFROTC and AFJROTC flights, a SAREX, and a flight clinic.
North Dakota Wing conducted SAR training and AFROTC and AFJROTC flights.
Nebraska Wing conducted a table top SAREX and a flight clinic.
South Dakota Wing conducted AFROTC flights and had a find on a missing aircraft search.

Kudos to:
C/Col James Craig on earning the General Carl A. Spaatz Award.
Upcoming Events:
• Region Staff College, Nebraska. Col Steve Kuddes, Director. 17-24 June 2017. For more info email swkuddes@gmail.com
• Region Staff College, Missouri. Major Austin Worcester, Director. 26-31 December 2017. For more info email aworcester@ncr.cap.gov
• AEO School (Joplin, MO). Lt Col Bill Sander, Director. 5-9 June 2017. For more info email William.sander@mowgcap.org