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Civil Air Patrol celebrates 75th anniversary with open house

Steve Stefanides
sstefanides@comcast.net

Since 1981, Marco Islanders have had guardian angels flying the skies around the shores and south of the island, while keeping an eye out for stranded boaters, downed aircraft and potential human and drug traffickers.

Jim Picone mans the radios and relays messages to the aircraft and crew while flying a mission

The members of the “Black Sheep Squadron” of the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol this weekend will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the CAP. The public is invited to an open house at their operations center at the Marco Island Executive Airport on Saturday, April 30.

The CAP came into existence just one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II. On May 26, 1948, Congress made them a permanent auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

Major Robert Corriveau, who serves as wing commander for the “Black Sheep Squadron,” checks fuel levels prior to flying a mission for the local CAP squadron

“Our biggest misconception about the CAP is that all our members are aviators. Nothing can be further from the truth,” said Major Robert Corriveau, wing commander for the local squadron. “Every individual, whether flying or supporting the mission on the ground is an integral portion of the job we do.”

The squadron on Marco Island has just over 60 members, and 12 are skilled aviators. Each mission they fly has three members aboard the aircraft – the pilot in command, mission observer and mission scanner. Those three members are assisted by ground personnel who perform a number of duties.

During the recent BP oil spill, the group flew numerous missions to provide photographic tracking if the spill might have poised a possible effect on the Southwest Florida coastline.

On the weekends, the CAP will fly regular sunset coast patrols to keep an eye out for mariners in distress. They will also fly at least two missions a month to help support Air Force pilots in exercises to detect drug or human trafficking.

At the open house, a light lunch will be available with refreshments as members introduce attendees to what the CAP objectives and goals are. Tours of the facility and the equipment used by members will also be given, as well as information on how to get involved with the CAP.

The open house will be from 11 a.m.-3 p.m on Saturday at the CAP hanger at the Marco Island Executive Airport, off State Road 951.