What the heck is Civil Air Patrol? If you’ve ever seen the red, white and blue Cessna’s flying overhead, good chances are that you’ve seen a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) volunteer member flying a mission of some sort. The CAP is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, with three missions: (1) aerospace education; (2) cadet programs; and (3) emergency services. So…you care why? Well, aside from the amazing volunteer work this organization provides (more on that below), Minnesota law requires that employers allow employees unpaid time off to serve as a member of the Civil Air Patrol under certain conditions:
Unless the leave would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer, an employer shall grant a leave of absence without pay to an employee for time spent rendering service as a member of the civil air patrol on the request and under the authority of the state or any of its political subdivisions.”
Minn. Stat. 181.946. For purposes of this law, an “employer” is an entity that employs 20 or more employees at a single site. An “employee” is an individual who works an average of at least 20 hours per week. Key here, however, is when does CAP service trigger this statute? Service under this statute has to be “on the request and under the authority of the state or any of its political subdivisions.” Accordingly, attending regular meetings, attending training opportunities, volunteering at air shows and the like, would very likely not apply. However, if there is a natural disaster and, for example, the Governor requests the assistance of the CAP, the time off needed to perform any related mission may apply.
History of the Civil Air Patrol
According to CAP’s History of Civil Air Patrol, it started (unofficially) in the late 1930’s, with over 150,000 volunteers to defend the country. It was officially created one week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, whereby Americans volunteered their time and airplanes to accept and perform critical wartime missions (at that time CAP was assigned to the War Department under the Army Air Corps). Overall, CAP volunteers logged more than 500,000 flying hours, sunk two enemy submarines, and saved hundreds of crash victims during World War II. On July 1, 1946, President Truman signed Public Law 476 incorporating CAP as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. On May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law 557, permanently establishing CAP as the U.S. Air Force auxiliary. In 2014, Congress passed a bill, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal for CAP veterans’ World War II Service. Amazing stories can be found here, including that of Minnesota’s own Thomas J. O’Connor, 88, from Farmington, who still attends meetings regularly! O’Connor joined one of CAP’s earliest cadet squadrons (I believe he was the 36th cadet to join CAP), the Minnesota Wing’s Robbinsdale unit, in 1942.
In August 2015, the U.S. Air Force included CAP in its definition of the “total force“, along with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command. Consistent with its status as an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, the Air Force recently approved CAP members to transition from the old woodland camo BDU’s, to the Air Force’s current Airman Battle Uniform (ABU’s), effective June 15, 2016.
What Does the Civil Air Patrol Do?
CAP handles approximately ninety percent (90%) of all inland search and rescue missions – saving about 75-100 lives per year. CAP members are often fist on the scene in natural and man-made disasters, transmitting satellite digital images of damage from the sky. In it’s emergency services mission, CAP is involved in search and rescue; disaster relief; humanitarian services; Air Force support; and Counterdrug operations. Counterdrug operations is actually quite amazing – CAP will provide its resources to the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Customs Service helping to stop the flow of drugs into the United States. They will fly overhead looking for illegal farms and drug operations – who knew?! Quiet heroes for sure. As for cadet programs – CAP allows youth ages 12-21 to join as “cadets”, whereby they are taught aerospace education, leadership, physical fitness and moral leadership. Similarly, CAP’s aerospace mission goes out into the public and works with educators and the general public to share knowledge of aerospace issues. All great stuff – check it out!