WHEELING - Wheeling's Civil Air Patrol is flying a bit higher these days after earning a lofty award.
The Wheeling Composite Squadron of the West Virginia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol recently received the 2013 Outstanding Squadron of the Year Award during the wings' annual conference in Charleston.
The designation means the unit is the best of the12 squadrons in the state, according to state Civil Air Patrol leadership which conducted the evaluation.
NEW PLANE — Former Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Paul McCroskey, left, looks in the cockpit of the local Civil Air Patrol’s new Cessna 182T with, from left, Cadet Sgt. Garrett McCroskey, Lt. Luke Knollinger and Capt. Jeff Wheeler, squadron leadership and aerospace education officer. -- Art Limann
According to Lt. Col. Paul McCroskey, who until last Saturday was Squadron Commander, "The designation was the result of all the activities we were able to take part in during this last year. Emergency services was one of the big pieces of what helped us garner the award. We also have an active cadet program."
McCroskey was named vice wing commander of the West Virginia Wing, following the local squadron's designation, making him second in command in the state.
He explained, "We have three main missions, emergency services being one of them. That's where we go out and do search and rescue. We also help in disaster relief efforts, and we have an active counter drug mission here. So, we have a lot of things we were able to do flying the airplane and ground team efforts.
"We also have ground team members who are specially trained to go into the field and help search and find a missing person or airplane or whatever the mission requires us to do," McCroskey continued.
He noted the local unit has been active for 52 years and currently has 24 active senior members and five cadet members. Capt. Tom Sherman has been tapped as the new acting commander of the squadron.
Two local cadets also earned individual honors at the convention. Cadet Lt. Luke Knollinger was the recipient of the Billy Mitchell Award, which is considered a major milestone for cadets. It is believed Knollinger is the first cadet from the local squadron to receive the honor. Cadet Sgt. Garrett McCroskey was named as outstanding non commission officer of the year.
The Civil Air Patrol is an official auxiliary arm of the Air Force but also functions as a nonprofit organization. The Air Force, this year, provided the local squadron with a new Cessna 182T Skylane single engine plane. It is a four-seat aircraft with an advanced G-1000 glass panel cockpit for training and search and rescue missions. In addition the Air Force has provided the unit with new communications equipment.
According to McCroskey, "We get funding from the Air Force to do a lot of our mission for search and rescue, but they also provide uniforms for cadets and other things."
The cadet program, McCroskey explained, is for boys and girls between 12 and 18 years old. It is for those who want to learn about aerospace education, search and rescue techniques and aviation. It also teaches leadership skills. Cadets get a chance to fly in the squadron's plane, fly in gliders, as well as attend special events and activities.
He stressed the squadron is always looking for new members, especially cadets. Pilots are also needed, but volunteers who do not wish to fly can get training in ground team operations, which works in conjunction with the aircraft. The ground team uses direction-finding equipment to locate downed aircraft and missing persons while conducting search and rescue operations.
The Wheeling CAP Squadron meets at 7 p.m. every Tuesday at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport at their Squadron Headquarters on the west end of the airfield. Anyone wanting additional information is invited to attend a meeting or call (304) 277-4227 and leave a message.