A local volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol said the organization is the best kept secret in the United States.
“A lot of people don’t know we exist until they get lost and we find them,” said Dave Shoemaker, of Washougal.
He is a lieutenant colonel, chief of staff and assistant safety officer with the Oregon Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
Shoemaker previously served as a director of finance, a transport mission pilot, mission observer and squadron safety officer with the Civil Air Patrol.
He served in the U.S. Army, from August 1963 to August 1984. Shoemaker attained the rank of major, and served in the U.S., Asia and Europe.
In addition to being a Vietnam veteran, he was an Airborne and Ranger qualified combat infantry leader/foreign area specialist in Northeast Asia.
Shoemaker, 75, has been with the Civil Air Patrol since February 2011.
“The rewards are entirely personal,” he said. “There is no monetary reward. It costs to belong and buy uniforms.
“A friend is a squadron commander in Grants Pass,” Shoemaker added. “It is quality guy time.”
Once a month, patrol members assist with an Air Force exercise, east of Bend, Oregon.
Shoemaker, a former instrument rated flight instructor, is now an instrument rated commercial pilot. He can fly for hire.
Shoemaker said he started his comeback in 2011 at Grove Field Airport, in Fern Prairie, with certified flight instructor Jim Gray. Shoemaker now flies out of Pearson Airport, in Vancouver, and the Portland-Troutdale Airport, in Troutdale, Oregon.
Civil Air Patrol volunteers include trained emergency responders, flight and ground search crews and logistics personnel.
“There is a value to having those people trained and living in the community,” Shoemaker said. “We train those people to very high levels of proficiency.”
In addition to being a Washougal City Council member, he is a former mayor pro-tem, planning commissioner and civil service commissioner.
“The Civil Air Patrol is a great opportunity for networking and engaging in the community,” Shoemaker said. “You wind up belonging to other things.”
The Civil Air Patrol has aerospace education and cadet Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs for youth.
Lt. Col. George Kinsey, a mission pilot with the Fort Vancouver Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, recently deployed with the New York Air National Guard in Syracuse, New York.
He and four Washington Wing Aircrew members provided safety escort during the U.S. Air Force’s training missions with the MQ-9A Reaper predator drone.
Kinsey, of Camas, has been a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol since 2010.
He said the rewards of serving include personal satisfaction. Kinsey has flown for almost 50 years. That includes military and commercial airplanes.
“I bring that experience to the table,” Kinsey said. “The reward is trying to help out people who get lost, and hopefully save lives.”
The challenges include flying in the high mountainous terrrain.
“As you gain altitude, the airplane does not produce as much power,” Kinsey said. “You have to be very careful of the air, so you don’t become an incident.
“This is what we train for,” he added. “There is a mountain flying course I have been through a couple of times and survival courses in case you go down. I just got back [from a survival course]. I spent a weekend in the rain.”
Kinsey, 71, served in the Marine Corps for almost 33 years. That included four years of active duty.
Kinsey served in Vietnam and Japan, and he retired from the military in 1997.
The Civil Air Patrol was founded on Dec. 1, 1941, by a group of aviation enthusiasts and private pilots who wanted to donate their time and aircraft to protect the nation’s coastlines during World War II and to perform other civil defense missions.
The Civil Air Patrol is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees. The patrol operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of the continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.
The Civil Air Patrol’s 56,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.
For more information, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com.