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Civil Air Patrol airman deploys to Afghanistan

By By Sr. Airman Cierra Presentado, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (September 17, 2015) – An Airman deployed with the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron is not only an Airman, but also a Civil Air Patrol volunteer who dedicates his free time to helping train youth and respond to crisis situations.

The CAP, which has provided support to emergency services as well as the aerospace education and cadet programs for the past 74 years, is now included in the Air Force’s definition of Total Force. The Air Force updated Doctrine Document Volume 2 to expand the description of the total force and Airmen to active-duty, guard, reserve, civilians and now auxiliary members.

Capt. Luis Aponte, 455th ECS operations officer and a member of the 156th Airlift Wing with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, has been a CAP member for three years. Aponte is a former director of operations for the CAP chapter in Puerto Rico. His main mission with the CAP team is to operate as a pilot for the Cessna 172 and 182 aircraft.

“I’ve been a member of the Civil Air Patrol in Puerto Rico for the past three years. The program has offered me many opportunities, such as being able to fly and support real world missions,” said Aponte. “We work with the Air Force and Coast Guard and any other agencies that request our help with different missions.”

Now that the Air Force is incorporating CAP into its total force spectrum, leaders are encouraged to consider each part of the total force, including auxiliary, when determining the most efficient and effective route to complete the mission.

Currently CAP has a total of 57,000 volunteers and 550 aircraft assigned to more than 1,500 units that are supporting non-combat missions on behalf of the Air Force. Aponte’s unit includes 702 cadets which are 12 to 18 year olds, and 346 senior members.

The CAP members, who fly nearly 100,000 hours per year contributing to various missions such as disaster relief, counter drug, search and rescue, fighter interceptor training, aerial observation and cadet orientation flights, will now be included in the total force and be referred to as Airmen during the performance of official duties in recognition to the Air Force.

“We have a good size group that volunteers in Puerto Rico. There are so many motivated individuals that dedicate their time to helping a good cause without being paid for it,” Aponte said. “It’s great to see that we are bringing light to these individuals by being included in the total force.”

While a member of the CAP team and also a flight commander in the Air National Guard, Aponte coordinated training opportunities to allow the CAP and ANG to work together.

“When I was the director of operations, I was able to coordinate with my unit with the guard to come up with some training opportunities’ for the cadets and the CAP team,” he said. “Our aerospace and educations cadets were able to get some real hands on training with the Guard. So, it was great being able to work and balance the two programs.”

While Aponte is grateful for his opportunity to deploy here to Bagram, he is excited to get back to Puerto Rico to continue his CAP mission.

“Being here at BAF has been great. The Airmen have so much motivation and it’s really a pleasure to work with them,” he said. “When I return to Puerto Rico I will have to get recertified in flying and then I can get back to my CAP mission and back to the guard. But it has been a great deployment.”

Aponte encourages people to look into the Civil Air Patrol and get involved. To find out more information on the CAP and how to join, visit http://wwwgocivilianairpatrol.com/howtojoin/