July 26, 2007

NIMS Training, Sir! Part 2

I blogged about a month ago about the new requirement for ES personnel: the NIMS courses. I was kind of confused when CAPTalk didn't explode with talk on the new requirement, and I was also taken aback when Blog god Midway Six said nothing on CAPBlog. Since work has prevented me from participating in CAP for the past month, and I didn't have the full e-mail, I was curious as to what was going on. Last night I was able to clear it up a little.

From my DOS:

Every member with an ES Specialty rating will have to go online and complete ICS 100 &700. Depending on your specialty rating, you will be required to complete certain [other] courses... At this time this is not a requirement and is subject to change. I can tell you it is currently under review at National."

I will be putting together a spreadsheet with all the courses required. Although the original E-mail I have is fine, for those of us who didn't get the original e-mail, it will provide a guide for what has to be done. I will try to upload the spreadsheet later today or tomorrow.

Please be aware that I take this change to be tentative pending national approval. However, I hope that it is approved at the national level.

July 25, 2007

What's a Flight Officer?

Tonight I closed the most interesting chapter of my life so far with my promotion to First Lieutenant.

"What's a Flight Officer?" I asked myself almost 3 years ago at my Level 1. It was there I discovered that instead of becoming a 2d Lt. like I had been told, I would become a "Flight Officer". Disappointed (and arrogant), I scoured the regs for some loop-hole, or something I could exploit to become a Lieutenant early. There was none, or at least none that applied to me. Being one of a handful of CAP members who have progressed through the Flight Officer ranks without being a cadet, I have discovered that a Flight Officer can be special.

"Flight Officers" are our version of Warrant Officers (with standing similar to AFROTC Cadet Officers), accorded the respects and traditions of Officers, but not 'commissioned'. Unlike regular officers, Flight Officers are younger, more driven, but prone to make mistakes. It is as Flight Officers that CAP officers can hone their skills for the officership

The stripe of the FO should not be taken lightly. It's either a cadet who earned their Mitchell, or a newly minted Senior with enough dedication to earn them a place at the unit. Flight Officers are CAP's only remaining tradition. They have been around since the beginning, and have continued to endure. We were formed for those members who weren't 21 yet, but were otherwise qualified for Officer ranks. As a result, Flight Officers participated and died on Coastal Patrol. The list found at the back of "The Flying Minute Men" contains 3 men holding that rank.

And in truth, as I get ready for a time when I will be called "lieutenant", I find myself wishing that I could stay "Flight Officer". I wish there was another grade above "Senior Flight Officer", maybe a "Chief Flight Officer" or "Master Flight Officer", at least something more to aspire to in this cadre.

"What's a Flight Officer?" I asked one time. 3 years later, I know that A Flight Officer is one who is dedicated, young, inexperienced, but filled with potential. A Flight Officer is one who is not burdened by experience, but often has an open mind and a fresh solution. Finally, we're here to stay. Not just the grade, but Flight Officers tend to marry CAP, and as I do, inevitably become full officers. But they do so possessing enough experience to be peers among the officer corps. What's a Flight Officer? A Flight Officer is something special.

July 20, 2007

Expertise, Responsibility, Corporateness

There is much fear within the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Community about the reduced number of missions, compounded with increasing UAV's, Airborne Sherrifs and fewer crashes. Many have cited Technology as the cause of our loss of mission effectiveness in many of these areas, and the supreme reason that CAP is not receiving new missions on the National Level.

However, although Technology has played a part in turning the current CAP into something obsolete, it is not the overriding reason. Rather, it is the standards of professionalism that hold the modern Civil Air Patrol back.

In his book "The Soldier and the State", Samuel Huntington defines 'professionalism' as dependent on three characteristics: expertise, responsibility and corporateness. He says "The Professional man is an expert with specialized skill and experience" that he can use to achieve his aim. Doctors and Lawyers are the examples he uses to describe the professional man. Both are specifically trained in a specific area, and use the knowledge they learned in school, and that special knowledge acquired over time, to make decisions.

"Responsibility" Hutington says constitutes the use of the skill in a way to benefit society. "A research chemist" he says "is still a research chemist if he uses his skills in a manner harmful to society". However, using the methods in a way to benefit society does make one professional.

"Corporateness" is a way "the members of a profession share a sense of organic unity and consciousness of themselves as a group apart from laymen". In this way, the professional armed forces share a collective sense of self. Broken down further, each branch of service shares a personal identity with other members of the same service. This sense of belonging and teamwork further influence each other to uphold certain standards.

If one applies the above three to the modern CAP, it is discovered that the CAP does not have a high sense of professionalism. Although those who participate in Emergency Services are trained in the vocation, the training is simplified and basic. The Civil Air Patrol is behind many of the other Emergency Services organizations by not requiring any of the NIMS courses for it's members. Huntington says of the expertise of the professional "His expertise is acquired only by prolonged education and experience". Although Civil Air Patrol's training is good, it should continue beyond the initial phase of training, which many members do not progress beyond. The level 1 training for new members is incomplete, and the practice of making one an officer after 6 months probation does not help matters. Rather, there should be stricter requirements to become an officer, and a fuller initial training curriculum.

Responsibility is where CAP scores the highest. Emergency Services have been a cornerstone of the Civil Air Patrol since it's inception. The use of technology and skills to save lives is beneficial to society, and thus qualifies as a part of professionalization. Where the CAP looses points, however, is allowing member use of corporate property for their own gain. Although it is not detrimental to offer members the use of the airplane for currency, the same idea becomes dangerous when there is a sect that only uses the aircraft for currency. Sadly, this is a large sect within the greater Civil Air Patrol.

Additionally, this sect has deeply effected the corporateness of the organization. There are almost two Civil Air Patrols: the one whose members are dedicated to saving lives, and the one whose members are in it for their own personal gain. This schism does not give members the camaraderie needed to create "sense of organic unity and consciousness" to move CAP forward. In many ways, 'corporateness' is where CAP fails the most, and it is because of this schism.

There are many ways to solve this problem. Perhaps greater restrictions on who can and cannot use corporate property are needed to increase the corporateness of CAP, and create a greater sense of unity. Additional training of the membership would also increase the member's expertise and rate the organization as a whole higher on the professional chart.

These problems are solvable, but they go largely ignored. Although solving them will make many in the membership disappear, it will increase our mission-readiness in the personnel area. Greater standards will also attract a different sort of member: one who is willing to learn and move forward with professional training. It will also attract those in the Emergency Services field to a greater degree, and thus further increase CAP's expertise in the area. However, if these problems are not solved, the CAP will become trapped in the past, and lose all of it's Emergency Services missions.

Hutington, Samuel P "The Soldier and the State: the Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations" Harvard University Press; Caimbridge, MA. 1957

July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day

When in the course of human events...
Happy Independence Day!