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Reaching new heights with the Civil Air Patrol

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Photo submitted Prior to an orientation flight, cadets Ezra Russell and Jack Jones go through a pre-flight check with Capt. Capelli. Each cadet receives five free air flights to get to know the aircraft. Jones plans to start private flying lessons soon.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, performs about 85 percent of inland search and rescue missions in the U.S. The squadrons search for lost hikers or hunters, locate downed aircraft and transport emergency personnel or medical materials. They also serve as mentors to cadet squadrons, a role Lt. Tom Jones and Capt. Tammy Mattics take very seriously.

Both are affiliated with the Thunder Mountain Composite Squadron in Grand Junction; Capt. Mattics also serves group and regional roles.

Capt. Mattics explains her oldest son enlisted in the squadron in 2009, and because she had to transport him to meetings in Grand Junction, she hung around to observe the squadron's activities. As she learned more and more about the organization, she became a sponsor, then a regular member. Eventually she earned the informal title of "group mom," a title that reflected a wide range of duties, from personnel to professional development. In the the Colorado Wing (COWG) of the Civil Air Patrol , which operates in the Rocky Mountain Region, Capt. Mattics is assistant inspector general for the 35 squadrons in three groups across Colorado.

Within the group, she supports the five squadrons "on this side of the hill."

At every opportunity, she has expressed a willingness to learn and to take on new responsibilities. "I'm proud to have earned the rank of captain, and in May will advance to major," Mattics said.

Her rank reflects her attitude of, "Okay, I'm ready, what next?"

"If it's something I enjoy, I want to know more."

Her son his now in college, but Capt. Mattics is looking forward to the spring, when her youngest son turns 12 and can join the Civil Air Patrol. She's seen firsthand how the program instills maturity and self-confidence in the cadets.

"Whenever my son put on his uniform, he stood just a little straighter and exuded a little more confidence," Capt. Mattics said. "It was really good for him."

Lt. Tom Jones also became involved in the Thunder Mountain Composite Squadron through his son, Jack, and now expresses pride for all the cadets with whom he works.

During a Veterans Day assembly at Delta Middle School -- where Jack Jones is a student -- a color guard comprised of Cadet Airman Jayd Gardner of Clifton, Senior Airman Jonathan Lyons of Palisade and Jones -- a master sergeant -- presented the colors. Later in the day they visited residents at area nursing homes.

In addition to community service, squadron members attend weekly meetings that focus on aerospace education, physical fitness and moral leadership.

As a recruiter, Master Sgt. Jack Jones is well versed in membership requirements: applicants must be between the ages of 12 and 21 and a citizen of the United States. Prospective members must attend three meetings prior to joining, so they understand what they're getting into.

Everyone has an opportunity to fly -- and that's a big drawing card -- but to advance within the organization, members are required to participate in the educational program.

"They have to work for their rank," said Lt. Tom Jones. "We don't give them anything."

The other cadet from Delta County is Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Ezra Russell of Paonia, a homeschooler who is in the 10th grade.

In addition to a rigorous online course load, he takes piano and karate lessons, and participates in the Civil Air Patrol and its color guard.

While service in the military is not a requirement for Civil Air Patrol cadets, Russell said his ultimate goal is to become a fighter pilot for the Air Force. In fact, he learned about the Civil Air Patrol while researching the Air Force Academy's admission requirements for homeschoolers. "They had suggested becoming involved with CAP, so I joined the squadron in February 2014," Russell said. "I believe my participation in CAP will help prepare me for life at the academy or ROTC. I am learning about leadership and aerospace as well as flying which will help me become a fighter pilot."

Russell has to complete one more orientation flight, then will begin pursuing a pilot's license.

Ezra's parents, Paul and Paula, have seen tremendous growth and maturity in Ezra since he joined the Civil Air Patrol.

"He has become more diligent and takes CAP seriously," they said. "He sets high goals to test and promote every two months, and he achieves whatever goals he sets for himself. He is respectful toward people and toward his uniform. We are so proud of Ezra, and we know he will accomplish his future goals of becoming an Air Force pilot."

Russell will have a head start if his plans to enlist come to pass. Cadet officers who enlist in the U.S. Air Force are able to "rank up," coming in as an E-3 (airman first class) rather than an E-1 (airman basic).

Cadets also enjoy many unique opportunities, from tours of the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson, to encampments, described as mini boot camps. Last summer, Lyons had the opportunity to attend a CAP encampment at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base in Honolulu. He has no desire to be a pilot. Instead, he hopes the CAP aerospace science studies will provide a solid foundation for a career as a meteorologist.

Russell was selected to serve in the capacity of Echo Flight Sergeant for the 2015 Blackbird Encampment at the Air Force Academy. Next summer, he plans on attending the SWR Powered Flight Academy in Shawnee, Okla., where he will receive 10 hours of hands-on flight time as well as 25 hours of ground training.

Jack Jones is competing in an online Air Force Association cyber warfare program known as CyberPatriot. A total of 3,000 teams compete at three levels -- middle school, high school and military. During the right round of competition, Jack spent the better part of a Saturday in front of a computer at Central High School.

Prior to the rounds, teams download "virtual image" representations of operating systems with known flaws, or cybersecurity "vulnerabilities." Teams must find the flaws while keeping computer functions ("services," such as email) working.

"This is a whole different caliber of kids for the most part," said Capt. Mattics. "The leadership, the core values, the discipline ... it gives them a strong boost to the next level."

Ezra Russell wins
prestigious CAP award

​Colorado Wing Civil Air Patrol's Cadet Ezra Russell was awarded the prestigious Billy Mitchell Award and promoted to rank of Cadet 2nd Lieutenant. This award honors the late General Billy Mitchell who was an aviation pioneer, advocate and supporter of an independent air force for America.

To earn this award, cadets must complete the first eight achievements of the cadet program, pass a physical fitness test, attend a cadet encampment and pass a comprehensive examination covering leadership theory and aerospace topics scoring an 80 percent or higher.

Russell, a CAP member since February 2014, is an active member of the Thunder Mountain Composite Squadron where he currently serves as a flight commander and lead guard for its color guard. Russell was also selected to serve in the capacity of Echo Flight Sergeant for the 2015 Blackbird Encampment at the Air Force Academy. Russell plans on attending the SWR Powered Flight Academy in Shawnee, Okla., this summer.

Cadets who receive the Mitchell Award are also eligible for advanced placement to the grade of E-3 (Airman First Class) should they choose to enter the U.S. Air Force. They are also eligible for advanced credit in AFROTC, various CAP scholarships and CAP special activity opportunities.

Photo by Pat Sunderland At a Delta Middle School assembly, Lt. Tom Jones of Delta explains how the Civil Air Patrol grew from the desire of volunteers to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country. As a result, the Civil Air Patrol was born one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Photo submitted Capt. Tammy Mattics (left) is an Olathe resident who serves the Civil Air Patrol cadet corps at the squadron, group and wing level. “I’m an overachiever — in a good way,” she said.
Photo submitted Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Ezra Russell hopes to become a fighter pilot for the Air Force. He believes his participation in the Civil Air Patrol is preparing him for life at the Air Force Academy or in ROTC.
Photo by Pat Sunderland A color guard comprised of Cadet Airman Jayd Gardner of Clifton, Master Sgt. Jack Jones of Delta and Senior Airman Jonathon Lyons of Palisade visited residents at area nursing homes on Veterans Day.
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