About Us

Early Years

In the late 1930s, more than 150,000 volunteers with a love for aviation argued for an organization to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country. As a result, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was born one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of volunteer members answered America's call to national service and sacrifice by accepting and performing critical wartime missions. Assigned to the U.S. War Department under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the contributions of Civil Air Patrol, including logging more than 500,000 flying hours, sinking two enemy submarines, and saving hundreds of crash victims during World War II, are well documented.

Post War

After the World War II, a thankful nation understood that Civil Air Patrol could continue providing valuable services to both local and national agencies. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed U.S. Public Law 476 incorporating Civil Air Patrol as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. On May 26, 1948, U.S. Congress passed U.S. Public Law 557 permanently establishing Civil Air Patrol as the auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force. 

In August 2015, the U. S. Air Force updated Doctrine Volume 2, "Leadership," expanding the Air Force's descriptions of total force and Airman to now consist of regular, Guard, Reserve, civilian and auxiliary members.  Historically, the broader term Airmen referred to uniformed and civilian members of the U.S. Force (officer or enlisted, regular, Reserve, or Guard) regardless of rank, component or specialty.

With this newest change, U.S. Air Force leaders consider each part of the total force, including the auxiliary organizations. CAP has approximately 57,000 volunteers and 550 aircraft assigned to more than 1,500 units stateside available or currently supporting non-combat missions on behalf of the Air Force. 

“As a strategic partner, these unpaid professionals have boldly served our nation saving the [U.S.] Air Force almost 40 times the cost of using military assets for each hour served,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “Inclusion in the total force reflects the continuing key contributions of this highly trained and equipped organization.”

The auxiliary members, who fly the nearly 100,000 hours per year performing 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 referred to as Airmen during the performance of official duties in recognition of their contributions to the U.S. Air Force.

“Civil Air Patrol enjoys a proud legacy of selfless sacrifice and service to country and community that spans decades,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Vazquez, the CAP National Commander. “Our ability to augment the [U.S.] Air Force is second to none. We provide 85 percent of inland search and rescue missions and disaster-relief support to local, state and national agencies as well as aerial reconnaissance for homeland security, and remain continually postured to offer more.”

Beyond CAP’s support to achieve its homeland responsibilities for non-combat operations, the organization has been recognized for their efforts to inspire hundreds of thousands of cadets and K-12 students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and training.

“Civil Air Patrol’s increased exposure has a direct impact on attracting youth interest in STEM-based activities which are skills necessary to develop the innovative Airmen our U.S. Air Force needs,” said Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III. “We proudly welcome the [U.S.] Air Force auxiliary by extending our badge of honor as Airmen.”