The Hernando County Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) marked a significant milestone as it celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 7, 2023. With a heritage tracing back to World War II, the Civil Air Patrol’s Hernando County Squadron received its official charter in 1973. The squadron’s 50th Anniversary Gala took place at the Silverthorn Country Club, where CAP Cadets, Senior Members, and numerous community sponsors gathered for an evening of festivity, awards, and camaraderie.
The squadron’s ceremonial color guard set the stage for the night’s festivities with a military-style “Presentation of the Colors.” The United States and Florida flags were presented at the front of the room, and Pasco County Tax Assessor Mike Fasano led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Attendees were treated to a historical journey through the Hernando County Squadron’s origins, beginning with the founding of the Civil Air Patrol on December 1, 1941. In the early days of World War II, volunteer pilots from Florida and across the nation played a crucial role by flying missions in their own small planes, aiding the US military in spotting enemy submarines off the US coastline. The CAP Cadet Program for boys and girls aged 15 to 18 was established on October 1, 1942, becoming a significant force in imparting practical skills and preparing teenagers for military and wartime service agencies. CAP’s male and female volunteers participated in various wartime missions, including aircraft warning, liaison patrol along the Mexican border, courier service, missing aircraft searches, disaster relief, tow target and tracking operations, forest patrols, and more. By the war’s end, the CAP was credited with locating over 100 German U-boats and sinking two of them with bombs. After World War II, the CAP became the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force, transitioning to its peacetime mission of search and rescue, disaster relief, and civil defense.
Since its charter in 1973, the Hernando County Squadron has continued this legacy, providing air and ground assets for search and rescue missions, hurricane relief, drug interdiction missions, COVID relief efforts, and other assignments from the U.S. Air Force.
The evening’s awards presentations commenced with seven squadron cadets receiving flight training scholarships from the Steven A. Doerner Flight Scholarship Fund. The fund is a local non-profit named after a former CAP cadet who attended Florida’s prestigious Embry-Riddle Aviation College. The recipients of the award, Norbert Kluzinski, Trinity St. Pierre, Jacob Robens, Jamen Quast, Garett Gulick, Brett Lynn, and Sarah Phillips, were selected based on their performance as cadets and an intensive interview process.
Three cadets were honored with the prestigious Amelia Earhart Award, along with a promotion to the rank of Cadet Captain. Cadets Neilson Nicolosi, Norbert Kluzinski, and Trinity St. Pierre achieved this award, signifying their completion of rigorous training in leadership, aerospace education, character development, and emergency services within the cadet program. Remarkably, only three percent of the CAP’s 22,000 cadets nationwide earn the Amelia Earhart Award. The awards were presented by keynote speaker Colonel Terrance McCaffrey, USAF (Ret.), and Lt. Colonel James Williamson, US Army Special Forces (Ret.), who also serves as the local Squadron Commander.
The evening’s event witnessed nearly two dozen other cadet promotions and awards for other members. The squadron as a whole was presented with a Unit Citation Award, recognizing their exceptional work that contributed to the Cadet unit being named nationally as a 2022-2023 Squadron of Distinction.
Squadron commander James Williamson expressed his pride in the achievements of the squadron members and their promising future.
For those interested in joining the Civil Air Patrol, weekly squadron meetings are held on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. Membership is available for cadets aged 12-18 and senior members aged 18 and above. The squadron meets at 3151 Air Commerce Boulevard, Brooksville, FL 34604.