Dungeness Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol recently completed a change of command on May 28, as 1st Lt. Darren Fitzgerald relieved Maj. Mark Swanson, CAP.
Fitzgerald accepted command in traditional military ceremonies at the unit’s meeting place at Sequim Middle School.
State wing commander Col. Shelly Nelson appointed Fitzgerald the new leader for the Sequim unit on May 20, and thanked Swanson for his service.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, requires that commanders serve no more than four years.
Swanson was appointed the commander on May 20, 2015, and he is credited with leading the unit through a time of rebuilding. The unit was formerly based at Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles and moved to Sequim in October 2014 “with just a few members and almost no money,” Swanson said.
Swanson said he does not plan to accept any new appointments in Civil Air Patrol, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. He will step back but remain a part of the unit in a support role. He has been a member of Civil Air Patrol for almost 15 years and served as a state wing-level public affairs officer in New Jersey before moving to Washington in 2014.
Fitzgerald told attendees he planned a series of changes, including a greater responsibilities and roles for cadets in the squadron. He also plans to pursue more emergency service training opportunities with organizations outside of Civil Air Patrol.
More than 50 persons were in attendance, including members of the Olympic Chapter of the Military Officers of America Association and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The unit recognized and thanked David Larkin of Flotilla 44 of the USCG Auxiliary, a former commander of the CAP unit about 20 years ago when it was based in Port Angeles.
Fitzgerald said he welcomes new members and plans a recruitment drive through the summer and fall. The unit meets in the Sequim Middle School cafeteria, 301 W. Hendrickson Road, from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays throughout the year.
Cadet membership is open to teens age 12-18 with an interest in aviation, aerospace or the military. The unit is also looking for adults age 21 and over with an interest in aviation and emergency services.
Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. The group’s 63,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.