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Civil Air Patrol’s Arizona Wing makes history behind the scenes

The Civil Air Patrol during World War II. (Civil Air Patrol Flikr Photo)

Whether it’s rescuing people from a northern Arizona blizzard, searching for a missing child or finding the wreckage of a small plane, a group of Arizona volunteers stands ready to help.

The Civil Air Patrol has been a part of some of biggest rescue stories in Arizona history, yet few people know that the group does a lot more. As the organization enters its 75th year, the Arizona Wing has a new leader, and she wants to change that. Col. Martha Morris was named wing commander in a ceremony in Mesa Saturday.

Morris said the Wing maintains 12 planes for search and rescue, but CAP planes also search for forest fires, track missing hikers and provide photographs in disaster situations.

“On September 11, the first photos on the president’s desk were taken by Civil Air Patrol aircraft,” Morris said.

Even so, the group is best known for high profile aerial search and rescue missions. In 2011, CAP aircraft located 14 people near the Gila Bend Gunnery Range who had called 911 asking for help. In 2010, Arizona Wing crews helped rescue more than 50 people stranded by a powerful Northern Arizona blizzard, and in 2008, CAP technical experts used managed to find the wreckage of a small plane flying from New Mexico to Green Valley, Arizona.

The Arizona Wing also has a ground team with rescue dogs that assisted the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in the search for a missing five-year-old child. The child’s remains were found last August.

The 1,300 member Arizona Wing also hosts a cadet program to provide military aviation training for young people.
Morris said the group is always looking for volunteers, and you don’t need to be a pilot to sign up.

“If people like airplanes or even have an interest in airplanes than the Civil Air Patrol would be perfect for them,” Morris said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can visit the Arizona Wing website.

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