CAP Politics, Reprisals & Accusations

CAP PoliticsCAP Politics

By Diana Reilly | News of the Force

Politics, reprisals and recriminations continue in the Civil Air Patrol, as they have from the organization’s very inception. And, it’s doubtful that will ever end, regardless of new leaders and promises to end the sometimes public blood-letting.

Civil Air Patrol officers are given U.S. Air Force ranks, but they are not commissioned officers of the U.S. armed forces and are not, regrettably, subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

The CAP has a National Commander and a National Vice Commander. The National Commander is a CAP Major General; the National Vice Commander is a CAP Brigadier General. They’re “elected,” supposedly by the membership of the CAP – but in reality they are “elected” to those offices by the CAP’s National Board, which consists of CAP officers who are appointed by the National Commander – and they owe their positions and even their CAP officer ranks to that very same person. Those officers are supposed to “represent” the CAP’s membership, but it most cases they only represent their own interests in common quests to gain power within the organization.

As of now, the CAP’s National Commander is Maj Gen Amy S. Courter, of South Lyon, MI.  She’s the first woman ever to become a CAP National Commander.

Courter became the organization’s “interim” National Commander after News of the Force was first to break the story that former National Commander Tony Pineda had used a Florida Wing Civil Air Patrol officer to complete Pineda’s requirements for graduation from the U.S. Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College. The irony in that is that Pineda had already completed all of his CAP officer requirements and didn’t even need the Air Command and Staff College’s sheepskin. As a result, Pineda was stripped of his two-star general rank and was completely removed from CAP membership. About a year later, Courter was “elected” as the organization’s “official” National Commander.

The CAP officer who took the Air Command and Staff College tests for Pineda – and, apparently, for several other CAP officers of Pineda’s choosing – was former CAP Major Ray Hayden. He was himself tossed out of the CAP – but not for that incident, which later became known as “Testingate.” Hayden was “drummed out of the corps” prior to the scandal being reported, for some other supposed (and invented) infraction of the CAP’s rules.

Subsequently, Hayden established a Website known as CAP Insights, ostensibly to monitor the actions and activities of the Civil Air Patrol.

But Hayden is now after the CAP’s current National Commander. Hayden began asserting that he ought to be reinstated in the CAP because, despite his publication of the issue and his confession, there was no proof that he had cheated; and he had, after all, passed the tests – not only for himself but several times for Pineda and his cronies. At the same, time he was saying that he had no intention of staying in the CAP long term and had been intending to leave, anyway, when the cheating story broke. But he wanted to be reinstated in the Civil Air Patrol, and Maj Gen Courter said “no.”

Hayden began reporting negative items about the present CAP leadership – with one exception, all on the basis of second and third party reports. Bear in mind that Hayden is no longer a member of the CAP – and hasn’t been for some time. He places himself into the position of demanding specific actions from the Civil Air Patrol’s Board of Governors against Maj Gen Courter, insisting that they investigate her for some alleged violations of the CAP’s rules and that the board suspend her from office pending the completion of the investigations.

At this time, there are apparently several – and no one is saying exactly how many – inspector general complaints against Gen Courter. Sources say some of them were filed at the behest of Ray Hayden and his Website. And whatever those complaints are about, no one is talking.

Sources say “that a CAP officer named Col Rock Palermo, who is a pilot and an attorney in Louisiana, is heading up the investigations of Gen Courter. Palermo was appointed as the investigating officer by the CAP’s Board of Governors. Palermo is reported to have been the CAP’s National Legal Officer under Tony Pineda, but was removed from that job after telling Pineda that his effort to become “National Commander for life” was a really bad idea.”

Palermo, however, is not the CAP’s National Inspector General. That job belongs to CAP Col James Linker, who resides in Maine. In an exclusive telephone interview with News of the Force, Col Linker verified that Rock Palermo is doing some investigations of complaints against the CAP’s national commander, and he confirmed that Palermo was appointed by the Board of Governors.

“I can’t tell you the nature of the complaints,” Col Linker said. “I know you’re the media and you have your job to do, but we also have our rules and our own jobs to do. I’m sorry, but I just can’t talk about this.”

When we asked Col Linker why Col Palermo was appointed as an investigating officer by the Board of Governors, he said, “Well, you know, I can’t possibly cover everything. Investigating officers are appointed to assist the IG in performing these functions.”

When asked if the Board of Governors had the authority to appoint investigating officers, Col Linker told us, “Well, of course. They’re the official governing body of the CAP, and they can do whatever they feel a need to do. Investigating officers are appointed by me or by the board, but all of their reports come through me to the board. For that reason, I am involved, and I can’t talk about it.”

The CAP’s Board of Governors is chaired by a Pineda friend and long-time crony, Gen Richard Bowling. He was the CAP’s Southeast Region Commander when he appointed Pineda to be the Florida Wing Commander in 1996. After four months as Commander, Pineda was relieved of his command by the then-National Commander, and was replaced by CAP Col Andy Skiba.

As one of his last official acts as the Southeast Region Commander – and at the end of Col Skiba’s term – Bowling again gave command of the Florida Wing to Pineda, which eventually propelled Pineda into becoming both the Southeast Region Commander and then the National Commander.

The board was set up originally to protect the Air Force’s interests regarding the Civil Air Patrol. But the board consists of eleven voting members, and seven (a majority of the board) are CAP officers.

Bowling’s term comes to an end later this month. He will be replaced on the Board of Governors by a retired Air Force Colonel and former CAP National Commander, CAP Brig Gen Richard Anderson. He was the CAP’s National Commander from 1993 to 1996.

Meanwhile, Maj Gen Courter is reportedly unhappy about the whole situation. Although she is the CAP’s National Commander, she has no control over the CAP’s full-time staff at its National headquarters. The job of running the headquarters belongs to National Executive Director Don Rowland, who, by the way, the National Commander also has no control over.

Sources say “that when Gen Courter asks the paid full-time staff at National Headquarters to perform a function for her, they either don’t do it, don’t do it on time, or they don’t do it right.”

And while all of the CAP’s Wing Commanders have either full-time or part-time paid staffers, the National Commander has no one other than a volunteer, unpaid CAP member who acts as her administrative assistant.

Additionally, Gen Courter is forced to provide answers to what sources say are “frivolous” complaints that are being filed with the inspector general. One source told NOTF that she has recently received “67 pages of interrogatories that she must answer” from the CAP’s investigating officer. That takes up most of her time now – time that she’d rather be spending, the sources say, attending to the CAP’s “Missions for America.”

Hayden, meanwhile, is now spearheading a campaign asking CAP members to write letters to members of Congress asking them to investigate the CAP. That doesn’t bode well for the organization, which has its National Legislative Day – the annual day when the CAP schmoozes the members of Congress, coming up on Feb 26.

As for Gen Courter, she has not responded to several messages left by NOTF seeking comment for this story. That may be unimportant, though, because we’d probably get the same old “I can’t talk about it” CAP stock answer. Still, it doesn’t offer much support for the general’s promises of “transparency” made when she took over command of the Civil Air Patrol.

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