In an email message sent yesterday from CAP Capt Bill Weiler, the deputy commander of the Civil Air Patrol Florida Wing’s Group 2, addressed to the commander of the Florida Wing, CAP Col Mike Cook, and the commander of the CAP’s Southeast Region, Col Al Bedgood, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by News of the Force, Capt Weiler writes:
Sirs, although I have no doubt this will result in retaliation by Col Cook, because that is what he does, I believe it my duty as a CAP officer and concerned citizen to send this correspondence to make you aware of problems in the Florida Wing. I have specifically not copied my current Group Commander out of respect for the retaliation by association he may also receive.
While I have not been back in CAP long, I have seen a drastic culture change in Florida Wing over the past year that I fear will result in civil litigation, criminal prosecution, serious accident, injury, or even death, if not corrected. My family ties to CAP go back to my father flying under the CAP banner to transport officers at Fort Leonard Wood beginning in 1942, and when Senator Goldwater took me to my first cadet meeting in 1964, so I do not take lightly either the future of CAP, or the probable repercussions and retaliation of this memo, but I feel it is that important.
All of the safety processes and procedures implemented will do nothing to safeguard CAP members and assets in a culture that fundamentally ignores integrity and respect for the members when the slogan ‘everyone is a safety officer’ is trumped by fear of retribution, retaliation, or humiliation by wing staff towards anyone questioning the safety of an activity. This is compounded by a rapid growth of a ‘good old boys’ club’ that selectively enforces regulations and policies, based on either perception of favor with the Wing CC or because of family ties and connections at higher CAP levels.
Not only is safety impacted, but the same culture has allowed select members to be immune from Cadet Protection Program Training (CPPT) regulations and overt cadet sexual harassment to be dismissed without investigation. All of our safety procedures, CPPT regulations, and waste control measures assume a fundamental level of personal integrity and respect. When there is no integrity within wing command, and wing command and staff don’t just show a lack of respect for members, but a hostile disrespect for the members, all of the procedures and regulations cannot protect CAP members or assets.
To prevent this from being too long a missive, I have attached a document with examples of specific cases. I want to show you that these are not isolated cases and that they are disrupting the morale of Florida Wing members to the point of not caring enough to either be safe or maintain values and integrity; a vital core value that we should be using as examples for, as well as, teaching our cadets. These are not the only cases documented over the past year.
The attachment covers:
• Safety: DDR/FEMA trailer and DDR SUV crash; Glider damage due to improper trailer balance; Disruption of glider o-rides with tow pilot training; Attempt to use C-182 tow plane at improper location; Forcing glider operations at an unsafe location; Suspension of a member for attempting to enforce safety regulations and policies.
• CPPT: Threatening of command for attempting to report overt sexual harassment of a female cadet.
• Fraud, waste & abuse: Misrepresentation of glider maintenance status; Moving gliders from areas of activity to locations with little activity as retribution; Misuse of flight training funds for wing travel.
• Integrity: Project officer for glider and tow plane movement to Rome, Ga., for Academy; Wing and CAMS Vendor AMO; Cadet flight training, Expected transfer of unit money without proper documentation; Wing Conference photography.
• Retribution & favoritism: Glider operations; ES Ops Quals.
• Respect: Treatment of group CC applicants; Humiliation of members at EAS in front of military partners; Disregard for cadets reaction to near nude photos of wing staff member; Spaatz Award; PAO Award.
As the former Florida Wing Group 4 CD, current Group 2 CD, Wing PIO, and an IC, I have seen up close the fundamental lack of respect Col Cook has shown to many of our members. While as Wing CC, he is free to run the wing as he sees fit, regardless of the consequences to unit morale, but when it impacts safety it becomes more than just a matter of, ‘if you don’t like it, leave.’ I have personally been involved and witnessed two instances this year where FLWG avoided a fatal accident by sheer luck, and no attempt has been made to follow up on the commitments made in the ROS on the most serious.
I think by reading just a few of the examples I’ve provided, you will understand why it is becoming more and more difficult for our best unit CCs, with the highest integrity, to remain motivated to recruit cadets into a program where they feel less empowered to make a positive impact while spending more time preventing them from being exposed to the wing’s more corruptive influences.
Thank you for your time, and if you feel I should address my concerns through a different channel, other than FLWG command, please let me know.