Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 58,000 members nationwide and over 3,000 members in Florida Wing. Civil Air Patrol (CAP) volunteers perform inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. They also perform homeland security, disaster relief, and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies.
In 2016, one of the many missions in which Florida Wing’s unpaid professionals participated was during Hurricane Matthew. Civil Air Patrol members served in several capacities before, during, and after the hurricane, including flying numerous sorties for over a week after the storm to take aerial photographs of storm damaged areas along the Florida coastline for various agencies.
In order to work disaster and emergency services (ES) missions and to acquire the necessary training to serve on ES teams, Civil Air Patrol members sometimes have to take time from their paid jobs.
The Civil Air Patrol Leave Act provides certain employment protections for members of the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol who are absent from their place of employment due to service or training with the Civil Air Patrol.
“I chose to sponsor this legislation after learning that members of Florida’s CAP risk losing their jobs and benefits when they participate in volunteer missions and training,” said Senator Stargel. “This bill will provide protection for the Senior Members of the Florida CAP, ensuring that they are able to assist the state in times of need.”
Representative Neil Combee (R-Auburndale), the bill’s sponsor in the House, praised its passing. “Members of the Florida CAP graciously take leaves of absence from their paying jobs to serve the citizens of our state,” he added, “the least we can do in return is to guarantee that they have a job and accrued benefits to return to when their missions are complete.”
Last week, Governor Rick Scott signed the bill which had passed both the Florida House and Senate unanimously. The Act states that an important state interest is fulfilled by allowing Senior Members of the Florida Wing of Civil Air Patrol to take authorized Civil Air Patrol leave.
“I am pleased that Governor Scott signed SB 370 which provides employment protections for members of the Florida Wing (FLWG) of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) who are absent from their employment due to their service or training with the CAP,” said Senator Dorothy L. Hukill. “I am proud to have cosponsored this great bill to show our support and appreciation to all the members of the Florida Wing of the CAP who volunteer their time and skills to ensure Florida’s families are safe.”