The Florida Wing of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) recognized Senator Kellie Stargel, Florida 22nd District, and Representative Neil Combee, Florida 39th District, on Wednesday, August 2nd for sponsoring the Civil Air Patrol Leave Act in the Florida House and Senate.
Representing CAP for the award presentation at Senator Stargel’s Lakeland office were: Col. Luis Garcia, Commander, Florida Wing; Col. Sergio Seaone, Commander, Florida Wing Legislative Squadron and Lt. Col. Phil Zedonek, past Florida Wing Government Liaison Advisor.
The bill passed both the Florida House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law in May by Governor Rick Scott. 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. Legislation took effect on July 1 of this year.
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 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.
The value of CAP volunteer efforts for 2016 in Florida was estimated at $9.6 million.
At the presentation, Senator Kelli Stargel said, “Civil Air Patrol is a valuable asset of volunteers that corrals needed resources when our community needs them most. This is the kind of policy we should be pushing in our state. I am glad to have sponsored this legislations and grateful that it was passed into law.”
“I was happy to work with Senator Stargel in sponsoring this legislation. It offers protection for those who are volunteering their time and effort for a vital service,” Representative Combee added.
This past weekend, Florida Wing underwent an evaluation of its emergency and disaster response teams by the U.S. Air Force liaison to Civil Air Patrol. The Deputy Incident Commander for Civil Air Patrol for the exercise, Lt. Col. George McCord of the Boca Raton Composite Squadron, was the first in the state to use the Civil Air Patrol Leave Act to attend the training exercise and evaluation.
“Without the Leave Act in place, I might not have been able to participate in this vital exercise for Civil Air Patrol and Florida Wing,” said Lt. Col. McCord. “My supervisor was supportive, but it gave him the extra support he needed to give me the time off. I am thankful we have this legislation in place to support me and other Florida Wing members in our effort to serve our communities in times of need.”