KALISPELL - For members of the Montana Civil Air Patrol, serving the community is about more than just planes. From “Wreaths Across America” to rescues, it’s a vital mission to communities across the state
In December of 1941, World War II was underway and a vigilant organization of citizen airmen formed The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) to carry out emergency missions - in the air and on the ground.
Today, the CAP has evolved into a public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions when needed. Montana Civil Air Patrol Wing Commander Mitch Edwards is based at the air force base in Great Falls and oversees the 10 squadrons in the state.
"As CAP members we're deeply tied into the Air Force and their traditions."
Edwards is just one of the 57,000 members nationwide helping to preserve CAP’s 76-year legacy of service.
Another is Michael Stone the captain of the Flathead Composite Squadron. He says the organization also does 85 percent of the search and rescue in the United States for the Air Force.
"One of our operations missions is finding downed aircraft and missing people. We have a worldwide high-frequency communication network."
In 2016 the Civil Air Patrol helped with more than 1,100 search and rescue missions and is credited by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center with saving 110 lives.
Civil Air Patrol Volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. When Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico they were the first ones to establish communication with them.