Fifteen years ago, on April 26, 2006, a search and rescue mission for a missing airplane in Pennsylvania became the spark that later led to the establishment of Civil Air Patrol’s National Cell Phone Forensics Team.
At the time, then-1st Lt. Justin Ogden was a member of the Penn State Composite Squadron in University Park, Pennsylvania. Multiple wings and squadrons were involved in the search for a Maryland Wing member on a non-CAP flight.
The search lasted six days before the crash site was found in an area known locally as “The Punchbowl” – just north of the Pennsylvania border, about 45 nautical miles northwest of Frederick, Maryland, the plane’s last known location.
Ogden, an electrical engineer who’s now a CAP major, recalls providing communications support during the mission.
“My involvement with the cellphone came about because others called the (cellular) carrier, and we (the ground planning section) wanted to review the data to confirm its accuracy. It was the reason our ground operations base was established where it was and the basis for our search planning
“I was handed the cell company’s phone number and told to ‘have at it.’ Upon digging into the clue further, we learned that some information was misinterpreted and was directing the search to the wrong area,” Ogden said.
The cellphone data pointed searchers in the right direction, though Ogden cited “some hesitancy in that first search in trying to gauge ‘how much faith do we put into this clue?’”
That concern proved unfounded. The missing pilot’s son, in a call to Ogden afterward, told him, “Through your work, my father was found within 300 yards of the location you plotted.”
As the mission counts ramped up over the years, Ogden saw the need for and developed the software and techniques now used almost daily by the team’s analysts. For the mission in 2006, all analysis was done by hand.
“The momentous event in 2006 was figuring out that this new technology could be applied to search and rescue and understanding how it could scale to support other missions,” Ogden said. “I never expected to get another call from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center after that first search was over.”
But that wasn’t the case. Ogden used cellphone data analysis in three more missions in 2006 and six the following year. In 2008, cellphone forensics analysis was used in 27 missions, with seven finds and seven saves credited by the AFRCC.
Ogden was joined by Col. Brian Ready and Maj. Jerad Hoff, and the three became the core of the National Cell Phone Forensics Team, designated a national CAP asset in 2009. Since then, Maj. John Schofield joined the team as an analyst, and Lt. Col. Vic LaSala is an analyst trainee. Everyone on the team is a member of the Arizona Wing. In 2020, the team was assigned 338 missions by the AFRCC and credited with 201 finds and 96 saves.
“This (2020) was a top-five-of-all-time save year for us,” says John Desmarais, CAP’s director of operations. “Technology has really changed how we operate. What once took days of laborious searching is now done remotely.”
Civil Air Patrol’s pandemic-prompted Operation Pulse Lift blood collection mission recorded its 3,000th donated unit for the American Red Cross on April 3, 12 days ahead of the one-year target date for the milestone. By day’s end, the overall total had reached 3,012.
Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Cairns donated the 3,000th unit at the Arizona Wing’s Falcon Composite Squadron 305 building at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa. The mission is on track to reach its new goal of 3,333 units — chosen because it equates to 10,000 potential lives saved — by the one-year anniversary, April 16.
The collection campaign began last year with the Arizona Wing opening its squadron facilities to serve as emergency Red Cross blood donation centers after the COVID-19 pandemic affected staffing levels and forced numerous donation centers across the country to close.
The mission expanded in the fall to include collection centers in other wings and blood donations by Civil Air Patrol members throughout the organization. Members in all 52 CAP wings have donated blood to be added to the total for Operation Pulse Lift. The New York, Oklahoma and Virginia wings are now replicating the mission and hosting local blood drives. The Arizona Wing accounted for 1,702 of the 3,012 units collected as of April 3.
Maj. (Dr.) Sian Proctor, Sky Harbor Composite Squadron, will be a crew member on a privately funded SpaceX flight later this year. A member of the Arizona Wing Aerospace Education team, Proctor is a professor at South Mountain Community College, a geoscientist, and STEM educator. She was recently selected as part of the Explorers Club 50: Fifty People Changing the World the World Needs to Know About.
The commander of the Inspiration4 flight is Jared Isaacman, a pilot and billionaire businessman, who is paying an undisclosed amount for the mission aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. Proctor won a spot on the crew in a competition for small businesses that are customers of Isaacman’s company, with her space art website, Space2Inspire. The other crew members are Hayley Arceneaux, a physician’s assistant at St. Jude Medical Center, and Chris Sembroski, a former Air Force missileman and data scientist.
The mission will last three days while the Inspiration4 crew orbits the Earth at 335 miles, about 75 miles higher than the International Space Station. The launch will occur no earlier than mid-September.
When notified of her selection, Proctor told the Associated Press, “It was like when Harry Potter found out he was a wizard, a little bit of shock and awe.”
Proctor applied three times to NASA’s astronaut corps and came close to selection in 2009. As an analog astronaut, she has participated in four simulated, Earth-based missions, pursuing space-related exploration in Alaska, Hawaii, and Antarctica.
CAP members in Arizona Wing have benefited from presentations in which Proctor shares her passion for science, space, and exploration.
On March 19, 2021, Civil Air Patrol achieved another COVID-19 emergency response goal with the collection of the 2,500th unit of blood during Operation Pulse Lift. The honors went to donor Lt. Col. Mike McCoy, operations officer for the 388th Composite Squadron in Glendale, Arizona. The blood drive at the 388th Composite Squadron hangar was part of the 58th blood donor center operation in 11 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. The squadron also was the location of the first COVID-19 blood donor center on April 15, 2020.
McCoy was preceded (number 2,499) by Eric Christensen, father of Cadet Airman Aiden Christensen, from Gloucester, Massachusetts, who donated a unit of blood at the Brookwood School in Manchester, Massachusetts.
“Congratulations to the ‘Top Dogs’ of the 388th, Leading with Honor at Glendale, and to all from coast to coast (including members in Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico) who have donated blood and supported the blood donation operation over the past year,” said Incident Commander Lt. Col. Bob Ditch.
Operation Pulse Lift is Arizona Wing’s largest and longest-running COVID-19 relief mission. Additional blood drives in Arizona Wing are scheduled:
- March 23 – Tucson
- March 24 – Glendale
- March 26 and 27 – Mesa
- March 30 – Sierra Vista
- April 3 – Mesa
- April 15 – Glendale
- April 16 and 17 – Show Low
- April 28 – Glendale
- May 6 – Glendale
Visit redcrossblood.org and use sponsor code CAP to make an appointment to donate at a CAP-sponsored blood drive. If you donate blood at a non-CAP blood drive, your donation still counts toward the Operation Pulse Lift total. Send an email with information about your donation to email@example.com.
In November 2020, the Arizona Wing Aerospace Education team launched a challenge for cadets to earn the STEM Basic badge, which is authorized for wear on the USAF-style blue uniform and is added to their permanent personnel record. Earning this badge requires achievement of the Mary Feik award, 12 hours of study from a list of approved aerospace topics and a career dossier on a profession from one of the studied topics.
The challenge was to complete this work over the holiday break and prior to the deadline of January 31, 2021. Arizona Wing is providing these cadets with their STEM badges. Assistant Director of Aerospace Education Maj. Bob Kaye developed several curriculum tracks that the cadets were able to follow to complete this accomplishment.
“It has been a tough year for cadets with involvement being remote,” said Wing Director of Aerospace Education Maj. Ron Marks. “We are proud of each of these members for their hard work over the holiday break.”
The following Arizona Wing cadets achieved this STEM award:
|Colton Quackenbush||C/2Lt||Davis Monthan|
|Gavin Meelhuysen||C/CMSgt||Deer Valley|
|Christabel Reinke||C/SMSgt||Deer Valley|
|Bunyan Reinke||C/SrA||Deer Valley|
|Caleb Miller||C/SMSgt||Deer Valley|
Three cadets who completed the STEM badge requirements will be eligible to receive the badge once they have earned their Mary Feik Award and been promoted to cadet senior airman. They are: C/Airman Jack Hopkins, Neotoma Squadron; C/Airman Annabel Peltzer, Sky Harbor Squadron; and C/Airman 1st Class Mia Snyder.
Marks also noted that recruit Jeff Hess has not yet attained the age allowing him to join Show Low Squadron as a cadet. “He has however been working diligently and enthusiastically on various initiatives to prepare himself for membership in Civil Air Patrol,” Marks said. “He completed the tasks in this challenge in the time allotted and while he cannot formally complete this decoration, we wanted to recognize him and congratulate him for his hard work.”
A mainstay of the Arizona Wing’s aerospace education program, Lt. Col. Peter Feltz died on Sunday, January 3, 2021, at the age of 91.
Feltz joined Civil Air Patrol in March 1987. He was recruited for his HAM radio skills and immediately started teaching a popular communications class with hands-on skills training. Wanting to broaden his CAP experiences, he pursued mission scanner then observer training to take part in squadron flying operations. After a few operational missions, the left side of the cockpit captured his interest and he pursued ground school then flight training. He was a mission pilot and cadet orientation pilot for many years and had nearly 1,400 flight hours.
His first assignment as an assistant wing aerospace education officer came in January 1990. The aerospace education program was where he made his home in Civil Air Patrol, serving in either primary or assistant roles until June 2020. Over 33 years as a member, he also served as a squadron commander, group commander, and at the wing as chief of staff, vice commander, director of operations, and plans and programs officer.
He held master ratings in the aerospace education, communications, and plans and programs specialty tracks, as well as technician ratings in the command and emergency services tracks. He received the Gill Robb Wilson Award in November 1994 and was promoted to Lt. Col. In February 1998.
Feltz was born in Chicago in 1929 and lived there until he relocated in 1957 to Arizona, where he worked as a licensed insurance agent for more than 50 years. He was a U.S. Army veteran who served in an active combat zone in Korea for 18 months, receiving the U.S. Army Korean Service Medal with three campaign stars. His Civil Air Patrol awards and decorations included 10 commander’s commendations, three exceptional service awards, group commander and senior member of the year awards, the Arizona Wing ACE Award, the A. Scott Crossfield Award, and the 2005 Southwest Region Frank G. Brewer-Civil Air Patrol Memorial Aerospace Award.
He and Lt. Col. William Turner were the Arizona Wing Aerospace Education external team for many years and developed an aerospace education museum in a travel trailer. This display appeared at air shows, conferences, schools, libraries, and aviation functions throughout Arizona and the Southwest Region. The most memorable part of this exhibit was 27 mannequins dressed in military uniforms of the various U.S. military branches. The collection grew as individuals offered their relatives’ uniforms along with stories about them that were displayed on a card. Feltz continued to mount displays at a variety of events, often with his internal Aerospace Education program partner, Lt. Col. Fred “Fritz” Seifritz, who died in June 2020.
Feltz and Turner also organized a $3,500 donation from Arizona Wing to the Commemorative Air Force in Mesa to paint a Korean War-era Aeronca in CAP livery. Since it was not a WWII-vintage plane, it did not get the familiar yellow color but rather the gray of the 1950s era. According to the current Arizona Wing Director of Aerospace Education Maj. Ron Marks, he and Wing Historian Lt. Col. Bob McCord are working on a display involving that airplane, which has recently been taken off flying status.
“We will be building a permanent display in the CAF Museum to honor CAP’s role in WWII using the memorabilia from Pete’s work in that trailer,” Marks said. “I was able to let Pete know before he passed that we would be memorializing his work in a permanent display for generations to see. He was very pleased and thankful it would be preserved.”
Feltz had a national impact on aerospace education efforts through his work with the National Congress on Aviation and Space Education. This aerospace education conference was presented annually by CAP, the Air Force Association, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. It brought together educators from around the nation to learn from a variety of gifted speakers and motivational teachers. Aerospace-oriented, hands-on activities for all grade levels were offered by educators showcasing new learning tools to capture the imagination of students.
One of Feltz’s most historically valuable contributions was as a staff member for NCASE where he spent 12 years as the interviewer for a series of “living history” videos. He interviewed several astronauts including Buzz Aldrin. He documented award-winning teachers of the year and other distinguished guests who attended these annual conferences. One such guest was Scott Crossfield, the 1950s-era, pre-NASA pilot who logged 100 rocket flights and was a strong supporter of CAP. Feltz was able to complete 12 interviews yearly for a total of 144 interviews documenting the personalities behind decades of aerospace history. He transferred these recordings to DVD and arranged for them to be available to future researchers through the archives at National Headquarters. “Pete was a great friend to aerospace education here in Arizona,” Marks said. “He mentored many AEOs including me. He was a great asset to our team providing guidance and advice.”
UPDATE: The funeral for Lt. Col. Feltz is Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, at 10:00 am at Saint Helen Roman Catholic Parish, 5510 W.Cholla St., Glendale, AZ 85304. CAP members who choose to attend are authorized by Wing Commander Col. Rob Pinckard to wear CAP uniforms to the funeral. The family asks that any members attending notify them so they can assure sufficient space in the church to allow for social distancing. For additional information regarding RSVPs and the possibility of volunteering to be a pallbearer, please refer to the email sent on January 13 to all members of AZ Wing.
The 41st Operation Pulse Lift Blood Donation Center (BDC) operation since mid-April took place on November 25 at the Cochise Composite Squadron in Sierra Vista. Since the COVID blood donation mission began, 1,291 units of blood have been donated.
“Today again, the Cochise Squadron went far over the donor average (27) to help collect 35 units of blood,” said Incident Commander Lt. Col. Bob Ditch. “This took the total amount of blood donated to 91 units over the planned annual goal of 1,200.”
Ditch expressed his thanks to the 157 members from across the Arizona Wing who helped to make a difference in the lives of 3,873 people who benefited from the donated blood. He especially noted the work of Arizona Wing Safety Team members for their efforts to ensure that all 41 blood drives were conducted safely.
Ditch is still asking for anyone in the wing who has donated blood independently (outside a CAP-sponsored blood drive) to contact him (firstname.lastname@example.org) so those donations may be added to the total.
The November 25 blood drive concluded the 2020 schedule of donor events, but the Wing remains on-call for the rest of the year, to support its partners at the American Red Cross, for no-notice and backfill needs. The next scheduled blood drive will be in early January in Tucson.
The current Operation Pulse Lift stats are as follows:
- Total blood units collected over three years prior to COVID missions: 527
- Total blood units collected during seven-month COVID mission: 1,291
- Total blood units collected via Operation Pulse Lift: 1,818
- Total lives potentially saved: 5,454
- Total person encounters in 2020: 1,613 (Includes those screened and not approved to donate for various reasons)
- Total COVID cross-infections to CAP personnel: 0
With simultaneous blood drives at the 388th Composite Squadron in Glendale and the Falcon Composite Squadron in Mesa on November 17, the Arizona Wing soared past its goal of having 1,200 units of blood donated by Thanksgiving. The total for the COVID-related mission was 1,226 units collected since mid-April.
An additional blood drive on Nov. 19 at the 388th added 30 more blood units and raised the total to 1,256. With 16 blood drives, the 388th is responsible for the collection of a total of 435 units of blood.
One more blood drive this year is scheduled for Nov. 25 at Cochise Composite Squadron in Sierra Vista. Operation Pulse Lift Incident Commander Lt. Col. Bob Ditch says, “Knowing that they have always gathered record collections (once 42 units), I would not be at all surprised to see them push the Arizona Wing’s total over 1,300 units (100 units over the annual goal).”
Any wing members (or their family members) who have donated blood at any non-CAP-sponsored location may add those donations to the total number. Email Lt. Col. Ditch (email@example.com) to make your donations count.
The following members of the Arizona Wing have achieved cadet milestone awards or senior member promotions in the last 90 days. Congratulations to all on these achievements.
Wright Brothers Award — promotion to Cadet Staff Sergeant
|Evangelia Birnbaum||Sky Harbor|
|Ellie Garrison||Show Low|
|William Heaps||London Bridge|
|Troy Holderby||Deer Valley|
|Cameron Kenyon||Show Low|
|Kailee Marshall-Levitch||Sky Harbor|
Billy Mitchell Award — promotion to Cadet 2nd Lieutenant
Amelia Earhart Award — promotion to Cadet Captain
|Brenden Miller||Deer Valley|
The following senior members were recently promoted:
|Stephen Barnes||Captain||Deer Valley|
|David Barry||Tech Sergeant||Payson|
|Maria Lopez||2nd Lieutenant||Yuma|
|Matthew McGuire||Lt Colonel||Wm Rogers|
|Gregory Roberts||Major||Wm Rogers|
|William Seaman||Captain||Wm Rogers|
|John Spilotro||Captain||Wm Rogers|
Six Arizona Wing squadrons earned the Aerospace Education Achievement Award for fiscal year 2020.
The Award winners for FY2020 are:
- Deer Valley Squadron 302
- Eloy Composite Squadron 131
- Falcon Composite Squadron 305
- Prescott Composite Squadron 206
- Scottsdale Composite Squadron 314
- Yuma Composite Squadron 508
“Through their dedicated efforts these squadrons completed the necessary requirements for earning this award,” said Maj. Ron Marks, Director of Aerospace Education, Arizona Wing. “In addition to achieving the AEX award, these units showed a great commitment to achieving the 8 of 12 additional tasks and activities outlined in 39-1. Thank you for your active and successful involvement in helping accomplish the AE mission and for promoting an interest in aerospace, aviation and STEM.
A certificate will be sent to the squadrons to be displayed and the awards will be presented awards virtually at some point in the future.