Reno Air Squadron - 1942
The origins of Civil Air Patrol date to 1936, when Gill Robb Wilson, World War I aviator and New Jersey director of aeronautics, returned from Germany convinced of impending war. Wilson envisioned mobilizing America’s civilian aviators for national defense, an idea shared by others. Civil Air Patrol was founded December 8, 1941.
By 1942 in Reno, with a lot of Army Air Force training taking place either directly over, or passing through, the airspace over Nevada, there would be a number of crashes, either due to pilot inexperience, bad weather, or mechanical failure (military piston aircraft engines of the time, although quite good for the era, were not as reliable as the engines that power the aircraft of today – aircraft engine technology, as well as that of radio navigation technology, has come a long way). Reno Air Squadron (now Reno Composite Squadron) was chartered.
But it would not be enough to simply locate a downed aircraft by air. If a pilot and/or crew had survived the crash, most probably it would be necessary to get to them with medical aid and bring them out. Some sort of ground units would also be required. Helicopters were still undergoing development at the time, and therefore unavailable.
Most of Nevada was quite barren, more so than today. A small network of paved roads existed, with most other roads being dirt and gravel, with almost all of them located on ranchland. An ambulance could possibly make it to the dirt road nearest a crash site, but even then, most of the crash sites would still be miles away. So, in addition to aviation units, Nevada Wing formed a mechanized unit (by the fall of 1942 it would be complete with a mobile hospital).
Also formed in Reno was the only mounted unit ever formed within Civil Air Patrol. Working together, the air units would find the objective of the search, communicate the position of the target to the ground units by either radio (if the aircraft had one) or message drop, and the ground units would converge on the crash site. The mechanized units would get as close as possible, and the mounted unit would get to the crash, render first aid, and bring the victim(s) to the waiting CAP ambulance(s), either on horseback or on a stretcher carried between two horses.
During the war, only three units were designated squadrons within Nevada Wing, all of them in Reno. The other units raised further away from Reno were designated as flights. This was probably since Reno was the population center of the state, and therefore, could raise larger units more easily. (Las Vegas would not overtake Reno in terms of population until after the war.)
Kirk Loney was a co-founder of Nevada Wing and Reno Air Squadron's commander 1942-1945.
A member of Reno Air Squadron was Geraldine Hardman Jordan, who became a pioneer in women's aviation and proudly served her country in World War II as a WASP (Women Air Service Pilots), one of only 1,000 elite American women pilots who provided aircraft-ferrying services to the U.S. military.
The cadet program began in 1944 in Reno, and the Reno Mounted Unit organized the cadets in Sparks. Minimum age for cadets was 16, "and no member will be carried aloft unless written permission has been granted by his parents." Both boys and girls were accepted into the cadet program.
Since Civil Air Patrol’s formation during the earliest days of World War II, this vigilant organization of citizen Airmen has been committed to service to America. Founded on Dec. 1, 1941, to mobilize the nation's civilian aviation resources for national defense service, CAP has evolved into a premier public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions when needed — in the air and on the ground.