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Heart of a Volunteer

Heart of a Volunteer

By 2nd Lt. Mark Silver, CAP
Reno Composite Squadron, NV-054

Our mission as Civil Air Patrol is pretty clear; Emergency services, Aerospace Education, and Cadet Programs. Full time jobs each; and every one of the missions are brought to fruition not by corporations with managers and worker bees, but by volunteers. The backbone of Civil Air Patrol is made up of people giving of themselves, their skills, and their hearts.

What’s in the heart of a volunteer? Is it means to an end, to fulfill some part of their life? Is it the comradery of aviation enthusiasts?  Why Civil Air Patrol? Perhaps it’s an individual answer for each of these questions. A sense of common purpose prevails in the squadron rooms around the country. You feel it as the Pledge of Allegiance is recited or the National Anthem plays while watching the cadets raise the flag. There is a high regard for the community each of the volunteers serve in.  Each heart sings its own song but when they come together the chorus they create is something to behold. 

Our volunteers come in various ethnic, education, and professional backgrounds. They come from big cities, small towns, and remote places. They are students, teachers, pilots, mechanics, military, fire, medical, accounting, ministry, business men and women, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. The age ranges from 12 to 90+ in our organization. There are mentors, followers, leaders, organizers, and those that insure safety for all. Civil Air Patrol is the definition of a melting pot of cultures and experiences and it is the combination of their voices that harmonize in meetings and exercises that brings success and pride to all while contributing to our community and nation.

Volunteerism is built right into our Core Values of Civil Air Patrol. Integrity, VOLUNTEER SERVICE, Excellence, and Respect are the foundations of all the individuals that serve. When you ask why they serve in Civil Air Patrol those four pillars of our core come through. One member commented “I personally have a strong desire to make everything I do a benefit to someone other than myself. It’s the reason I work the way I do and the reason I give so much to CAP. If everyone in the world chose jobs and activities that were a benefit to others we’d all be in a better place.”  A cadet adds “I volunteer with CAP in particular because I find the program to be one of the few opportunities that I have to change someone’s life for the better.”  Another cadet explains the benefits they gain saying “I have learned so much in the one year of being in the program. I feel that since being in Civil Air Patrol I have met cadets from all over the country who have given me perspectives that I would’ve never experienced on my own. Civil Air Patrol has definitely made me a better person and a better American.” Learning, benefit others, a better person for it are very lofty values with fire in those hearts to serve.

So what do you do with all this ambition the volunteer carries in the door of the squadron? First off understanding that everyone in the squadron has a vested interest in each other. The new person at the meeting is a valuable asset but so is the two year member and the 7 year member. Investing in each other through shared experience and mentoring is what builds a team. A volunteer has rights. They have the right to expect a well-planned program, guidance, direction, continuing education, and a suitable job assignment. They have the right to promotion and advancement for work well done. The reciprocal to this is that there are responsibilities of the volunteer; a willingness to participate in orientation and training programs, being sincere in the offer of their services, understanding the duties assigned and timely completion of those duties. Accepting guidance and decisions of the coordinators of the program and maintaining good working relationships with teammates is paramount to success.

Recognition is the “pay” of the volunteer. There is nothing more important than to say “What a great job” and “Thank you for your hard work”. The pride you see in someone’s face as they receive a commendation or level of achievement award is there every time. Knowing the command structure understands the volunteer’s commitment and the volunteer understands they are valuable to the success of the program is so important. The security that everyone feels that each member is doing their job with excellence in mind is important. Each individual is important to the daily impact of readiness when the call to duty comes. Just remember that “good job” doesn’t have to come from the commander. It can come from the person sitting next to you or behind you. It also can come from you.

The heart of a volunteer has the dedication to see things through. It is the hope that together the team can accomplish what one alone cannot. The heart of a volunteer is showing up ready to contribute when responding to the call for help.

Each of us is the guardian of the volunteer heart. It is how we keep our volunteers. If you see someone struggling or starting to miss meetings ask why. Contact them. Perhaps we are not fulfilling their needs and it might be something that we can rectify. Each individual when grouped with another becomes a team with leadership. Here is to the best asset Civil Air Patrol holds in its ranks, the volunteer.

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