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Chapter 10: Civil Air Patrol Service(1998-2000)


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The Beginning of the Civil Air Patrol Years of...

Joe Ely Carrales, III- Senior Member thru Second Lieutenant

My First CAP Flight

My Favorite Girl, Norma Mata, and Myself at our 1999 Holiday Squadron Dinner.

There are points in one’s life where one feels the need to lead a more dutiful life. The seed for my life in the Civil Air Patrol were planed back when I was in High School. While I was on the Premont High School Drama team my junior year, I found a patch and a nametape that bore the lettering “CIVIL AIR PATROL” in white on a blue background. I kept the patch where it remained for several months in my backpack. It might have remained there forever if not for the need of an English class report. My best friend, Jimmy Salazar, had beaten me to the topic of the U.S. Border Patrol. Our teacher, Mr. Bobby Galvan, had stipulated that each person’s report had to be unique. In other words, my report on the Border Patrol could not be submitted. I then did a report on the next best thing, the Civil Air Patrol. What started as a joke, led me to a research project I really enjoyed. Still, my years of service in CAP would be five years away and high school and the University were in my path. I kept CAP in the back of my mind until 1998, when my study of History was in my final years. It was then that I turned to the Internet and made communication with my first CAP contact, Capt. Chris Bujanos, CAP.

In June of 1998 I joined the Civil Air Patrol. The Civil Air Patrol is the Official Auxiliary of the United States Air Force. Capt. Bujanos directed me to a CAP member that had come the Kingsville to Study at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. This was the first time I would meet then TFO Juan F. Arredondo, CAP. Arredondo gave me my first introduction into CAP on the 1st Floor of the library at A&M Kingsville. My first mission was on 6 June 1998 when a rescue helicopter from the Rio Grande Valley was dispatched to aid an injured motorist and never made it. The CAP then went into action and I was there. I received a promotion to 2Lt. in April 1999. I began my service with the Air Force Auxiliary as a member of the Brownsville Composite Squadron/ Charter 42091. There I was under the command of Capt. Chris Bujanos and made many friends, including TFO Juan Arredondo and Major Edmundo Arizpe. I served my first CAP mission as a member of 42091(now TX091) in June of 1998.

My cousin, Joe David Soliz, agreed to join the CAP with me and we speed off 150 or so miles to Brownsville to begin our service. We marveled in awe as we entered the Confederate Air Force Hangar where the Brownsville Composite Squadron conducted its meetings. From that day, we were both hooked and dedicated to CAP. In August of 1998 we requested a transfer to the Corpus Christi Composite Squadron/ Charter 42026 (now TX026) in order to assist Capt. Ivan "Swede" Atchisson and his wife Lt. Gloria Atchisson with that unit's cadet program. At about that time I began my service as Webmaster for Group III/Texas Wing. There I committed myself to the three missions of the Civil Air Patrol and continued to work for a new unit in the Kingsville Area. My goal became renewed with vigor on 21 May 1999, when a meeting was held at the Kleberg County Law Enforcement Center where the first true seeds of that unit were planted. The actual formation of that squadron would remain in the workings to for a long time.

I also became a shelter manager for the Red Cross. This occurred while I was Student teaching at Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco High School in the fall of 1998. I had been detained after school, a student had been having problems with World History and elected to stay for tutorials. As I was leaving; I saw several, actually very few, teachers and principals gathering in the Cafetorium. I followed to discover that they were having hurricane relief training. I asked if I could join them. I figured that the Civil Air Patrol could benefit from having a member with such training. I was told that I could and that no one was ever turned away for such meetings. The main person in charge that day was a very nice lady named Jackie Terrell. She was from the Alice Chapter of the American Red Cross. We saw some videos and took a test covering what to do during a Hurricane. I kept the manuals and continued to study them.

That summer, Mrs. Terrell called me to set up some Hurricane Awareness meeting in Premont. We meet in late-June at the Premont EMS center; formerly the Premont I.S.D. Elementary School lunch room. The first meeting produced few results because very few people attended. It was decided by the Emergency Management Coordinator, Mr. Don Gibson, that the meeting be postponed until we could "get the word out." Wiser words were never spoken. The persons that had attended the first meeting went all out to make public the new date. Newspapers were contacted, flyers were put up and more "word of mouth" was spoken than a small town can stand. Needless to say, the next meeting was standing room only.

We did the same in the summer of 1999 and quickly got a chance to test our metal. This time it was in August, storm clouds gathered over the Gulf of Mexico and gave birth to a monster hurricane named Bret. So, in August 1999 I ran the Hurricane Shelter in Premont, Texas during Hurricane Bret. The storm did mild damage, but demonstrated that the Hurricane Prep Meetings we had in Premont at the opening of the season were well worth it. It was a long night that August 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. We set up the shelter long before the storm hit and signed everyone in. 2Lt. Joe David Soliz and I were the only two CAP officers in attendance.

Along with the Hurricane, I was knocked off my feet by another irresistible force of Nature. That was Norma Mata, my girlfriend. I have never been happier with anyone and I know of no other woman that has brightened my life like my Bella. Norma and I started out in an unusual manner, I asked her out to eat more that 10, yes 10, times before she finally said yes. I am very glad that she did. When she did say yes, I asked her to our annual CAP holiday dinner, almost two months in advance. She said she would have to think on it. Needless to say, I will always love her.

Y2K was an interesting experience. Aside from a few cellular phone disruptions, everything went well and was festive. I had played a gig near Freer, Texas with a friend of mine, Ralph Cuellar. That, as you know, was the last night of the 20th Century and everyone was ready to have a good time. I was, until we came back from Freer. I thought I would change into BDU's in order to handle some $100 worth of fireworks. This meant I would have to go home to Premont, change and then drive to my Grandfather's ranch. This plan was followed up to the point I had to drive the 5 miles to the ranch. Remember that the trip had been pretty routine all the way to and from Freer, Texas. On that short trip, I hit a large dog that was standing in the middle of the road as if it could not be killed. Well, it completely miscalculated. The dog was dead, my new car was ruined and my night was destroyed. How could something like that have happened?

As I entered the ranch (with my car's fiberglass facade in pieces) I tried to recover from that evil that had robbed me of what should have been the happiest night ever. We threw some meat on the pit and listened as the 21st century came all over the United States of America. Norma, my parents, my brother and myself then popped some bottle rockets on our ranch, heeding all possible fire safety and model rocketry guidelines (yeah right).

The new century rolled into Premont, Texas with a heavy fog. It was the thickest fog any of us had ever seen. We laughed to ourselves because we were still living. Didn't we know that the world had ended? I'm sure every doomsayer that evening was either drunk or getting that way. The new century had arrived and we were all, no matter how much we had wished we weren't, alive.

2Lt. J.D. Soliz, 2Lt. J.E. Carrales and 1Lt. J. F. Arredondo
January 2000 would be a great year for us all. As the days passed, and we attended more meetings. We began to have more function in our Civil Air Patrol unit. Major Arizpe had told us in November 1999 that they had planned a Squadron Leadership School (SLS) for some time in this new century. When we heard that Group III/Texas Wing was going to have it in Corpus Christi, Texas, we jumped at the chance. So, my cousin, 2Lt. Joe David Soliz, CAP and I attended an SLS in Corpus Christi, Texas on January 28, 2000. We had a great time meeting with members from our Group. There we saw our friends from Brownsville; Captain Bujanos, now 1Lt. Juan Arredondo and Major Arizpe. We learned many things about how the squadron is run and I gave a mock briefing to test one of the skills we had reviewed. It was a long weekend, but we did it. From that weekend on, we felt that there was stability never before felt in Group III. Brownsville, Corpus and Victoria seemed to be working in complete harmony. All was well, until...

A Change of Command ceremony was held on 19 February 2000 to install the new commander of Group III of the Texas Wing as well as new commanders from the Brownsville Composite Squadron (B-CAP) and the Corpus Christi Composite Squadron (CC-CAP). Lt. Col. Mucio Garza, CAP was installed as the new Group commander. Lt. Col. Garza has served with distinction as the CC-CAP squadron commander for nearly 9 years. In his non-CAP life Lt. Col. Garza is a registered engineer and Water Production Superintendent in charge of Water Production for the City of Corpus Christi. Assuming command of B-CAP is former Brownsville Cadet officer 2Lt. Ariel Merrell, CAP and for CC-CAP former Hawaii Wing member Mario Reyes, CAP.

I was appointed Group III Public Affairs Officer by Lt. Col. Garza on 19 February 2000 where I publish our Group's newsletter, Through the Air, Over South Texas . This newsletter is part of my plan to revive the CAP Public Affairs Program in South Texas. The First Issue was for March 2000 and covered a few events and promotions. It was one page, front and back. From the most humble seeds grow the world's tallest trees. With that fact in mind, I continue to publish.

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