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Wise assumes command of Harford Composite Squadron

Ells and Wise with squadron guidon
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Maj. Scott Wise (right) assumes command of the Harford Composite Squadron as he accepts the unit's guidon from Maj. Don Ells, Group II commander.

Lt. Col. Jim Schmidt completes command term

3/14/2017––On January 9, 2017, Major Scott Wise assumed command of Civil Air Patrol’s Harford Composite Squadron, a unit of the Maryland Wing, during a change of command ceremony held at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. The ceremony is one of the most formal conducted in Civil Air Patrol, and marks the occasion of official transference of responsibility from the outgoing commander to the incoming, signified by the physical transference of the squadron guidon between the two officers. Maj. Don Ells, Maryland Wing’s Group II commander, presided over the ceremony.

The outgoing squadron commander is Lt. Col. James Schmidt, who commanded Harford Composite Squadron for 3 years and a member of Civil Air Patrol for 15 years. While he originally joined to spend more time with his son, a former cadet, the program's focus on aviation gave Schmidt the final motivation he needed to attain his private pilot's license, which he did 12 years ago. This is Schmidt’s second term serving as squadron commander, as he previously served as squadron commander from September 2004 to February 2007. Schmidt believes that the best part of being the commander of Harford squadron has been "working with the long standing tradition of excellent cadets and highly professional senior staff, as well as being able to watch the cadets move up through the program and go on to do great things outside of the squadron.”

Over the course of his tenure, Schmidt states there has been more emphasis on cadet orientation flights and senior member qualifications in emergency services. When asked what changes or improvements he personally observed taking place, he pointed out that the commanders don't really make the changes, saying, “It's the cadet and senior staff members that do (the changing), and they get the job done well.”

Schmidt pointed out Harford’s being named as 2016 Group II Squadron of the Year was a direct result of the hard work put in by the squadron’s members and staff , and he hopes that the incoming commander continues the tradition of excellence at the squadron. In addition to serving twice as squadron commander, Lt. Col. Schmidt has been a mission pilot since 2009 and is currently an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rated mission pilot qualified to fly five different CAP aircraft as well as multi-engine aircraft with approximately 850 hours flying experience. From 2007 - 2011, he served as Maryland Wing’s communications officer during which he managed and installed all seven of Maryland Wing's Very High Frequency (VHF) radio repeater systems, for which he received a National Commander's Commendation. This and his mission pilot rating are the two accomplishments of which he is most proud.

Incoming squadron commander Maj. Scott Wise has been a member of Civil Air Patrol for eight years, and brings a wealth of experience to his new position. In addition to previously serving as deputy commander and deputy commander for cadets, he also has experience as the squadron officer for health services, administration, professional development, aerospace education, personnel, public affairs, cadet testing, and drug demand reduction. When asked what his favorite position has been so far,Wise declared that serving as deputy commander for cadets was his favorite position and the one of which he was most proud. Aside from holding the position himself he greatly enjoyed passing it on to other senior members in whom he saw potential, helping them to improve the position, the cadets, and themselves.

Wise’s other notable accomplishments include counterdrug missions in the summers of 2014 and 2015, as well as most recently traveling to North and South Carolina to assist with relief missions related to the 2016 Hurricane Matthew. As Lt. Col. Schmidt was often away on business travel, Wise was frequently called upon to be acting commander. Wise felt the next logical step in his CAP career was to apply for squadron commander. “I wanted to be commander so that I can help the staff we already have continue making the improvements to the program that they've been doing and help the squadron grow," he said.

Wise’s main goals as commander will be recruiting new members, improving member retention, and complying with new and changing regulations, particularly in the wake of the Air Force's Total Force movement. He wants the squadron to grow in numbers as well as depth so that in the future, when the cadet staff go on to college or the senior members change positions, there will be multiple viable candidates ready and able to fill the positions, not just one obvious candidate for any of them. Wise looks forward to the future of the squadron saying, "I really appreciate everybody's support that they've expressed over the years."

The change of command ceremony was yet another hallmark in the distinguished CAP careers of Lt. Col. Schmidt and Maj. Wise. When the ceremony was over, the two men gathered for pictures in front of the guidon and the flag. Cadets and senior members alike gathered to shake their hands.

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees. CAP, in its Total Force role, operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually. Civil Air Patrol’s 56,000 members nationwide also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Its members additionally play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program. Performing missions for America for the past 75 years, CAP received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014 in honor of the heroic efforts of its World War II veterans. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit for more information.

Harford Composite Squadron meets every Monday from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Aberdeen ProvingGrounds S.T.E.M. Center located at 4085 Darlington St., Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21005.

Editor’s Note: Editorial assistance for this article was provided by Capt Jim Iacarino.