WASHINGTON – Longtime U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is the newest member of Civil Air Patrol’s Hall of Honor.
Harkin — a former Navy fighter pilot who commands CAP’s Congressional Squadron — became the 34th person inducted into the Hall of Honor during a congressional reception Thursday in the Senate’s Russell Office Building. In addition to members of Congress, CAP’s 52 wing commanders, visiting Capitol Hill for CAP’s annual Legislative Day, attended the induction ceremony.
“This is Civil Air Patrol’s highest honor, our way of thanking Senator Harkin for his 30 years of CAP service,” National Commander Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr said. “He has been a staunch supporter of CAP’s missions for America.”
Soon after joining Civil Air Patrol in 1984, Harkin worked on the first full appropriations bill for CAP and has touted CAP’s volunteer missions and programs to his Senate and House colleagues ever since.
To do this he often reached across the aisle to work with his Republican colleagues on CAP issues and missions vital to the nation and thousands of communities.
He has also repeatedly promoted the cost effectiveness of CAP with government agencies such as the Air Force and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Harkin has been a rated CAP mission pilot and flown a number of training and actual missions, including counterdrug flights off the southern tip of Florida.
He also has served as an adviser to CAP’s national commanders, providing valuable insight on how CAP can best address some of its budget and operational challenges. Most recently, he introduced Congressional Gold Medal legislation honoring the unusual service of CAP’s founding members during World War II, which quickly passed the Senate under unanimous consent and with 83 co-sponsors. A similar bill is awaiting a final vote in the House.
As the newest CAP Hall of Honor inductee, Harkin joins CAP’s most prestigious body. Previous inductees have included Gill Robb Wilson, who served as the first director of Civil Air Patrol, and World War II-era Gen. Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz, the first chief of staff of the Air Force.
Harkin is only the second member of Congress in the Hall of Honor, joining former New York Congressman and fellow CAP Col. Lester Wolff, who was inducted in 1985.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs about 85 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 71 lives annually.
Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.
The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 72 years.
CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans.