Prince William Composite Squadron Returns to In-person Meetings

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Provided by Prince William Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol | U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

Civil Air Patrol’s Prince William Composite Squadron recently held its first in-person meeting since March 10, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the squadron, like many other organizations, to conduct its weekly meetings in a virtual platform. Squadron members were overjoyed to meet in one of the buildings belonging to the Hope Hill Church of Manassas.

Squadron senior member Lt. Col. Dave May is a member of the church and approached their leadership to ask if the squadron could use their facilities as a meeting place. “I saw how this virtual environment was affecting the cadets,” said May. “We needed to start meeting in person again. I just happened to think of my church as an option and decided to ask the question. The people of Hope Hill are incredibly generous and want their property to be a blessing for the community.”

Members of the squadron expressed a lot of emotion after waiting 609 days since the last in person meeting. “It’s amazing to be here in person,” said Squadron Commander Capt. Arch McCleskey. “It is just so great to have a home after such a long time.” The squadron was forced to continue meeting virtually even after Prince William County Schools returned to in-person learning. The Virginia Army National Guard Armory in Manassas had been the squadron meeting place for decades, but it has not reopened to external organizations.

“As we all come together this year for the holidays, I am glad to see the squadron meeting in person again as well,” McCleskey continued. “I have thought for many years in my work that relationships are best forged and grown in person. Nowhere is that truer than the CAP squadron. When we can interact as a team, it is like the family getting together for the Holidays…remembering the good times, breaking bread together and rebuilding those personal relationships to withstand the test of time.”

Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Aleena Owens, the squadron’s acting Cadet First Sergeant, said she was very happy to be back in person. “This is outstanding,” she said. “I don’t think people understand how much it took away from us when we dispersed. I sort of hit a wall, and I’m trying to turn that around. I think meeting in person will really help, and I’m so glad to be back.”

Many long-time squadron members returned to the meeting, but several new members met for the very first time in person. “I’m so excited to be here,” said 2nd Lt. Tom Millar, one of the squadron’s cadet programs officers. “I joined in November of 2020 and have been participating virtually the entire time. It is tremendous to see all these young people. I’ve been undoubtedly impressed by these cadets and their efforts to stay connected virtually.”

Cadets have continued to work on their leadership skills even though they were virtual. Many achieved milestone awards and increase in rank and responsibility. Several also received cyber awards, having participated in the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program

The squadron spent the Tuesday meeting on aerospace education. Cadets and seniors took turns experimenting with robots, learning how to fly drones and planes using a computer simulator.

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