The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is hosting its 2016 National Conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, from August 11 through 13. Two former astronauts who are Tennessee natives will be the special guests for the convention. The Tennessee astronauts who will be honored at the convention are Robert L. Gibson and Margaret Rhea Seddon, M.D.
“Civil Air Patrol enjoys a proud legacy of selfless sacrifice and service to country and community that spans decades,” says Maj. Gen. Joseph R. Vazquez, current CAP National Commander. “The first Civil Air Patrol members of 1941 were a heroic breed, men and women who served their country by sinking or chasing away German submarines off America’s East and Gulf coasts. As a result of their bravery, patriotism and tenacity, CAP subchasers effectively thwarted German U-boat attacks and, in the process, saved countless lives.
“Today, CAP handles 90 percent of inland search and rescue missions, with approximately 75-100 lives saved each year. Our members are generally the first on the scene transmitting satellite digital images of the damage within seconds around the world and providing disaster relief and emergency services following natural and manmade disasters, including such phenomena as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Texas and Oklahoma wildfires, tornadoes in the south and central U.S., North Dakota flash flooding and the October 2006 earthquake in Hawaii, as well as humanitarian missions along the U.S. and Mexican border.”
Retired Navy Captain Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson is a former American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, aeronautical engineer and a retired NASA astronaut as well as a professional pilot who currently races regularly at the annual Reno Air Races. Capt. Gibson joined NASA in 1978 and flew five missions into space from 1984 to 1995, and commanded the Space Shuttle mission STS-71. The mission was the first Space Shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir and exchange crew members.
Dr. Margaret Rhea Seddon is a physician and retired NASA astronaut. A veteran of three space shuttle flights, Dr. Seddon spent 19 years with NASA. In 1978, she was selected as one of the first six women to enter the Astronaut Program. She served as a Mission Specialist on flights in 1985 and 1991 and as a Payload Commander in charge of all science activities on her final flight in 1993. After leaving NASA in 1996, Dr. Seddon was the Assistant Chief medical Officer of the Vanderbilt Medical Group in Nashville for 11 years. Dr. Seddon was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2015, the same year her first book, Go For Orbit, was released.
In the late 1930s, more than 150,000 volunteers with a love for aviation argued for an organization to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country. After the war, Congress established Civil Air Patrol as the auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force.
Three primary mission areas were set forth at that time and continue to this day: aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency services.