Volunteer civic-assist groups growing

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Two local groups offer a way to serve their country without joining the military.

Called upon by the state and federal government in times of need, the Civil Air Patrol and the New Mexico State Guard stand at the ready to provide ground and air support in times of domestic crisis.
In recent months, the groups have begun to grow. Disbanded until four years ago, the Clovis Civil Air Patrol has grown to more than 15 members.

Similarly, the local branch of the State Guard has been upgraded from a company to a battalion, bringing together companies from Roswell and the Clovis-Portales areas.

Maj. Marvin Arnold credits a post-911 environment for the growth, citing a desire to be of service to the country as a large part of membership increase in civilian reserve organizations.

With current numbers around 25, Arnold said the goal is to have 75.
Once a month the all-volunteer groups gather for training and organizational meetings.

Civilians, former military, retirees and even youth join the groups in the hopes of serving their communities by sharing their skills and often to learn new skills, according to the spokespersons for each.

While both groups prepare to assist their communities in times of trouble, they are also distinctly different. The New Mexico State Guard is at the disposal of the governor and answers only within the state. Arnold, leader of the battalion based in Clovis, said many of the group are medical and fire responders by profession, he said.

Arnold said there primary duty would be to help stabilize a traumatized area in the aftermath of disaster.

“Largely we’re made up of middle-aged veterans and people who want to serve their country but don’t want to be put in the position of being deployed,” Arnold said.

Meanwhile, the Civil Air Patrol serves as civilian complement to the Air Force. The flight-oriented group answers to the Air Force in the capacity of aerial and ground searches and rescue in the event of a disaster. State and local governments can also request their services, according to 2nd Lt. Richard Austin, public affairs officer for the Clovis Civil Air Patrol.

Originally, the Civil Air Patrol was born of citizens concerned about the nation’s borders during World War II, Austin said. In modern times, they offer assistance when disasters such as Hurricane Katrina strike.
In addition, they check military flight routes to be sure they are free of hazards, coordinate communications networks and can survey fires or disasters from the air.

More than 50 percent of their number is retired pilots and people with aviation backgrounds, Austin said.

“We’ve come a long way… we’re wanting to strengthen this and build it up so it (can) be an asset in this area,” Austin said.