SEQUIM — Dungeness Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol has had a change of command, with 1st Lt. Darren Fitzgerald relieving Maj. Mark Swanson, CAP.
Fitzgerald accepted command in traditional military ceremonies May 28 at the unit’s meeting place at Sequim Middle School.
State wing commander Col. Shelly Nelson appointed Fitzgerald the new leader for the Sequim unit on May 20, and thanked Swanson for his service.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, requires that commanders serve no more than four years.
When Swanson was appointed the commander on May 20, 2015, the unit had five to six members. The unit was formerly based at Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles and moved to Sequim in October 2014 “with just a few members and almost no money,” Swanson said.
It grew to a high of 30 members in 2019.
Citing a desire to spend more time with his family, Swanson said he will step back but remain a part of the unit in a support role. He has been a member of Civil Air Patrol for almost 15 years and served as a state wing-level public affairs officer in New Jersey before moving to Washington in 2014.
Fitzgerald told attendees he plans a series of changes, including a greater responsibilities and roles for cadets in the squadron. He also plans to pursue more emergency service training opportunities with organizations outside of Civil Air Patrol.
More than 50 persons were in attendance at the change of command, including members of the Olympic Chapter of the Military Officers of America Association and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The unit recognized and thanked David Larkin of Flotilla 44 of the USCG Auxiliary, a former commander of the CAP unit about 20 years ago when it was based in Port Angeles.
Fitzgerald said he welcomes new members and plans a recruitment drive through the summer and fall. The unit meets in the Sequim Middle School cafeteria, 301 W. Hendrickson Road, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays throughout the year.
Cadet membership is open to teens age 12-18 with an interest in aviation, aerospace or the military. The unit is also looking for adults age 21 and over with an interest in aviation and emergency services.
Mark Swanson is the assistant managing editor of the Peninsula Daily News.