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South Carolina Air National Guard members donate more than 100 retired uniforms to the Civil Air Patrol

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Carl Clegg
  • 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Though just a collection of sewn cloth, a uniform is more than the sum of its humble parts. Military uniforms provide a physical commonality to members of the same group, force, or country. The Civil Air Patrol and Air National Guard are Total Force partners of the Air Force and wore the same Airman Battle Uniform for several years until the Air Force completed its switch to the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform in 2021.

With more than 800 members, the South Carolina Wing of the CAP performs emergency services and search and rescue operations for state and local agencies as dispatched by the USAF Rescue Coordination Center and is assigned to 1st Air Force. They also transform youth through their cadet program—teaching leadership, aerospace, and character development. All the cadets and nearly all the senior members are volunteers and must purchase their own uniforms to participate in meetings and two-week-long encampments.

“A single set of uniforms can cost an individual $100 dollars or more when you consider the top, bottoms, boots and hat,” said Capt. Billy Wilson, an Air Force veteran and 12-year member of the South Carolina Wing, Aiken Composite Squadron. “For many families who have multiple members serving in the CAP, it can get really expensive, really fast.”.

Most enlisted ANG members were provided four sets of the ABUs beginning in 2008. New sets would be exchanged for old in a one-for-one swap as needed over the course of the next 10 years. Once the OCP uniforms were issued, many in the ANG tucked the ABUs into the back of a closet, attic, or garage. Enter Senior Airman Kevin White.

White is a personnelist in the SCANG’s 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron and has served for three years. He was looking for ways to give back or to serve others when the need arose for someone to shepherd the collection of uniforms. White sent out base-wide emails, decorated and placed numerous collection boxes and enlisted the help of his peers to collect and store the uniforms until they could be handed off to Wilson and the CAP.

Wilson says the uniform donations from the SCANG saved the cadets more than $10,000.

“I wasn’t expecting this many uniforms,” said White. “I just can’t believe we are saving these families so much money,” he continued.

Still early in his Air Force career, White learned some valuable lessons during the volunteer operation. “I learned about teamwork, but more than that—I learned how to depend on others especially when it came to finding a place to store all these uniforms.”

It’s easy to quantify the cost of a uniform, but much harder to quantify the exponential value a uniform provides to a young CAP cadet in South Carolina. Capt. Wilson serves to reduce the deficit of learning and provide much needed character development to cadets that may not get it elsewhere.

“The CAP is recovering it’s numbers from COVID-19 levels,” said Wilson. He added that summer camps are back, and cadets are going to be more prepared this year than last because of this donation.