Horsham Guardsman saving cadet honor guard from collapse

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
Michael Leone, the Aerospace Education Officer for the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 801 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said he held back tears while writing an email to thank Tech. Sgt. Danielle Heidrick, the 111th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of the fitness assessment cell.

"I am absolutely speechless," said Leone in the email. "I don't even have the words to express my appreciation."

On Jan. 9, Leone and a handful of the cadet CAP honor guard visited to practice and interact with the 111th Attack Wing Honor Guard here. It was during this innocuous event that Leone mentioned troubling news to Heidrick, who is part of the Wing's honor guard.

"Mr. Leone told us that they their unit was being moved to another location, and that location wouldn't be ready for at least six months or more," said Heidrick. "In the meantime, the unit would have to disband and find new ones to train with or not train at all. And I felt that was such a shame for a group of kids who were so passionate about what they do."

Leone expressed similar sentiments about disassembling his honor guard.

"This is personal to me," said Leone, a Navy veteran. "Keeping these kids together is like keeping a family together. And the thought of sending them to separate units or not training at all is heartbreaking."

A Unit in Distress

The CAP Squadron 108 Honor Guard practiced on the second floor of the Liberty Bell Museum located in Zion's United Church of Christ in Allentown. They also utilized local parking lots and open spaces to accommodate for larger scale drill maneuvers.

Recently, it became apparent that they would no longer able to use their current facilities. And while an alternate space may become available, the unit was informed that they couldn't be guaranteed the possible plot for at least six to eight months.

"A few months is a long time for an honor guard to not practice," said Leone. "And that amount of time apart affects morale, esprit de corps. These kids worked too hard for us to stand by and let their honor guard be taken away from them."

Part of the CAP Northeast Region, Pennsylvania Wing, Group 4 Honor Guard is composed of multiple members, 15 to 20 years old, who stated that they intend on pursuing a career in the military.

Leone said he fears that dissolution of this ensemble might even have a negative effect on their desire to serve in the future.

"These cadets are the future of our military and I don't want us to fail them," he said. "So, I've been desperate to find someone to help us."

Answering the Call

While revealing the plight of his flight to Heidrick, Leone didn't realize that he was speaking to the Guardsmen who would step up and answer his plea for help.

"My first thought while Mr. Leone was talking was that we have buildings on this base that are not being actively used," said Heidrick. "And we're here--we're here for drill. So, why not open up a building to them and have them be in this environment with us."

Heidrick continued by explaining that hosting the CAP cadet's honor guard could not only give them the space they needed to perform their maneuvers, but also lend itself to interaction between Air National Guardsmen and the cadets. She stated that one available building has a classroom attached to provide the setting for the formal education CAP cadets also receive as part of the program.

According to Air Force Instruction 10-2701, Organization and Function of the Civil Air Patrol, the cadet program with the CAP is aimed at supporting the Air Force through many ways. The AFI states that Air Force installations and units are authorized to provide support for aerospace education of cadet members. Another aspect of support noted in the document is introducing American youth to opportunities and careers in the Air Force.

Backed by the AFI, Heidrick said she also feels that she has a personal responsibility to assist the cadets.

"It became very apparent to me early on in my career [in the military] that what I'm supposed to do here in the Air Force is take care of people in one way or another," said Heidrick, a mother of four. "And I've always done that."

In the Works

In the past, Horsham AGS has hosted CAP members, both cadets and senior leaders, for various training events and support agreements had been generated to forge a strong bond between Air National Guardsmen and the volunteer auxiliary of the Air Force.

Currently, Heidrick is drafting up a proposal to allow the CAP Squadron 801 Honor Guard to use the installation during regularly -scheduled drills and work alongside their military counterparts. A cursory query into this allocation of assets gained enough positive support from 111th ATKW senior leadership for Heidrick to start the administrative process to make it official.

Leone expressed elation upon receiving news that Heidrick was drafting the paperwork to get his cadets what they needed to continue their mission.

"You have made an old sailor quite happy," Leone said about Heidrick in an email.

And again his emotion was shared by Heidrick, but on happier terms this time.

Upon reading his response, Heidrick smiled and stated, "Doesn't that make [helping someone in need] all worthwhile?"