Civil Air Patrol Marks 50 Years at Maxwell

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Fifty years ago, this past July 6, Civil Air Patrol officially dedicated its new home at Maxwell Air Force Base. In a ceremony held in front of the old base hospital, CAP National Headquarters was dedicated on July 6, 1967, as Maxwell and Montgomery city officials welcomed some 128 officers, Airmen, and civilians in the new command.

The symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony at the entrance to the new headquarters at Maxwell’s 48,000-square-foot Building 714 was attended by then-Montgomery Mayor Earl D. James and Col. R.B. Walters, who then served as commander of Maxwell.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. William W. Wilcox, CAP’s national commander at the time, and Col. Lyle W. Castle, then serving as CAP’s National Board chairman, stated they were confident CAP’s association with Montgomery and Maxwell “will be the very finest.”

The ceremony followed a massive move from Ellington Air Force Base near Houston, where National Headquarters had previously been housed. According to accounts from the CAP Times, the organization’s monthly newspaper, the actual movement of supplies and equipment started June 3, and the last truckload was delivered in Alabama on June 17.

Eighteen vans were used to haul office supplies, furnishings, and equipment to the newly renovated base hospital, which had been vacated about three years before when a new 225-bed hospital was completed across the street from Building 714. A special carrier was used to transport machinery and chemicals used by CAP’s printing facility at Ellington, and two railroad boxcars shipped book paper stock to supply the print shop.

Records at the time revealed the vans carried 350,350 pounds, the special carrier hauled 29,680 pounds and railway cars were loaded with 229,140 pounds. Total cost of the shipment was $24,701.23.

About 50 percent of the National Headquarters personnel — 22 officers, 29 Airmen and 12 civilians — made the move from Ellington to Maxwell. Because vacancies had to be filled and other complications were associated with the move into Building 714, employees encountered about a six-week backlog of work when they reported in late June. The backlog was eventually made up with a six-day work week imposed temporarily by CAP leaders.

Since Civil Air Patrol and its Air Force liaison, CAP-USAF, were relocated to Maxwell from Ellington, there have been several overhauls to Building 714 — the latest completed in the fall of 2010. This $5.5 million makeover by the Air Force preserved the historic building’s façade but modernized its interior.

Another ribbon-cutting ceremony, much like the one held in 1967, commemorated the occasion on Oct. 28, 2010.

The 18-month renovation, which came in at considerably more than the $83,147.56 that it took to erect Building 714 some eight decades earlier, upgraded mechanical, electrical, fire suppression, architectural and other system components. Inside space was reconfigured for modern office use, but the outside of the building — one of several on Maxwell listed on the National Register of Historic Places — looks much the same as it did in 1931.

Building 714 began as a 30-bed hospital. Improvements to the facility in subsequent decades pushed capacity to 186 beds. By the late 1950s, however, the building was no longer in the best condition, and in 1960 the U.S. Congress authorized construction of the new base hospital, which was completed in May 1964.

At the National Headquarters rededication in 2010, then CAP National Commander Maj. Gen. Amy Courter, expressed the sentiments of many who have occupied Building 714 over the past 50 years.

“On behalf of the more than 60,000 members of CAP, I want to thank the U.S. Air Force — including our CAP-USAF co-workers — for providing us with such an outstanding environment to carry out CAP’s major missions of emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education,” said Courter. “Building 714 is a perfect fit for CAP — a stucco-and-cement symbol of the will to survive and the desire to continue to serve.”

Published July 12, 2017

By Headquarters Civil Air Patrol Public Affairs

Photo By: Susan Schneider