The Tennessee Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, made history Saturday, March 28, when it installed its first female commander of the state organization.
Lt. Col. Arlinda Bailey, 64, a resident of Johnson City, was promoted to full colonel and succeeded Col. Bill Lane as wing commander during the wing’s conference at Middle Tennessee State University.
The significance of this appointment is not lost on Bailey, who joined in 1998 to help her son serve as a cadet in CAP’s youth program. But she shrugged off the unique standing she will hold in the wing’s history.
“It’s not about me,” said Bailey, who currently serves as the wing’s vice commander. “It’s about the more than 1,000 volunteers who give their time, talent and treasure to serve the people of Tennessee through the work of our wing’s local squadrons.”
CAP’s Tennessee Wing, headquartered in Alcoa with squadrons in cities across the state, is best known for its emergency services, which make up 90 percent of the nation’s inland search and rescue missions. It is also well known for its cadet program and aerospace education outreach.
The Tennessee Wing was called to duty this year as part of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s response to the recent emergency declarations put forward during this year’s ice storms.
“Our volunteers responded to the state’s call for assistance by providing ground support and aerial photography for TEMA crews,” Bailey said. “Col. Lane and I deeply appreciate the efforts put forward by CAP members in this state of emergency.”
Bailey, who grew up in Taylor, Arkansas,, graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1982 and worked as an electronic sales representative for Texas Instruments and a merchandise representative for the Procter and Gamble Corp.
She married her husband, Walt, almost 38 years ago, and became a full-time mom after the birth of two sons, Ed and Sam. Sam eventually enrolled as a cadet in the Kingsport Composite Squadron, which prompted Bailey to also volunteer in the Air Force auxiliary.
Bailey and Lane met each other while serving in the Kingsport squadron, which later prompted Lane to serve as a mentor to Bailey in progressively challenging assignments in Tennessee Wing. Lane appointed Bailey as his second when he was named wing commander in 2011.
“Col. Lane was one of the first CAP members that I met when my son joined CAP as a cadet,” Bailey said. “He set the bar high and pushed me to succeed. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as his vice commander.”
Bailey served in a series of prominent roles before her appointment as wing commander. Before joining the wing staff in 2011, she was commander of the wing’s East Tennessee group, overseeing nine squadrons and about 275 CAP members.
She also served as deputy group commander and commander of the Kingsport Composite Squadron from 2005 to 2009. She was honored as the wing’s squadron commander of the year in 2006.
“Lt. Col. Bailey exemplifies the tradition of volunteer service that is prevalent in the Tennessee Wing,” Lane said. “She has excelled in a variety of challenging assignments, such as serving as CAP incident commander during the Deep Water oil spill and as air crew for damage assessments after hurricanes in Florida. She is well suited for command of our wing.”
Bailey will assume command during the wing’s annual conference at MTSU. CAP’s Tennessee Wing and the university entered into a partnership last year to promote aerospace education and enrich the wing’s cadet program.
Retired NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle commander Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson, a retired U.S. Navy captain, was keynote speaker at the conference, where Lane transferred command of the wing to Bailey.
“Middle Tennessee State University is honored to host the Tennessee Wing for this historic change-of-command,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “We are proud of our long affiliation with CAP and look forward to working with Wing Commander Bailey in future endeavors.”
MTSU’s history with CAP dates back to 1948 when a volunteer squadron of professors and students operated from an airfield that was located on the Murfreesboro campus.
— Andrew Oppmann (email@example.com)