Navy Hero Talks Leadership with Cadets

Retired Navy Capt. Paul X. Rinn describes events after his ship was nearly sunk by a mine. Photo by 1st Lt Kevin Geiss, CAP.
Retired Navy Capt. Paul X. Rinn describes events after his ship was nearly sunk by a mine. Photo by 1st Lt Kevin Geiss.

Thirty Civil Air Patrol cadets and volunteer officers of the Mount Vernon Composite Squadron were treated to an evening with an extraordinary Naval leader on May 16.

Retired Navy Capt. Paul X. Rinn came that night to speak about leadership, bravery, and heroism.

Events that occurred after the ship under his command were the context for his presentation.  The USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG58) struck an Iranian mine while on patrol in the Persian Gulf on April 14, 1988.

That day Rinn commanded a crew of 220 sailors from 46 states ranging from Washington State to Key West, Fla.

“The most important part of leadership is to understand your people and how they can rise up in certain situations,” said Rinn.  “Sometimes it is people whom you least expect that will do the thing that may save your life.”

The explosion blew a 24 foot hole in the hull, broke the ship’s keel, and lit fires on four decks.  The ship was sinking and without power.

As he recounted the story, he focused on the actions of key individuals whose innovation and courage helped to keep the ship afloat.

There was the troubled fireman who was the only person able to start the lone functioning engine while isolated in a forward compartment.  He also described the actions of a communications technician who kept intruding water at bay to keep the ship’s pumps running.

After many hours, the fires were finally extinguished and the ship limped out of the mine field on emergency power.  No lives were lost that long night 25 years ago.

Hearing this story inspired C/A1C Mary Ruscoe to comment, “Learning the jobs of those around you can pay off in a crisis situation.”

“The part of the story that struck me the most is that even though the ship was destroyed and the captain had a broken foot, he stayed with it and handled the situation,” said C/A1C Jonathan Ruscoe.

In closing, Rinn challenged the cadets to think about what kind of legacy they want to leave behind.

“Ordinary individuals can accomplish extraordinary feats if well led, trained, and given a sense of focus pride and purpose,” said Rinn. “Invest in your people and they will invest in themselves.”

C/2d Lt James Hildebrand summed up his impressions.  “Capt. Rinn’s story was truly inspirational. His story is an example of how hard work and preparation can truly save your life,” he said.

Congratulations to MVCS Award Winners

Col Richard Cooper, former NatCap wing commander addresses the CAP memebrs gathered at the 2012 annual conference.  Photo by 1st Lt Kevin Geiss.
Col Richard Cooper, former NatCap wing commander, addresses CAP members gathered at the 2012 annual conference. Photo by 1st Lt Kevin Geiss.

On 30 March, volunteer officers and cadets from the National Capital Wing gathered at Joint Base Andrews, Md. for the NatCap Wing annual conference and later at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C. for the annual banquet.  In addition to the NatCap senior leaders, also in attendance were Brig Gen Joseph Vazquez, CAP national vice commander and Col Larry Ragland, Middle East Region Commander.  Photos from the event are on the Wing Facebook page.

2012 NatCap Wing level awards were:

Safety Officer of the Year                   Lt Col Louis Volchansky

Property Manager of the Year           Maj Hagop Avedissian

Public Affairs Officer of the Year      2d Lt Kevin Geiss

Squadron of Merit                             Mount Vernon Composite Squadron

Cadet NCO of the Year                     C/SMSgt Hunter Harlow

Cadet of the Year                              Cadet Maj Christopher Fry


Additional awards presented to MVCS members were as follows:


Commander’s Commendations

C/Maj Christopher A. Fry, Cadet of the Year

C/CMSgt Jack H. Wilson, ground team support

Lt Col Thomas R. McGrath, Squadron Personnel Officer

Capt Claude D. Salch, Squadron Administrative Officer

Lt Col Kenneth W. McKinley, Squadron Emergency Services Officer

Maj Hagop A. Avedissian, Squadron Logistics Officer

Lt Col Raymond L. Greene, Squadron Aerospace Education Officer

2d Lt John Fornshell, Squadron Aerospace Education Officer for Cadets

Lt Col Louis R. Volchansky, Squadron Safety Officer

1st Lt Kevin T. Geiss, Squadron Public Affairs Officer

Lt Col Jeffrey F. Geller, Deputy Commander for Seniors

Maj William C. Teng, Squadron Chaplain

1st Lt Joseph R. Gruber, Squadron Communications Officer

C/Maj Joseph L. Frech, dedication and selfless service to success of DC045 cadet program

1st Lt Kevin T. Geiss, Inauguration support

C/CMSgt Thomas Murphy, Color Guard team commander


Achievement Awards

C/SMSgt Hunter Harlow, Cadet NCO of the Year

C/Amn Joseph Abbe, Inauguration support

C/SMSgt Gabriel Abbe, Inauguration support

C/A1C Dylan Sjostrom, Inauguration support

C/SSgt Aysia Moss, Inauguration support

2d Lt Samuel Abbe, Inauguration support

SM Carla Moss, Inauguration support

C/MSgt Benjamin Geiss, Inauguration support

Lt Col Jeff Geller, Inauguration support

C/SMSgt Gabriel Abbe, Cyber Patriot

C/Amn Joseph C. Abbe, Cyber Patriot

C/MSgt Benjamin S. Geiss, Cyber Patriot

C/Amn Austin T. Croy, Cyber Patriot

C/CMSgt Thomas M. Murphy, Cyber Patriot

C/2d Lt James A. Hildebrand, Cyber Patriot

C/Maj Christopher A. Fry, Cyber Patriot

2d Lt Karen Maguyon, Color Guard escort

2d Lt Raymond Ruscoe, Color Guard Senior Advisor

2s Lt John Fornshell, Color Guard escort

C/A1C Dylan Sjostrom, Color Guard member

C/Amn Mary Ruscoe, Color Guard member

C/A1C Nebay Haile, Color Guard member

C/CMSgt Hunter Harlow, Color Guard member


Homeland Security Ribbons

Lt Col Jeff Geller

Maj John Held

Lt Col Thomas McGrath

Lt Col Kenneth McKinley

Maj James Rodriquez

Capt Claude Salch


Disaster Relief Ribbon with “V” device

Lt Col Laird Stanton

1st Lt Kevin Geiss

Lt Col Jeff Geller

Lt Col Thomas McGrath

Lt Col Kenneth McKinley

2d Lt Mark Patrick

Maj James Rodriguez

Capt Claude Salch


Find Ribbons

Lt Col Jeff Geller

2d Lt Susan Harbowy

Maj John Held

Lt Col Thomas McGrath

Capt Claude Salch

Lt Col Louis Volchansky


Cadet Orientation Pilot Ribbons

Lt Col Jeff Geller

Maj John Held

Lt Col Thomas McGrath

Lt Col Lou Volchansky

1st Lt Maxwell Phillips



Danish Emergency Management Presentation to National Capital Wing


Lt Col Per Rasmussen of the Danish Ministry of Defence speaks with Lt Col JD Ellis of the National Capital Wing. Photo by 2d Lt Kevin Geiss.

The National Capital (NatCap) Wing held its annual conference on 17 March at the Air National Guard Readiness Center on Joint Base Andrews, Md.  About 100 members (including more than 20 cadets) of NatCap attended this year’s conference.

CAP volunteer officers provided presentations on a number of topics including professional development, aircraft safety, chaplain’s affairs, communications equipment, and cadet programs.  These topics were available to cadets and volunteer officers in parallel sessions throughout the day.

A special guest, Lt Col Per Rasmussen, gave one of the feature presentations.  Lt Col Rasmussen serves as the Assistant Defense, Military, Naval, and Air Attaché for the Embassy of Denmark in Washington, D.C.  His presentation focused on the Danish Home Guard and the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), both of which are part of the Department of Emergency Planning in the Danish Ministry of Defence.

 “Meeting people you like and working alongside others with whom you have something in common – that keeps people engaged”

The Danish Home Guard is comparable to the National Guard in the United States.  The Home Guard includes about 50,000 volunteers – a size comparable to CAP in the United States – and integrates army, navy, air force, and infrastructure specific elements for a coordinated response to a variety of operations.

The Home Guard provides Danish citizens an opportunity to participate in the defense and support of their homeland.  Among their many activities, the Home Guard may be activated to provide assistance to the police during national disasters or search and rescue operations.

A key characteristic of the Home Guard is the local presence of volunteers throughout the nation.  This distributed force contributes to the combined preparedness of their society.  The infrastructure element of the Home Guard assists in protection of important structures, such as railroads, electric power grids, and telephone networks.

Home Guard volunteers display a high degree of dedication and pride in their service.  Lt Col Rasmussen indicated that it is not uncommon for an individual that is a private pilot to fly unreimbursed missions in his or her own Cessna 172 in support of Home Guard activities.

Col Richard Cooper, commander of NatCap Wing, was in attendance and said, “I liked how the colonel described the integration of volunteers with the military to support civilian search and rescue operations.”

Lt Col Rasmussen summarized one of the reasons Danish citizens continue to volunteer their time without pay to be a part of national emergency response activities.  “Meeting people you like and working alongside others with whom you have something in common – that keeps people engaged,” he said.  Those of us in CAP can certainly relate to that.

“Prevention is a part of all of our planning.  It is better to prevent the fire than to have to respond to it,” said Lt Col Rasmussen.


Lt Col Per Rasmussen gives a presentation to the National Capital Wing on emergency management in the country of Denmark. Photo by 2d Lt Kevin Geiss.

Among its many missions, the DEMA and its over 1500 personnel manage the Danish National Fire and Rescue Service.  Full-time employees are integrated with volunteers to assist local fire and rescue services, police and other authorities.  The DEMA staff is of particular importance in the case of major or prolonged incidents that require substantial manpower or specialized equipment.

The DEMA responds to natural or man-made disasters, whether in the homeland or in an international setting.  The DEMA has been involved in 75 major operations since the year 2000 to include foreign humanitarian support.

Lt Col Rasmussen provided some perspective on the scale of emergency management challenges in Denmark.  The country of Denmark is about the size of the state of Maryland in both land area and population (just over 5.5 million people).  Emergency preparedness and planning are major responsibilities of DEMA, which leads national campaigns to inform Danish citizens about certain types of emergencies. “Prevention is a part of all of our planning.  It is better to prevent the fire than to have to respond to it,” said Lt Col Rasmussen.

After hearing this presentation, CAP volunteer officer Mike Strickland of the Fairfax Composite Squadron said, “I found it interesting to see the differences in what a smaller country has done to incorporate their emergency preparedness functions with their local governmental authorities compared to a large country like ours that addresses many similar emergency and disaster situations.”


For more about the Danish Department of Emergency Planning, please visit their website –


2012 National Capital Wing Conference and Annual Awards Banquet

Col Richard Cooper addresses members of the National Capital Wing during their annual conference held on March 17, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Photo by 2d Lt Kevin Geiss.

On March 17, the National Capital Wing hosted its annual conference and awards banquet.

The conference was held in the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, Md.  The conference agenda included a wing update from the commander, wing aircrew meeting, cadet summit, communications training, professional development, logistics traiing, and a guest speaker from the Embassy of Denmark.

The banquet was held in the Bolling Club at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C.  Col Richard Cooper presented a number of major wing awards to cadets and officers.  The guests were treated to two excellent guest speakers: Mr. Jim Roberts, and Mr. Larry Tracy.  The U.S. Air Force Band’s rock group, Max Impact, provided the evening’s musical entertainment.  Making the evening extra special were the many door prizes and visits to the grog bowl.

Thanks to all wing members who worked so hard to make this year’s events so enjoyable.  Hope to see everyone again next year!

Pictures from the day’s events are located on our Photos Page.