New Jersey Wing
New Jersey CAP provides exceptional service
War preparations by Adolf Hitler’s Germany inspired Gill Robb Wilson to plan for a way to organize private pilots and planes in America in the event of war. The New Jersey Civil Air Defense Service was born, a predecessor of the Civil Air Patrol.
Member Col. Nanette Moss Spears, the first woman to participate in war games during World War II, was awarded CAP’s Distinguished Service Award in 1953. She became the first female wing commander in 1956. Spears was called the “Dragon Lady” (because she resembled a popular cartoon character of the same name), and the nickname was adopted by the unit, called the “Dragon Wing.”
The wing assisted after an Air Force B-57 went missing while on a training flight in April 1966. The search was unsuccessful and called off after eight days. In 1999 members searched for John F. Kennedy Jr.’s missing plane, responding within hours of notification. The search was canceled when debris from the plane washed ashore.
Flooding in December 1992 left residents homeless, and more than 100 wing members assisted the Red Cross in assessing damage. A 1998 ice storm led to relief efforts with partnering agencies. The wing performed photo reconnaissance sorties for the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Irene killed 55 in 2011 and again when Superstorm Sandy battered the state in 2012.