Civil Air Patrol
  • Aircrew returing to base

Profiles in Leadership: Maryland Wing celebrates Women’s History Month with Maj. Kristen Santos

3/14/2018 – GRANITE, Md. — Civil Air Patrol, the U. S. Air Force Auxiliary, has built the nation’s finest force of citizen volunteers. Since its inception in 1941, women have played an integral part in establishing and continuing the legacy of CAP service and excellence. Maryland Wing, Civil Air Patrol joins the nation in celebrating the 2018 Women’s History Month, recognizing contributions women have made to our nation and local communities. Maryland members take the opportunity to acknowledge that women, like their male counterparts, have a commitment to volunteer service and many have and are serving as volunteer members of Civil Air Patrol.

Over 300 women serve in Maryland Wing. From new cadets to command positions, women comprise 22 percent of MDWG’s membership. As CAP members of MDWG and throughout the CAP national network, women voluntarily serve for the benefit of our nation. One such woman who proudly serves as an example of distinction in leadership is Maj. Kristin Santos, commander, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite Squadron. When asked what her experiences in CAP have meant to her, Santos replies, “Being part of Civil Air Patrol, opened countless doors for me in life because of the strong foundation built by its core values of integrity, volunteer service, excellence and respect.”

Maj. Santos joined CAP’s cadet program at the age of 13 in 2004. Her cadet service was exemplary. Serving in many cadet leadership positions, she also trained as a member of the squadron’s ground team. Santos pursued every opportunity to participate in search and rescue missions, national disaster scenarios and attended the National Emergency Services Academy Advanced Ground Search and Rescue Course. She also attended the other national cadet special activities including the Cadet Officer School, Air Force Space Command Familiarization course and was selected to participate in the International Air Cadet Exchange as a cadet ambassador to Turkey.

Santos completed her cadet career achieving the rank of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and earning the General Ira C. Eaker Award. Only two percent of all Civil Air Patrol cadets will obtain the Eaker Award and the grade of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel. This award honors the late Air Force General Ira C. Eaker, aviation pioneer, career military officer, and one of the chief architects and visionaries of the U.S. Air Force. The award denotes a cadet’s successful completion of all of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program leadership, technical and physical achievements.

After her stellar cadet career, Santos continued volunteer service as a senior member in CAP. Two and half years after becoming a senior member and 10 years after joining Civil Air Patrol, Santos was selected as the Bethesda-Chevy Chase (BCC) Composite Squadron commander. Under her command, which began in 2014, the squadron has excelled. Maj. Santos and the squadron have been recognized for their excellence in service with awards including: the Quality Cadet Unity Award and the Aerospace Education Excellence Award for four consecutive years; MDWG Ground Team of the Year for 2016 and 2017 and the Middle East Region Ground Team of the Year (DeCamp Award) for 2017. Additionally, at the 2015 MDWG conference, Santos was recognized as the MDWG Squadron Commander of the Year.

Community service is important to Santos. Once a month, volunteers from all-around the area gather in Northwest D.C. at 6:30 a.m. to clean the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Santos also volunteers with this group who share the goal of paying tribute to those who we have lost. She additionally participates in the annual Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery.

In her personal life, upon graduation from McDaniel College Maj. Santos was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. with the Maryland Army National Guard (MDANG). Interestingly, Lt. Col. Eric Haertel, her former CAP squadron commander and also a 20-year member of the MDANG, delivered the oath at her commissioning ceremony. In addition to her MDANG service, Santos continues to pursue the educational and professional goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.

Recognizing that volunteering in CAP has made a difference in her life, Santos commented, “If someone had told me as a 13-year-old that I would reach the success I have today, leading soldiers, I could not have imagined it possible. CAP has opened many doors for me. Being a part of something greater than myself sparked a fire in me that has since become an ever-growing flame. Seeing fellow cadets in positions of leadership, to include other females, made me see that I too could achieve success in pursuing excellence.”

CAP provides unlimited opportunities for women. Young women join to be part of the CAP cadet program; while senior members serve as pilots, emergency services personnel, technicians and mentors who contribute thousands of volunteer hours in service to their communities and nation. They train, peruse professional development and become part of the CAP core mission to support America’s communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development and promotion of air, space and cyber power.

Nationally, CAP’s 56,000 members selflessly devote their time, energy and expertise toward the well-being of their communities. CAP’s legacy of service before self is a commitment made by its membership of men and women, girls and boys throughout its history. It is the membership that makes CAP a premiere volunteer organization.

Nearly 1,500 CAP members serve in Maryland. Last year wing members flew 13 search and rescue missions. The wing was credited with four finds. Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the State of Maryland. Members flew 2,245 hours in all mission categories. Volunteers contributed services estimated at $4.6 million. For more information, contact the Maryland Wing at or follow the wing on Facebook at

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees. CAP, in its Total Force role, operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually. Civil Air Patrol’s 56,000 members nationwide also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Its members additionally play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program. Performing missions for America for the past 75 years, CAP received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014 in honor of the heroic efforts of its World War II veterans. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit for more information.


by Capt. Alice Raatjes, CAP
Assistant Public Affairs Officer, Maryland Wing





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