Spirit Squadron

History of Spirit Squadron

 Albuquerque Heights “Spirit” Composite Squadron literally had its genesis at the Heights First Church of the Nazarene, when the church’s pastor, William Nielson—himself a member of Civil Air Patrol—announced that he wanted to start a squadron at the church. The announcement got the attention of two of its congregants: Lt Col Beverly Vito, a longtime CAP member, and Mark Smith, a retired Air Force colonel, who went on to become Civil Air Patrol National Commander. At its organizational meeting, the church had more than the minimum membership of 15—with three adults to supervise the program—to qualify as a squadron. The squadron was officially chartered on July 11, 2005.

How Did Spirit Squadron Get Its Name?

According to Lt Col Vito, at the organizational meeting, she and Major General Smith had a list of all the aircraft flown by the Air Force, to assist in the naming of the squadron. Since Maj Gen Smith had flown the F-22 Raptor in the Air Force, he wanted the squadron to be named Raptor Composite Squadron. That name, however, was taken by another unit, so they went down the list until they came to the B-2 “Spirit” stealth bomber, known as the Spirit of America. Not only did the members find the name to be catchy, but it seemed appropriate to have a squadron named Spirit Squadron meet at a church—and the rest is history.

Getting Started

The squadron originally drew its membership from the church. As time went on, members joined from outside the church, and even from other squadrons. Lt Col Vito commanded the squadron from its founding until January 2006, when then-Lt Col Smith took command. He served as squadron commander until March 2008, and Lt Col Vito again took the reins of command. In May 2012, Maj Michael E. Eckert took over command of the squadron, and in 2013, Spirit Squadron was named Civil Air Patrol’s Squadron of Distinction, making it the Number One unit among over 1,500 squadrons nationwide. In 2015, Capt Mary Fox became the sixth, and most recent commander of the squadron.

Our Squadron Patch - What it Means

Our patch is featured at the top left of each page of this website. The meaning is paraphrased from Lt Col Beverly Vito, 50-year CAP member and a Co-Founder of Spirit Squadron: As a brand new squadron ten years ago, we squadron members gathered to discuss our representative plane and nickname. After reviewing the list of planes, we realized that the B-2 Bomber with its name "The Spirit of America" was perfect for us. Most of the squadron members and some future cadets submitted ideas for the patch. The design became apparent once we had our plane and nickname. We found a picture of the American flag in a half-wave and then superimposed the bomber silhouette over it. To identify New Mexico, we made the patch in the shape of the state. It was an entire squadron effort, with the artistic members drawing out the design concepts until we got it right.  Minor modifications were later made to make the design reproducible.  

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