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Great Lakes Region's Lt. Col. Frank Roldan brings CAP's variety of AE programs to youth

Posted on June 15, 2020 at 4:25 PM by Virginia Smith

Lt. Col Frank Roldan accepts the Great Lakes AE mission award in 2017.
Lt. Col. Frank Roldan accepts the Great Lakes Region AE mission award in 2017 from former region commander and now Brigadier General Edward Phelka, National Vice Commander.

June 15, 2020

Lt. Col. Frank Roldan is the Great Lakes Region Deputy Chief of Staff/Aerospace Education. He also is a member of the National AE staff as STEM coordinator. He became a member of Civil Air Patrol in 1993 at the suggestion of his instructor pilot, who helped Roldan obtain his Private Pilot Certificate. A retired telecommunications professional who also has an interest in astronomy, Roldan believes the wide variety of STEM topics covered in CAP's AE programs helps cadets find that special area that inspires them. We asked him some questions on being an AE officer at many levels in his career, which also has spanned three different wings. His answers follow.

How many years have you been in Civil Air Patrol? Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current role.

I joined CAP (Wisconsin Wing, La Crosse Composite Squadron) in 1993. I started as logistics officer and later became deputy commander- seniors and then commander. At the wing level I served as Director of Professional Development and Assistant Inspector General. In 2004, I moved to Block Island in Rhode island and transferred to the Rhode Island Wing as Director of Professional Development. Then in 2007, I moved to Grand Haven, Michigan and transferred to the Muskegon 119th Composite Squadron (which later became Lakeshore 119th Composite Squadron). I was asked to take over the position of AEO (little did I know where it would lead). I was offered the position of  Assistant Director of  Aerospace Education (DAE) for Michigan Wing and later moved up to DAE. Michigan uses the group system, and I was asked to serve as AEO and safety officer for Group 703. 

Through the years, I attended both the National and Great Lakes Region AEO schools and ended up being a regular instructor. I love these schools and look forward to them every year. In 2018, I officially became the GLR DCS/AE, replacing my old friend Lt. Col Sherwood "Woody" Williams. The 2019 GLR AEO/AEM School was the first for which I was totally responsible.

How did you get involved in Civil Air Patrol?

In 1993 I obtained my Private Pilot Certificate (a long-standing item in my bucket list). My instructor, a retired USAF pilot, told me about CAP, and subsequently, I joined the La Crosse 119th Composite Squadron, Wisconsin Wing.

Tell us about the awards you have received with the organization.

I have been fortunate to have received many awards during my CAP career. In the area of AE, I was Michigan Wing AEO of the year, and in 2016, I received the Frank G. Brewer Award at the National and Regional levels.

Why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area and the programs you bring to youth?

I always have been a tinkerer and builder of "things." As a kid I made many of my toys, which included steam-powered boats, all sorts of airplanes, machines, robots, etc. I love science

Lt. Col. Roldan assists cadets building model rockets
Lt. Col. Roldan assists cadets building model rockets.

and engineering.  All its aspects interest me. CAP’s AE program does that. It brings it all together to find that one area that will inspire our cadets. I have tried to use all the tools and areas offered by the AE program. If there is a need, I try to find a solution.

Tell us about your career.

My whole professional career was in telecommunications.  I started as a technician for New York Telephone Company in 1966.  A couple of months later I was inducted in the U.S. Army with my final assignment being the 142nd Signal Battalion, Second Armor Division where I achieved the rank of Sergeant E-3 and served as company wire chief. Once back home, I moved to Wisconsin and joined Universal Telephone Co. as a central officer engineer.  As they say, I moved up the ladder as the company went through a couple of acquisitions. I retired from my position as Manager Region Plant Operations with CenturyTel in December 2003.

You wrote Civil Air Patrol's Astronomy Module and helped develop the Civil Air Patrol Astronomy STEM Kit. Tell us about why you worked on the project?

My other interest in life has been astronomy.  A school trip to a planetarium in the fourth grade got me hooked. I built my own telescopes and, finally, when I moved to Wisconsin, became a member of the Milwaukee Astronomical Society. Next thing you know I was on the board of directors and, eventually, president. We received a generous endowment from a long-time member that passed away and that allowed us to build a 26-inch telescope (that is big -- the sort you find at a good college with a strong astronomy program). The project was almost done when my job took me to the city of La Crosse on the western side of Wisconsin along the Mississippi River. I love promoting astronomy, especially to young people. There must be many young “Franks” out there just waiting to have their interest in the science ignited. Right now, I belong to the Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Society. We are raising funds to build an observatory in cooperation with the Parks and Recreation Department. of Ottawa County, Michigan.  Hemlock Crossing is the county park where it will be built. Unfortunately, the current health crisis has delayed the project.

Do you have any advice to AEOs for working to recruit and retain AEMs?

Don’t overwhelm AEMs with CAP and military jargon. Make sure you understand their needs and try your best to meet them. Each wing should have a member of the AE team dedicated to AEMs. AEMs should be contacted often to make sure they are happy and understand the program.

Lt. Col. Roldan talks with teachers.
Lt. Col. Roldan talks with teachers at a meeting for educators in the Muskegon (Michigan) Area Intermediate School District.



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