Skip to main content
Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters
Main Content

Lt. Col. Brian Schmuck promotes external Aerospace Education mission's impact on CAP's organization

Posted on July 15, 2020 at 7:04 PM by Virginia Smith

Lt. Col. Brian Schmuck works with the Thrive afterschool program in Mount Vernon, Indiana.

July 15, 2020

Meet Lt. Col. Brian Schmuck -- Indiana Wing Chief of Staff - Missions and Great Lakes Region Assistant DCS/Emergency Services -- has been a Civil Air Patrol member since he joined as a 16-year-old cadet 25 years ago. His Civil Air Patrol path included group commander and Emergency Services leadership roles. But when his daughter joined as a cadet in 2018, and he started working with the unit, he realized "how important the AE mission is and how it directly impacts the overall health of the organization." In addition to his wing and region roles, he is an assistant Aerospace Education Officer for GLR-IN-220, River City Cadet Squadron. Schmuck visits classrooms and school programs speaking to students and presenting Civil Air Patrol AE lessons to students as young as kindergartners so that "by the time they are old enough to join, they will know what Civil Air Patrol is." This year, he worked with Thrive afterschool program in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, which was selected as CAP's National Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) Collaborative Point of Light Program. Additionally, earlier this year, he started a video series to help engage cadets when COVID-19 guidance dictated remote gatherings. Outside of CAP, he works in materials/inventory management for a government subcontractor in the nuclear industry. We asked him some questions about his participation in CAP's aerospace education mission. His answers follow. 

Current duty positions:

Great Lakes Region Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff/Emergency Services; Indiana Wing Chief of Staff - Missions; and Assistant AEO GLR-IN-220, River City Cadet Squadron

How many years have you been in Civil Air Patrol and how did you become involved in the organization?

I’ve been in Civil Air Patrol for 25 years, having joined as a cadet when I was 16.  When I was probably 12 or 13, I wanted to be a fighter pilot and used to play combat flight simulators on my computer. The internet was new so online gaming wasn’t a thing, but chat groups existed; it was there that I learned about CAP from another cadet. I inquired about a unit near me, and although there wasn’t a unit near me at the time, I left my name for contact if a local unit were formed. Once a unit near me was opened, I got a call from the Squadron Commander to see if I was still interested. They were a senior unit and wanted to become composite (cadets and senior members). So they asked me to help recruit cadets.  A buddy of mine and I put together several events in the community in collaboration with the unit commander and recruited enough to make it happen. I never ended up becoming a fighter pilot, or even a pilot, but always kept a love for aviation. 

Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current role.

My CAP career path included a stint as a Cadet Squadron Commander, Group Commander, Wing Director of Emergency Services, Region Deputy Chief of Staff for Emergency Services, and finally Wing Chief of Staff for Missions.  As a cadet I became interested in ground search and rescue and worked my way up to Incident Commander through the “ground-side” but earned a Mission Observer rating at 18, though I didn’t fly very often.  When my daughter, C/CMSgt. Rylee Schmuck, joined as a cadet in my former unit (RiverCity Cadet Squadron) in August 2018, and I started working with them to help increase their numbers, I realized how important the AE mission is, and how it directly impacts the overall health of the organization. Our external AE program not only serves to educate the public on aerospace topics, but also introduces them to Civil Air Patrol as an organization. So I began visiting classrooms in my area and found that once I started, I began getting invitations from other teachers and it got to the point where I was visiting three to four classrooms every other Friday on my days off from work. My theory is that if these students see a CAP member in their classroom once a year, starting in kindergarten, by the time they are old enough to join, they will know what Civil Air Patrol is. Best case, they have an interest and join as members.  Worst case, we have created a whole generation of citizens who know about Civil Air Patrol. These citizens will grow up and some of them will become community leaders, legislators, generals, and maybe even a president. It’s in this way that AE has a direct impact on our organizational health. It just takes a little work, some TLC, and time.  With AE we are really planting seeds, and it could take years to see what grows out of it.  

Please tell us any awards you have received with CAP.

Many years ago, as a young senior member, I earned the Chuck Yeager Award and began working toward my master rating in AE for the coveted Scott Crossfield Award. In 2019, a

Thrive was selected as the 2019-2020 National ACE Collaborative Point of Light Program

good friend and mentor of mine helped me through the master rating and I completed a personal goal of earning the Scott Crossfield Award. Perhaps my proudest accomplishment though, is my involvement with the first Aerospace Connections in Education program in my area.  This year, Thrive in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, was selected as the National ACE Collaborative Point of Light Program. This isn’t my award, but I am very proud to have been a part of that journey with them. 

Outside of AE, I have four Meritorious Service Awards, seven Commander’s Commendations, and Certificate of Recognition for Lifesaving (with heroic action).  I’m also a recipient of the Garber Award and will earn the Wilson Award upon completion of National Staff College on July 18.  I was previously recognized as Group Commander of the Year and Wing Staff Officer of the Year during those terms.


Why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area? Why do you encourage youth in the Aerospace Education area? 

This is a way I can directly impact the lives of young people. I get the opportunity to talk to them about airplanes and watch their faces light up.  I get to introduce them to careers in STEM and see their excitement as they realize that they have the potential to do something great. I like to teach, and this gives me that chance. Doing AE outreach is some of the most fun I’ve had in CAP.  

Tell us about the Civil Air Patrol aerospace education programs you use externally.  

Most of my AE work is external. I use material from the Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) and Aerospace Education Excellence (AEX) programs when I make school or community group visits.These programs are designed to make it relatively easy for someone who’s neither a professional educator, or a pilot, to teach these subjects.  The ACE program, in particular, is designed with shorter lessons, so if teachers give me an hour to talk to their students I can give a short lesson on the forces of flight, or parts of an airplane and still have time to talk about what CAP is

You have created an Aviation/STEM Careers YouTube Channel with videos you made of former CAP cadets talking about their current careers. Tell us about that.

 I just thought that during this time of virtual learning, when students were stuck at home trying to find value-added things to do, maybe they would enjoy hearing about different career options. I wanted to show that there are people who have achieved their dreams and do amazing things. I felt like I needed to focus on the personal journey and how they got there, and give the interviewee the opportunity to share any advice they have for someone interested in that field. I started out with the desire to interview STEM-related careers but then wanted to expand it beyond that. So, I lined up interviews with different kinds of pilots from different backgrounds and a former cadet of mine who works at NASA.  I have plans to interview an attorney, mechanical engineer, educator, radiologic technologist, veterinarian and nurse practitioner. I was hoping to be much further along by this point, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made scheduling the interviews more challenging. I spent a few months as the Incident Commander for Indiana while also attending the virtual National Staff College, and that took most of my time, so I had to step back from this project.  But with the mission over (in Indiana) and NSC graduation this Saturday, you can expect to see more very soon. To visit the channel, GO HERE.

Tell us about some of the other initiatives you work with (for instance the ACE Program, which was honored this year with one of the ACE awards as National ACE Collaborative Point of Light Program.)

My involvement with the ACE program has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in CAP. I started out just doing school visits and talking about airplanes. As someone who’s not a pilot, or an educator, I wasn’t sure how I would do this and make it valuable to the students. I found the ACE program to be ideal for this as the lessons are easy to understand and designed to be delivered by anyone from any background, which is a neat feature because it allows ACE teachers to invite parents or special guests in to deliver lessons in their classrooms. I visited a lot of classrooms as a guest in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019.  Then during the summer break I saw a story on Facebook about an after-school program in my hometown called Thrive. Thrive provides free care for school district students – Thrive students are bussed to Thrive from their school at the end of each school day.  Thrive not only provides a safe place for these students to be, but also homework help and educational, STEM-based programming.  Since they are not a public school they don’t get state funding and rely on donations and grants. I felt like this was a great opportunity for some collaboration and that our AE programs, specifically ACE, would be a huge benefit.  So I reached out to the executive director, and we arranged a meeting. I could tell right away we were going to have a great partnership. I anticipated the meeting would last about half an hour, in fact I think that’s what I told her, but after we got to talking about the program we were both so excited we lost track of time. I think we talked for two hours!  We couldn’t wait to get started. So we put together a plan, she and her staff joined as Aerospace Education Members, and we kicked it off once school began in the fall. Now, since we are such close partners with the Air Force Association I wanted to include them as well as the local CAP squadron.  Between the P-47 Memorial Chapter of the AFA, RiverCity Cadet Squadron of CAP, and Thrive, we were able to put on a great program.  My daughter, a CAP cadet, was a big part in this as well.  She helped teach many of the lessons to one of the grade levels before her sports activities with school began. 

What is the best advice you have for working with AEMs? Do you have any suggestions for AEM recruiting or retention?

  • Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed or intimidated; if I can do it, anyone can. We have an amazing aerospace staff at National Headquarters that are very helpful and I couldn’t have been successful without their mentoring and assistance. Reach out to your local Air Force Association and Civil Air Patrol units. If there isn’t one in your city, reach out to the wing, and they will be happy to get you whatever support they can.   
  • We (as a society) expect so much from our educators already. Don't throw this at them as “something else” they need to do. This isn’t something else, it’s what they are already teaching anyway. Being an AEM just gives them additional tools and opportunities to make what they are already teaching a little easier on them. 
  • Get new AEMs in an airplane as fast as you can (with TOP Flights). Make it a big deal, do it at the same time you do cadet orientation flights – this allows the AEMs to interact with the cadets and that is incredibly valuable to both parties. Keep in touch with your AEMs and be there to support them, and even if they don’t ask for your help, make sure they know it is there when they do need it.  Keep track of the expirations and follow-up to make sure they maintain an interest. The next year, get them into the air again!  Help them navigate eServices, because that’s not the easiest thing to do sometimes.  

What is the best advice you have for a new AE Officer working with cadets?
Keep it concise, fun, exciting, relevant, and involve the cadets as much as you can.  Use AEX lessons, field trips, and guest speakers to reinforce the aerospace lessons they need for their progression through the cadet program.  Involve the cadets and give them the opportunity to assist in the delivery of aerospace lessons.  Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your group or wing AE Officers.  

Do you have any suggestions for how to conduct outreach in schools and communities (working with students and recruiting AEMs)?

  • Find out who you know that works at a school, church, youth group, etc. and start there. It’s hard to get your foot in the door if you don’t have someone you know on the other side to open it for you. 
  • We tend to focus on schools, and that’s good, that needs some focus. But don’t forget about churches, Scouts, YMCA, etc. 
  • Know the material. Review it in advance so when you deliver it, it’s easy for you.  If you struggle, you will lose the audience. 
  • Meet with school administrators.
  • Reach out to local colleges and universities. Guess what? They create teachers! See if you can get some time with the head of their education department. Undergraduate education students will become teachers and graduate education students are already teachers or administrators. 
  • Involve cadets. Young people like hearing from other young people. This isn’t always possible but when you can, do it. 
  • Keep it fun. You can’t make it fun. It already is, but make sure you keep it that way. 
  • Do an activity with every visit. Get them out of their seats and get them involved.
  • Have hand-outs for the teacher, principal and every student (give the packet to the teacher)
  • DO NOT stand in the middle of the room during the paper airplane lesson and challenge the students to get the airplanes to you at the same time. 
  • Be sure to remove the points from the paper airplanes (see above) [see the back story below!]

Please tell an anecdote (or two) of a rewarding experience working in Civil Air Patrol, with senior members, cadets and/or students or teachers: 

  • My very first visit was to my son’s third-grade classroom. I did a lesson on the forces of flight and parts of an airplane, and then we folded paper airplanes. At the end of the lesson, I asked the teacher if we could fly them, and she approved. So I lined the students up at the back of the room and I stood in the middle. I said, “I’m going to count to three, and I want you all to throw your airplanes and see if you can get them to me.”  I faintly remember looking at the teacher and noting a grin as she reached for her iPad to record it.  I didn’t realize what the grin was for until a few moments later. She had more experience working with third-graders than I did, obviously, and she foresaw what was about to happen. I had 28 paper airplanes flying at my head at the same time. 
  • I often get asked, “Why do you do all this work for no pay?”  My response is always, “We do get paid…we just don’t make any money.”  When I walk into Thrive and students yell, “Colonel Schmuck,” and then run up to hug me … that’s my paycheck.  I get to make a difference. 

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us for this focus on an AEO?

We always say that “everyone’s a safety officer.” I’d like to add another one, “everyone’s an AE officer.”  I shouldn’t have been anyone’s pick to be able to do these things, but I was able to pull it off.  You can, too!

Lt. Col. Brian Schmuck teaches a lesson on the forces of flight to third-graders.


© 2024 Civil Air Patrol. All rights reserved.