WESTERLY — The new commanding officer of the Westerly Civil Air Patrol hopes to spread the word about the volunteer organization and educate the public about the fun and importance of aviation.

Maj. Brian Smith of Wakefield was announced as the new commanding officer of the Civil  Air Patrol's Westerly Composite Squadron in December. He was selected by Col. Will Stranahan of the Rhode Island Civil Air Patrol Wing, the highest echelon of the patrol in the state.

"I'm pretty excited, there's a lot of potential in Westerly," Smith said Tuesday.

Smith comes to his new volunteer position with about 10 years of experience on the Wing level of the organization, where he served as inspector general and worked in communications and logistics. He also served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years, a tenure that included two tours in Thailand.

"It's another way to continue wearing the Air Force uniform," Smith said of his interest in serving in the Civil Air Patrol.

Smith, who works part-time at the University of Rhode Island's Office of Emergency Management, plans to organize an orientation to aviation program in Westerly. He said he envisions an 8-week weekend course for adults that would expose those who attend to the ins and outs of being a pilot. The program will be similar, he said, to a boating course offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

"To get people interested in aviation and hopefully if they are interested they may be inclined to join the squadron. It will cover all the things a pilot would need to know," Smith said.

The Civil Air Patrol, which is the Air Force's official auxiliary organization, has three primary missions: aerospace education, cadet programs for youth, and emergency services. The Westerly squadron currently has 10 cadets. The patrol's emergency services include inland search-and-rescue missions and aerial reconnaissance and photography following natural disasters.

Teaching and education both appeal to Smith, who presides over a popular adult-education woodworking class. Most of the students who register for the course are women who are interested in the craft but were previously not exposed to the tools and methods of the work. By the end of the class, Smith said, the students are often thrilled when they are able to build items.

"I get a lot of satisfaction out of that, and it's a fun class," Smith said.

Smith hopes to provide a similar spark when it comes to aviation.

"We're looking to create some enthusiasm and interest," Smith said.

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