Family tradition built on a call to serve others


January 05, 2007|By Janet Gilbert

John Taylor's first date with Terri Redman in 1985 ended abruptly. He drove her home to find her parents rushing to answer a call to support the Howard County firefighters on the scene of a serious accident.

"Wait a minute, I'll go with you," Terri said. She promptly left with her parents.

By all accounts, it was not the most romantic.

"He spent a lot of time waiting for me to get home from the firehouse," said Terri, 40, summing up their subsequent courtship. Taylor had met Redman during training exercises of the Civil Air Patrol and understood that answering a call for an organization you are committed to is just "what you do."

"If it needs to be done, who's going to do it? If not you, then who?" said John, 40. John Taylor joined the Anne Arundel Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in 1981; Terri Redman Taylor went to her first CAP meeting with her father and brother in 1980.

The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force -- a nonprofit organization with more than 60,000 members across the nation, according to a news release. CAP volunteers perform 95 percent of continental United States inland search and rescue missions. In Maryland, approximately 1,300 members answer the call of federal, state and local agencies in the areas of homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug activities.

Married for 18 years, the Taylors, who live in Dayton, have made answering the call a family credo. Three generations of the family are involved in the Howard Composite Squadron of the Maryland Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Maj. Elza Redman, 69, is commander of the Howard Composite Squadron. His wife, Charlotte, 67, is a first lieutenant and the testing and finance officer.

Capt. Terri Redman Taylor -- their daughter -- is the deputy commander for cadets. Terri's brother, Kevin, is a physicist at Goddard Space Center and is a CAP lieutenant colonel, working on activities for the organization at the Maryland state or "Wing" level.

Terri's husband, Capt. John Taylor, is the squadron's operations officer in charge of emergency services. Three of the couple's four children -- Jenna, 17, Matt, 15, and Cody, 13, are Civil Air Patrol members. The Taylors' youngest child, Joni, is a few months shy of being eligible to join -- CAP members must be at least 12.

"It's the family business," John said.

Over the years, the Taylors have participated in searches for missing children and aircraft, assisted in disaster relief and helped educate new cadets -- including taking the squadron on trips to places such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum or Arlington National Cemetery.

"I've lived with it for 26 years," said Charlotte Redman. "The weirdest part is having to say `Yes, sir' to my son, or saluting my husband," she said. The CAP program includes training in standard military customs and courtesies.

Terri said that the titles indicate how far one has progressed in self-paced training. "It's what you do -- not what's on your collar [rank insignias]. Leaders come from all different grades."

Added John: "The whole program is a leadership laboratory."

The Howard Composite Squadron's training program is designed to be hands-on, Terri said. The squadron has 28 CAP officers -- the term for members older than 21 -- and 24 cadets.

"These kids sit in school all day -- when they come to our meeting, they don't want to sit in school again," she said.

They meet at 7 p.m. Thursdaysin the cafeteria of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

At one meeting, Terri gave eight cadets string and tape and told them to create a web with nine holes so that they could all get from one side to the other without touching the string and without using an opening more than once.

"They have to think ahead, plan ahead -- think a different way. Sometimes they [cadets] will come to me and say, `You didn't tell us we could do this,' and I'll say, `I didn't tell you you couldn't do it, either,'" Terri said.

Throughout the program, cadets set goals for themselves. During their interviews with the CAP promotion board, these goals are brought out, and the cadets are asked about their progress.

It's like a job interview, John said. The Taylors said that witnessing the growth and maturity of cadets is rewarding. "They realize, I didn't do what was required -- I'm the only one standing in my own way," John said.

Terri recounted a story of a cadet who had a problem with the physical fitness requirement of the program. Cadets must pass a fitness test each month in order to be promoted -- and one girl was struggling.

"I'd get down and do pushups with her," said Terri, "but she had to overcome that herself." Recently, this cadet was awarded a National Presidential Fitness Award.

"I got to give her the award," Terri said. "You see these kids grow, and when one of them comes up and hugs you. ..."

"Oh, they're my kids," she said, referring to all the cadets.

Cody Taylor, 13, recently went up in his first "orientation" flight. "You could really feel him turning the plane," said Cody, who sat in the front seat and got to put his hands on the controls.

The experience seems an apt metaphor for the CAP cadet program. Once you get your hands on the controls, the sky's the limit.

Information: Maj. Elza Redman, 410-531-3310.


Is someone in your neighborhood worth writing about? Is there an event that everyone in Howard County should be aware of? If there is, Janet Gilbert, our neighbors reporter, wants to know about it.

E-mail Janet at, or call 410-313-8276. Janet also has a Web site: www.janet

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