The 811th Cadet Squadron is one of the few remaining School Enrichment Program (SEP) Cadet Squadrons in Civil Air Patrol. It acts as a regular squadron, yet has a partnership with an in school elective class that is offered to students at the middle school, who do not need to be members to participate. New Mexico SEP programs are funded from the New Mexico Department of Military Affairs to pay in class instructors to teach the elective leadership/aerospace courses across the state. The 811th is also the lead squadron in the nation for developing and maintaining balloon operations and expanding the scope in which the program runs. There are 17 officers and 22 cadets in the squadron and is the one of the largest units under the New Mexico Wing Civil Air Patrol. The 811th is assigned to Group 800 as its echelon command.
The 811th was originally chartered and garrisoned at the St Therese Catholic School in Albuquerque, NM, as a school enrichment program. This offered students within the school to participate in Civil Air Patrol five days a week. At this time the major concentrations of the squadron were that of color guard and drill.
In July of 2010 the 811th transferred to the LBJ Middle School from St Therese. Major Ben Noyce transferred the unit and simultaneously had classes conducted at the school. The original approach of having all youth that attended the in school program also be cadet members in Civil Air Patrol was abandoned and it opened students to attend the STEM based in school class without having to commit to the traditional Civil Air Patrol Squadron and membership. This helped advance STEM and aviation into the school and garner interest in careers and institutions based in aviation. In November of 2013, then Major William Fitzpatrick, took over the squadron as the squadron commander. Immediately the focus, goals, mission and vision of the 811th changed substantially. Moving from a drill and ceremonies focused squadron, the 811th refocused on flight training, operational management, and aviation advocating. In 2014 the 811th received a Unit Citation for its contribution for standing up balloon operations and writing regulations for its integration at the national level.
In October 2013, New Mexico Sunrise hit power lines, sending both the pilot and the crew chief to the hospital. After the accident, Mark Kilgore, the pilot and owner of the balloon donated it to the New Mexico Wing of Civil Air Patrol to develop a balloon program. The aircraft had been repaired and returned to air worthiness. At the time Major Ben Noyce spearheaded the acquisition of New Mexico Sunrise and renamed the aircraft Phoenix, since it had arisen from its own ashes to find a new purpose. Through intensive recruiting, the 811th gained three balloon pilots to help develop the balloon program. Captain Al Lowenstein as the Chief Pilot and Captain Jessica Makin, both became the first cadre and check pilots. The addition of Captain Will Manus brought the instructors up to three. The program began with an intense Chase Crew training program, which graduated over 40 members in the first 6 months. On the 25th of January, Major Ben Noyce was the first Civil Air Patrol member to receive his private pilot certificate solely through a Civil Air Patrol Balloon Flight Program. With crews trained, 811th members, furnishing member owned aircraft flew a young 9-year old who is going blind, who’s wish was to fly in a hot air balloon.
The 811th realizing that the program could not be sustained unless they trained new pilots started to develop a full flight training program where five members, three senior members and two cadet members, began intensive initial flight training. Partnered with the local balloon community, the 811th provided chase crews and its own balloon to local rallies and events. Daniel Lovato, who was the crew chief for New Mexico Sunrise, was the other individual that was severely injured in the accident prior to CAP gaining the aircraft. In February of 2015, Captain Lowenstein of the 811th flew Daniel Lovato for the first time after the accident in the same aircraft.
In June of 2016, the balloon Phoenix was retired when it could no longer pass it's annual airworthiness inspection. In the 18 months of operating with New Mexico Wing and starting the New Mexico Balloon Program, it produced five lighter than air pilots. Since Phoenix was retired, there was a need to find a replacement to continue the program. In October of 2016, an order was placed with Lindstrand Balloons USA to build a custom envelope to replace the retired envelope of Phoenix. On December 27th, 2016; New Mexico Wing took delivery of a ninety thousand cubic foot Lindstrand 90A Envelope named Integrity. Integrity Flew its first flight on the 8th of January 2016.
On February 26th, 2016, the first cadet to attain her private pilot certificate for a hot air balloon within the Southwest Region of Civil Air Patrol. Lighter than Air training has been talked about within the organization for a few decades but documentation of completion is slim to none known. Cadet Blankley started her training in the summer of 2015, after completing her private pilot certificate in gliders.New Mexico Wing School Enrichment Program Squadron of the Year 2009
Aerospace Excellence Award 2011-2012
Unit Citation - 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014
New Mexico Wing School Enrichment Program Squadron of the Year 2014
Aerospace Excellence Award 2014-2015
New Mexico Wing School Enrichment Program Squadron of the Year 2015
Unit Citation - 1 November 2014 to 29 December 2015
Quality Cadet Unit Award 2016
New Mexico Wing School Enrichment Program Squadron of the Year 2016
Chartered 811th St Therese Cadet Squadron, 3 June 2008
Re-designated: 811th LBJ Middle School Cadet Squadron, July 2010