Cadet Second Lieutenant Matthew DiBlanda, a resident of Waterbury, Connecticut, accepted command of Civil Air Patrol’s 399th Composite Squadron cadets at the unit’s Change of Command and Awards Ceremony held on in December 2014.
     Cadet Commander DiBlanda joined Civil Air Patrol in May 2012. A friend asked him to join, and after attending a few meetings his interest was piqued. “I visited for a couple of meetings and knew that Civil Air Patrol was what I wanted to do.” He initially joined the 143rd Composite Squadron in Waterbury, Connecticut but soon transferred to the 399th Composite Squadron in Danbury. “Since then, I’ve done so many activities and made so many friends through CAP that I couldn’t possibly list them all,” said DiBlanda. “Some of my favorites have been encampment, orientation flights, earning all of my operations qualifications and competing regionally on a drill team.” DiBlanda’s orientation flights have included powered and non-powered flights and he noted “the experience of flying in a glider is breathtaking.”
   The new cadet commander has held most positions on the cadet chain of command, from element leader to deputy cadet commander. “Having experience in all the different jobs has been one of the most important parts of climbing the chain of leadership for me. I have found that in order to lead effectively, it helps tremendously when you’ve been in the shoes of those whom you’re trying to lead,” said DiBlanda. “My main goal for the squadron is to form an even closer knit family among all of our members. If you can’t trust your teammates, the mission suffers.”
    DiBlanda was promoted to cadet second lieutenant in October 2014 and received the General Billy Mitchell Award, the second milestone in the cadet program that marks completion of the leadership phase. Only 15% of Civil Air Patrol cadets obtain the award, making them eligible for advanced placement to the grade of airman first class (E-3) should they choose to enter the U.S. Air Force. Among DiBlanda’s achievements are mission qualifications which include ground team member level 3, urban direction finding, mission radio operator and mission staff assistant. DiBlanda continues to enhance his mission ready skills through additional preparation, currently training as communications unit leader and ground team member level 2.
    DiBlanda’s progress from airman in the 143rd Composite Squadron to commander of the 399th Composite Squadron has been an exciting journey. “It goes to show how the CAP experience can be unique for everybody and mean different things for different people. I sincerely believe that Civil Air Patrol can change lives, and I’m thrilled to be such a large part of the squadron that’s given so much to me,” noted DiBlanda.