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Staff Bios

Lt Col John W. Desmarais, Sr.
National Headquarters Director of Operations
& NESA Provost & Founder


Mr. John W. Desmarais, Sr. is the Director of Operations at Civil Air Patrol (CAP) National Headquarters. CAP, the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, is Congressionally-chartered to perform Homeland Security and Emergency Services missions, Aerospace Education, and Cadet Programs for America. In his current position, John is responsible for all operations matters nationally and supervises senior program managers for communications, the CAP national operations center, standardization, evaluation and flight operations, operations training and support, health services, small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) and special missions. Mr. Desmarais interfaces with federal, state, and local personnel on operations issues, and assists CAP leaders in formulating the policies, program goals and objectives for CAP with the USAF and counterpart agencies at the national level. Mr. Desmarais is responsible for managing operational missions conducted by almost 56,000 volunteers utilizing over 600 powered aircraft, gliders and balloons, over 1,000 vehicles, over 2,350 sUAS, and a $35M command and control radio communications network. CAP personnel conduct thousands of missions each year, flying approximately 95,000 hours annually, 75% to 80% as Air Force assigned missions, and is also credited with saving 82 lives annually.
Mr. Desmarais was born in Woonsocket, RI. He graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a Bachelors degree in Aviation Business Administration focused in Management Information Systems with a minor in Safety of Flight, and a Masters degree in Aeronautical Science specializing in Aviation/Aerospace Safety Systems. Mr. Desmarais has also graduated from the CAP National Staff College, the US Air Force’s Squadron Officers School, Air Command and Staff College, Incident Management Course, Basic Inland Search and Rescue Course, and Inland Search and Rescue Planners Course, and the National Interagency Counterdrug Institute’s Military Support to Civil Authorities Course. John is also a certificated private pilot, critical incident stress management peer and instructor, incident command system instructor, first responder instructor, and a technician class amateur radio operator.

Mr. Desmarais joined CAP as a cadet in 1987, and has earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as a CAP volunteer. He holds Master’s ratings in Emergency Services and Cadet Programs, and is also a qualified incident commander, aircrew member and ground team leader. Since arriving at National Headquarters in 1995 he has moved up progressively to now lead the Operations Directorate. Mr. Desmarais has also had several special assignments in his CAP career. In 1996 he founded the National Emergency Services Academy, one of CAP’s premier national events. In 2001 he served as one of the national level duty officers responding to the events of September 11th, 2001. In 2002 John served as the national headquarters project officer for CAP support to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2003 he served as an agency liaison for CAP’s support to Task Force Columbia. Recently, in addition to his normal duties, John has been representing CAP in varied industry forums addressing youth aviation initiatives and aviation career-focused supply issues across the country.
His CAP awards and decorations include but are not limited to the Exceptional Service Award, Meritorious Service Award, Commander’s Commendation, Certificate of Lifesaving, Search and Rescue Ribbon, Disaster Relief Ribbon with “V” Device, Counterdrug Ribbon, Community Service Ribbon, the General Ira C. Eaker Award for completing Phase IV of the CAP Cadet Program, and CAP’s highest academic award – the Gill Robb Wilson Award. Mr. Desmarais was also selected as the National Headquarters Employee of the Year in 2002 and received the President of the United States Call to Service Award in 2008 for his volunteer work with CAP.
Mr. Desmarais also holds several industry affiliations. He is a member of the Airborne Public Safety Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, American Society of Association Executives, BoardSource, National Business Aviation Association, U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, and the International Association of Emergency Managers, and is also a life member of both the National Association of Search and Rescue and the Air Force Association.
John is married to the former Mary Leigh Strickland. They have two sons, John W. “Will” Desmarais, Jr., and James W. “Wade” Desmarais. The Desmarais family resides in Pike Road, Alabama.


Lt Col Gary Brockman
Academy Director

LtCol Gary Brockman joined Civil Air Patrol in 1967 as a cadet and completed his Earhart Award.  He became qualified as a Ground Team Member in 1969 and then worked through training to Incident Commander in the following years.  He has served many years as a squadron commander, wing director of emergency services, cadet programs, Indiana Wing search and rescue school, encampment commander, and region cadet leadership schools.  He attended the National Emergency Services Academy since 1996 and has served as the medical unit director, deputy director, and currently the director.

Lt Col James "Pete" Norris
Deputy Academy Director


Lt Col Pete Norris joined Civil Air Patrol in 1967 as a cadet at the Craig AFB Squadron of the Alabama Wing and completed the Earhart Award.  Became mission rated in 1968 in communications and ground operations, and in 1975 was appointed as a Search Mission Coordinator (SMC).  He has continued to serve in a variety of Squadron, Wing (ALWG & GAWG), Region (SER) and National duty assignment with emphasis on Cadet Programs and Emergency Services.  He attended the National Emergency Services Academy in 1999 to help direct and develop the Mission Base Staff School (MBSS) to later become the Incident Command Staff School (ICSS). 

Lt Col Norris is a retired Community College Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Program Director, and currently remains active in EMS, EMS education and Research.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement with a concentration in forensics from Jacksonville State University (AL) and a Masters degree in Health Education and EMS Program Certificate (Paramedic) from the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB).  He has 50+ years’ experience as a first responder including LE and EMS.


Lt Col Judy Hewett
Academy Chief of Staff


Lt Col Judy Hewett joined CAP in 2000 so she could participate with her son. In 2003, she joined him at NESA for the (then) Mission Base Staff School (Now Incident Command System School) Basic course. She returned in 2008 to be the OIC for the Kitchen staff. After having enough fun for one NESA, Judy switched to Administration in 2009, moving from being an assistant, to Administration Officer, and then Chief of Staff in 2018. She holds a FASC rating in Operations.

Lt Col Hewett stays busy with her CAP activities as Mission Support Administrator for the NER, Director of Education & Training for FL Wing, and several other duty assignments in FL at both the Group and Squadron levels. She is also the involved with Volunteer University as the Chair for Online Level I. She also picks up opportunities to serve in short-term assignments such as the FL Exercise American Shield and Wing Encampment. Judy has a Master rating in Professional Development/Education & Training, Administration, Personnel, and Cadet Programs.

When not "CAPing," Judy she cares for her two lower-elementary age grandchildren each day after school. Before CAP, Judy was fortunate to be at home to raise, and home educate, her children. Prior to being a mother, Col Hewett was an Administration Assistant for Wang Laboratories in Englewood, CO and Frankfurt, West Germany.

"NESA is my annual vacation, something I look forward to every year."


Maj Mike Zabetakis
NGSAR Commandant


Major Zabetakis joined CAP in January 2000 with his son and daughter.  He has served at the Squadron level as a Deputy Commander for Cadets and as an Emergency Services Officer. He has also served as a Group and as a Wing Emergency Services Officer. With his son and daughter, attended NESA as a student in summer of 2001. In 2002, Major Z returned as a Field Training Advisor (FTA), and served in this capacity through 2004;after which he served as the lead instructor in each of the GSAR schools - Basic, Advanced, and Team Leader - and served as the GSAR Deputy Commandant from 2015 through 2019. In 2020, he assumed the position as GSAR Commandant.

Major Zabetakis has completed the AFRCC Basic Inland SAR Course and the Inland SAR Planning Course. He has also completed NASAR SARTECH training, and has completed the Managing Land Search Operations at University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Major Zabetakis currently serves as the MDWG Geospatial Information Officer, and is one of the founding members of the CAP National GIS Team. In this capacity, he has worked closely with FEMA on the use of CAP resources; such as fixed wing aircraft, sUAS, and Ground Team data collection during disasters, since 2017.

As a volunteer with the Maryland State Police Special Operations Division, Major Zabetakis serves as a Civilian Search Manager, as well as trains first responders and law enforcement in search tactics and search management.

Col Bob Freese
Mission Aircrew School Commandant 


Col Freese joined CAP in July 2012. He attended Mission Air School in 2014 and has served as an Instructor and Curriculum Director prior to being selected as the Commandant.

Col Freese became the Commander of the Indiana Wing on January 25, 2020. He had previously served as the Vice-Commander, Legal Officer, Inspector General, and Director of Operations. He is a Mission Check Pilot Examiner.

Col Freese also serves as the Operations Section Chief for the USAF Rated Preparatory Program.

Col Freese has been a State level Trial Court Judge since January 2001.

Col Rickey Oeth
Incident Command System School Commandant


Col Oeth joined CAP in 1976 as a cadet and progressed through the grade of cadet Lt Col. As a senior member, he has served in two squadrons as Communication Officer, Assistant Emergency Services Officer, and Assistant Testing Officer. Command staff assignments include the Illinois Wing Group 10 Deputy Commander, Group 12 Commander, Illinois Wing Chief of Staff, Illinois Wing Vice Commander, Illinois Wing Commander and is currently the Illinois Group 1 Chief of Staff. 

His activities include attendance at 5 Illinois Wing Encampments, 8 years on staff at the National Emergency Services Academy – Incident Command Staff School, and 12 years at the Illinois Wing Johnson Flight Academy including 10 years as the academy director. Shortly after attending the National Emergency Services Academy – Incident Command Staff School in 2005 then Lt Col Oeth deployed as a part of the CAP response to Katrina where he became the last IC in Mississippi and demobilized the operation.

He has a Bachelors Degree and two Masters Degrees in Music and is currently employed as the IT director for the Sparta Community School District #140 in Sparta, Illinois. 

Lt Col Eric Templeton
National Headquarters Senior Program Manager for Operations Training
& NESA Project Officer


Lt Col Templeton joined CAP just after Sept 11, 2001. He attended the 2002 Mission Aircrew School and was the Distinguished Graduate (DG) that year. He returned as a staff instructor in 2003, and as the Deputy Commandant in 2004. He was the Co-Commandant in 2006 and served as the Commandant from 2007 through 2019.  
Lt Col Templeton also serves as a National Operations Center staff member.
Previous CAP duties have included:
Illinois Wing Vice Commander, Chief of Staff, and Director of Operations; and California Wing Incident Commander and Deputy Director of Operations.
Highest Mission ratings: Incident Commander Level 1, Mission Pilot, and Mission Check Pilot Examiner.
Lt Col Templeton is the Senior Program Manager for Operations Training at CAP National Headquarters





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