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Civil Air Patrol: Public invited to change of command ceremony

Major Robin Helgager, commander of Bemidji's Northland Composite Squadron, knew she wanted to join the Civil Air Patrol after her son read a newspaper article about a Bemidji Cadet flying solo in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk aircraft at the Minnesota Civil Air Patrol Flight Academy.

After joining in 2005, Helgager took on many roles as an officer, including handling logistics, recruiting and retention, public affairs and medical services, as well as serving as a deputy commander for cadets and squadron commander.

Now, after three years at the helm of the Northland Squadron, Helgager will hand over squadron leadership to First Lt. John Schrader of Lake George during a ceremony at 6 p.m. Monday at Bemidji High School.

The opening ceremony will be followed by a change of command ceremony at 6:30 p.m. and a community reception at 7 p.m. For details, call Helgager at 218-556-2009 or email

Helgager stepped in when enrollment was beginning to rebuild. Six years ago, four cadets and two senior members attended meetings, according to Helgager. Today, 53 members are involved in the Squadron. They volunteer hundreds of hours of community service each month. The club also recently started a robotics program, which has taken the lead among other robotic teams in northern Minnesota.

Schrader, who will soon take over as commander, has been an active member of the Northland Squadron for four years. His wife, Patti, is the squadron's personnel and administrative officer. His daughter, Second Lt. Rebekah Schrader, serves as the Squadron's current cadet commander.

Schrader has experience in leading search and rescue missions as a ground team leader and is also experienced in youth development leadership.