Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for Summer 2013

I hope everyone has been enjoying the summer. As we approach the new school year, I am pleased to see that we are welcoming new senior members and cadets to the squadron. That means it is a good time to send out some reminders about some of the IT resources available to us in the squadron.

For our newest members, welcome! If you are getting this message via e-mail, then your membership in CAP and the squadron is active. If you have not already done so, please activate your eServices account as soon as possible. You can do this by going to this site. On the right side of the page, click on the link that says “Click here to register” and follow the instructions. You will need to enter the last four digits of your social security number to confirm your identity. You have also been assigned a CAP ID number which you will see once you have completed your eServices registration. (I can also tell you what that number is if you are having trouble finding it.)

All members should familiarize themselves with using eServices. You will be directed to perform several activities when you first activate your account, including OPSEC training and Introduction to CAP Safety. I recommend you get these things out of the way as soon as possible. Also, please check that all the personal information that is in the system is correct. For new cadets, it is very important that we have a current e-mail address for you AND a parent.

For new senior members, we’d like to get you into the Senior Member Professional Development Program as soon as possible. The first step is to complete Level 1. There is a new module in eServices that will quickly take you through the required training. When logged in to eServices, click on the link for “Learning Management System” on the left column. Once in LMS, there will be a link near the top of the page for “Level 1 Orientation.” Follow the instructions there and you will be on your way. Once you have completed the training in eServices, you will be expected to sit down with our squadron commander (or designee) to have a summary conversation about your role in the Civil Air Patrol.

The National Capital Wing offers e-mail accounts to all of its members (seniors and cadets). While this is not required, it is strongly recommended to obtain an account, as Wing leadership uses NATCAP e-mail to communicate with the membership. To apply for an account, please go to the Wing web site and click on the NATCAP Apps cloud on the left side of the page. Complete the form and an account will soon be created for you. I know it can be tedious to have to monitor an additional e-mail account, but you can set up the account to forward messages to any account you choose. Please see me if you need assistance in setting this up.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions on this update, or with any CAP-related IT matter and I’ll do my best to help.

Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for June 2013

The first order of business is to remind our members that there will be NO SQUADRON MEETING NEXT WEDNESDAY, 3 JULY.  Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, 10 July.  We wish all of our members and their families an enjoyable and safe Independence Day.

Speaking of safety, I’d like to take a moment to remind our members how to use eServices to remain safety current, particularly when you are unable to attend a scheduled safety briefing.  Even if you are not able to regularly attend squadron meetings, we strongly recommend that you maintain your currency.  As you know, members cannot participate in any CAP activity without being safety current.  In addition, the online safety briefings provide safety tips and techniques that are useful both inside and outside CAP.

Once you log in to eServices, click on the link for “Safety Management System (SMS)” under CAP Utilities on the left-hand column of the window.  Then, click on the “Online Safety Education” button in the middle of the window (or the equivalent link on the left-hand side).

The next screen provides links to multiple safety lessons, any of which when completed will ensure your safety currency until the last day of the following month.  The risk management courses are recommended for all members – our safety officer provided an overview during May’s safety briefing.  In addition, there are links to several elective monthly education courses.  If you’ve already taken all of those courses, you can retake them as a refresher, and still receive safety credit.

If you take online or in-person courses through FAA or AOPA as part of the WINGS program, you can receive CAP safety credit, as well.  When you register for WINGS, you can provide your CAPID number.  Any courses you complete will automatically become part of your CAP safety record.  You can see that safety record as the bottom of the Online Safety Education screen, under “Safety Education Training Records.”

I’d also like to remind you that I remain interested in recruiting an Assistant IT Officer for the squadron.  Please contact me for more information if you are interested.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any CAP-related IT issue and I’ll do my best to help.

Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for May 2013

This month, I would like to briefly (re-)introduce you to the Arlington Composite Squadron’s web site, which is available at http://www.dc026.natcapwing.org. The web site has general information about our squadron, including meeting location and times, basic agendas, and contact information. It also has useful links for cadets and senior members, an aerospace education section, and squadron news.

The squadron news section is updated with information of interest to our membership, including recent and upcoming activities. The information is also intended to give the general public an idea of what we do as CAP members and encourage some new potential members to visit us. Any articles posted to the squadron news section are also sent out via the National Capital Wing’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Please (re-)acquaint yourself with the web site and its content. I would appreciate any and all feedback – this is for the benefit of the squadron, so if there is anything new you would like to see, please let me know. Squadron members are also welcome to submit content for inclusion on the web site. Please contact me for more information.

Finally, I am interested in recruiting a senior member to serve as Assistant Information Technology Officer for the squadron. Previous IT experience is useful, but not required. This officer would assist me in running the squadron web site, making sure that IT assets at our meeting site are available for squadron use, and helping squadron members with CAP-related IT issues. I am happy to answer any questions or provide more information about the role. Please contact me if you are interested. As always, please contact me with any CAP-related IT issues, and I’ll do my best to help.

Arlington Squadron IT Update for April 2013

I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone, particularly our newest members, that Google-based e-mail services are available for all National Capital Wing CAP members. We encourage all senior members and cadets to sign up for accounts. Many communications from the Wing are ONLY sent to Wing e-mail addresses, so this is an important communications tool.

To sign up for an account, please visit the Wing homepage and click on the “NatCap Apps” cloud on the left side of the page. Then scroll down and fill out and submit the form at the bottom of the page. You will be informed when your account is created.

NatCap Google accounts include access to the full suite of Google Apps, including Google Drive, which allows for cloud-based file storage. You can store files privately (such as copies of CAP awards, course completion certificates, or other items from your personnel file), or set up shared folders to collaborate with other NatCap CAP members. We are working now on moving many of our squadron’s administrative files to this environment.

I am happy to help squadron members in configuring Google accounts or with any other CAP-related IT issues. Please contact me with any questions.

Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for March 2013

As we begin March and thoughts turn to the approach of spring, it is perhaps not surprising that there is a possibility of a serious winter weather event this week on Tuesday and Wednesday.  This is a good time to remind everyone about the Squadron’s inclement weather policy.

First and foremost, your safety comes first.  If you and/or your family feel that road conditions make it unsafe for you to travel, then you should not attempt to come to the meeting.  In that case, we ask that you contact a Squadron POC (senior members may send me an e-mail; cadets should contact their element leaders or Cadet Commander/Deputy Commander) so that we know not to expect you.

As you know, we meet at the Arlington Career Center, which is an Arlington County public school.  Should Arlington County decide to close the school due to weather, our meeting is automatically cancelled as our meeting space will not be available.  Arlington County announces all such closures at this web page, which you should monitor on meeting days.

If a meeting will be cancelled for any reason, I will make every effort to send out an e-mail notice to all members and parents and also post it on the squadron website.

This is also a good time to ask all members to look in eServices and verify that your contact information is up-to-date.  A couple of specific items:

  1. The alert roster that we use in the event of an emergency includes all the contact information that you mark as “Primary” in eServices.  So, please make sure that you are reachable at the phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses that are so marked in the system, or make updates to your eServices record as necessary.
  2. We ask that all cadets include at least one parent contact e-mail in your eServices record.  Please check your current entries and update as necessary.

As always, please contact me with any CAP-related IT issue and I’ll do my best to help.

Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for February 2013

It is time once again for the monthly Information Technology update for the squadron.  Today I have a brief reminder about NATCAP Wing e-mail addresses and then some general advice on IT safety.

Many of you already have and use NATCAP Wing e-mail accounts, and all senior members and cadets are welcome and encouraged to do so.  If you do not yet have a NATCAP Wing account, you may obtain one by clicking on the “NATCAP Apps Cloud” on the left side of the wing home page and filling out the form at the bottom of that page.

Once you have the NATCAP account, we encourage you to use that account as your primary contact for CAP issues.  Many people are reticent to have to monitor yet another e-mail account (I probably have at least six e-mail addresses that I use for one reason or another), but you can have the NATCAP e-mail forwarded to any other account you wish.  Please contact me if you require assistance in establishing a NATCAP account or in setting up the e-mail forwarding.

My IT safety message for this month is simple:  please make sure that you have anti-virus/anti-malware/anti-spyware software on all of your computers, and please make sure that you use it.  There are many options available for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh computers – many of these are free and quite effective.  Just within the CAP environment, we readily e-mail files to one another or transfer them using a thumb drive – sometimes just for a squadron briefing, but sometimes also in support of an active mission.  It takes very little time for you to scan a file before sharing it with someone else; it is also simple to scan a file that you receive from someone else before using it.  That action will not only help keep your personal IT assets safe and working efficiently, but it can also avoid the potential loss of data (personal or CAP-related) and the potential loss of mission.

Please contact me if you need advice or assistance in setting up the appropriate tools on your computers, or if you have any CAP-related IT issues.

Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for January 2013

Happy New Year! I have two brief Information Technology updates as we begin 2013.

First of all, CAP national headquarters has decided to increase the strength of eServices passwords. You are not required to change your password immediately (although you can if you wish), but you will now be required to select a new password every 90 days. All passwords must be at least eight characters in length and must contain characters from at least three of the following four categories: uppercase letters (A-Z), lowercase letters (a-z), numbers (0-9), and special characters. This is generally good practice for any computer account with a password.

Also, one of our cadets identified a useful app that is available for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) called “CAP Cadet.” It includes links to a number of CAP manuals, handbooks, and other information. This app is available on the App Store. For those with Android devices, there is a similar app called “Civil Air Patrol for Android” which can be downloaded from Google Play. Please note that neither of these apps was developed by or endorsed by the Civil Air Patrol. It is also CAP’s policy that links or references to individuals or companies do not constitute an endorsement of any information, product, or service you may receive from such sources.

As always, please contact me if you have any questions about this or any other CAP-related IT issue and I’ll do my best to help.

Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for December 2012

At our last squadron meeting, we had a number of members, both cadets and seniors, who were not safety current.  As you know, it is mandatory for all CAP personnel to be safety current to participate in any CAP activity, including the weekly meeting.  So, we had to spend some time on Wednesday getting some people up to date.

Therefore, for my last IT update for 2012, I wanted to cover how to get online safety education through eServices.  Of course, the best way is to regularly attend our squadron meetings.  The first meeting of every month includes a safety briefing, and that ensures all attendees are current through the end of the following month.

But, we’re all busy people, and sometimes we miss meetings.  Fortunately, getting online safety training is a very straightforward process.  When you log in to eServices, there should be a link in the left hand column of the main screen that says “Safety Management System (SMS.)”  Clicking that link will bring you to the SMS main page, which has a series of large buttons in the main window.  Find the “Online Safety Education” button and click it.

On the next screen, scroll down to the bottom section which says “(Your Name) Safety Education Training Records.”  You will see in the first entry on the rightmost column when your safety currency expires.  If you have expired, or are in danger of expiring, just scroll up to the “Elective Monthly Education Courses” heading and choose one of the links there.  You will then see instructions on how to complete the course.  Generally, this means viewing a short PowerPoint presentation, and then taking a 10 question quiz.  It should only take a few minutes to complete.  Once you pass the quiz, your eServices record will automatically be updated and you will be safety current.

Also, if you log in to eServices and your safety currency has already expired, you will immediately see a message that will send you directly to the Safety Management System to complete training.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this material or on any CAP-related IT issue.  Best wishes to all for a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy New Year.

Arlington Composite Squadron IT Update for November 2012

I hope all of you enjoyed Thanksgiving and are back in the swing of things as we approach the end of the year.  You know well that there are a great many online transactions going on during this time of year – from Cyber Monday sales to charitable donations.  It seems like a good time to review some basic precautions for online shopping and giving.

First, it’s always best to shop at sites you know and trust.  If you get an e-mail about a particular sale and you click on a link to make a purchase, make sure the site you’re going to is the one you expect.  Link misdirection is a popular technique used to illegally gain access to credit card numbers.

When you’re ready to make a purchase or a donation, make sure your credit card details are being sent encrypted.  At the very least, make sure that your connection is protected via Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).  Look for the web address to begin with https instead of http – that last “s” indicates a secure connection.  Most web browsers will also put up an icon of a closed padlock or something similar to indicate that the transaction is secure.

If you suspect that your credit card information has been compromised, call the customer service number on your card as soon as possible and ask for help.  You are almost never responsible for any fraudulent charges and the card issuer will very quickly send you a new card with a new number – they want your continued business.

Finally, if you are interested in including the Civil Air Patrol in your charitable giving this holiday season, it’s easy to do so online.  There is a link at the bottom of the squadron homepage that will take you to a secure PayPal page to make a donation of any amount to the National Capital Wing.

As always, if you have any questions about this update, or about any CAP-related IT issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.