When Lt. Cols. Randy and Mary Fuller of the Missouri Wing made Civil Air Patrol a family affair, they were thinking about spending time together and instilling volunteer service and patriotism in their three sons.
They got all that and much more. CAP work eventually helped lead each of their sons into meaningful careers.
Big brother Sean Fuller was the first to capitalize on his CAP background. Today the director of NASA Human Space Flight Programs in Russia, he was the only son old enough to join CAP when the organization first came to his father’s attention through a newspaper article.
Both father and son joined the River City Composite Squadron in Fenton, Missouri. Sean took full advantage of the CAP program, attending summer programs like National Blue Beret, Cadet Officers School and the International Air Cadet Exchange and eventually earning the prestigious Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, the highest achievement for a CAP cadet.
He already had a strong interest in aerospace before joining CAP, but he allows that the organization helped fuel that interest while providing him with many opportunities to pursue it, including a CAP scholarship that helped him earn a pilot’s certificate and education in model rocketry and the history and fundamentals of aviation.
After getting a degree in engineering physics from Embry-Riddle, he already had a job at the United Space Alliance in Houston working on NASA’s International Space Station program. Though his job titles may have changed, he has continued to be involved with the ISS. This fall he will complete his tour of duty in Russia, where he represents NASA in liaisons with Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe.
He describes the ISS as “the cutting edge of human space flight, preparing us to go beyond low Earth orbit, opening the door to commercial space and advancing research to benefit life on Earth as well as prepare for longer-duration journeys deeper into the cosmos.” He goes on to cite the ISS as a prime example of inter-country cooperation in the “greatest engineering achievement of mankind in peacetime.”
Civil Air Patrol Volunteer took an in-depth look in 2015 at Sean Fuller’s work in Russia.
Most recently, middle brother Kurt Fuller was named Bell Helicopter manager of the Bell Boeing V-22 program at its Dallas-Fort Worth site.
Like his brothers, he learned to fly while in CAP, doing so through a family friend who owned a plane. After graduation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida with a degree in aerospace engineering, he embarked on a career in aviation, joining The Aerostructures Corp. in 1998. He worked with Aerostructures for five years.
“In 2003, I joined Bell Helicopter-Textron, where I spent the following almost 11½ years on V-22, advancing in my career with increasing responsibility and leadership,” he said. “In November 2014, I left V-22 as the manager of mechanical systems to lead the UH-1Y and AH-1Z engineering team as the chief engineer. In September 2016, I returned to my tilt-rotor roots with a promotion to program manager at Bell for the V-22.”
The V-22, also known as Osprey, is a multimission, tilt-rotor military aircraft with both vertical takeoff and landing and short takeoff and landing capabilities. It’s designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.
Fuller became interested in tilt-rotor aircraft during his first job as a structural design engineer on the 609 Civil Tilt-Rotor with Aerostructures. “It wasn’t helicopters as much as it was tilt-rotors, which I found fascinating by their innovative and transformational capability.”
He credits Civil Air Patrol with kick-starting his career. “CAP provided me early exposure to leadership roles and fueled my passion for aviation,” he said. “CAP also gave me insight into and education regarding U.S. military rank/chain of command and organization (squadron, group, wing), which is a world I work in on a daily basis now.
“CAP likely fueled my passion for working with and supporting the U.S. military,” he said.
Youngest brother Chad Fuller took the military route and is currently serving as an F-16 pilot with the Colorado National Guard.
“CAP helped foster my interest in aviation and introduced me to the military/Air Force and the many opportunities they had to offer,” he said. “As I spent more time in CAP and participated in many of the activities, it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in military aviation with the dream of being a fighter pilot.”
Because of a wrist injury, Chad didn’t get his wings until he was a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy. When he graduated, he went on to flight school at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and was later sent to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas to study to be a flight instructor.
He learned to fly the F-16 while at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona., subsequently spending the next four years overseas, first in Korea and then in Italy.
“Being a fighter pilot in the F-16 really is a dream job for me,” he said, adding that the best part of flying an F-16 is “the view from the office! … I love the flying, the camaraderie of the squadron, the challenges and being ready to fight for our country when called upon.”
Chad finished his commitment to the Air Force back at Luke, where he was an F-16 instructor. Always wanting to return to Colorado, he jumped at a job opportunity there and is now on Active Guard Reserve status at Buckley Air Force Base.
Mom and dad
As for mom and dad, both remain active in CAP. After separate stints for each as commander of their Missouri squadron, they moved on to work at the wing level.
Mary Fuller — whose husband claims she joined CAP “out of self defense” as everyone else in the family was already a member — is the Missouri Wing’s assistant chief of staff. Randy Fuller is assistant director of emergency services and serves as the wing’s adviser on government relations and commander of the Legislative Squadron.
“For many years, while all the boys were still home, we functioned as a complete ground team and were usually the first called, since they knew we could deploy rapidly,” Randy Fuller said. “One time, we responded to four emergency locator transmitter missions in a 24-hour period in addition to attending a first aid class.”
Sean Fuller, a major in the Texas Wing’s Ellington Composite Squadron, described service on a ground team as important to the family as he and his brothers were growing up. “Through numerous ELT missions, missing aircraft, responding to disaster relief, standing ready and providing weather spotter information or training for such missions, we did it together.” Later, when he lived in Florida, he continued to serve on ground teams. He was part of one of the first ground teams to respond to Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Kurt Fuller said, “CAP offers a great way to support your local community and aviation through a wide variety of different activities while learning critical skills (lifesaving, leadership, communication, teamwork, etc.) and growing as a family.”
Their father agrees: Randy Fuller has seen CAP’s effect on his three sons.
“CAP was something we could do as a family unit,” he said. “Each of us enjoyed various activities together. It is comforting to see people that were cadets under our command now graduated to senior members with their children now becoming cadets.”