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The Reluctant Dragons - An Unauthorized History

Throughout the history of man there have been references to and symbolic use of the dragon. In some cases, especially the more ancient references, these analogies have been to a ferocious being. These ancient tales often center on dragons and some extend mystical properties to these creatures. And, most of us are familiar with the stories of dragons during medieval times. Even today there are substantive references to the dragon. Symbolically, the dragon has come to epitomize strength and purity of purpose (personality). Western civilization has transposed the dragon from a fierce being to a benevolent and caring one that is grossly misunderstood and not appreciated for its concern for the welfare of mankind. A modern day example would be the fairy tale called "Pete's Dragon" or "Puff the Magic Dragon." And, one should not forget the Oriental "Year of The Dragon." Conversely having "Dragon Breath", better known as really bad breath, is usually socially unacceptable.

Thus, many people relate to the dragon as a positive force in today's society. This is true for Western as well as the Oriental cultures.

With this abstract historical background in mind...

By the mid-1960s Montgomery Senior Squadron had relocated from the Congressional airport (where it was originally chartered as Congressional Squadron and the basis for the name Congressional Flying Club) to Davis airport (Laytonsville, MD) and finally to Montgomery County Airpark (Gaithersburg, MD).

At this time the Squadron was particularly active in Civil Air Patrol and part of the National Capitol Wing. It was the general consensus of the Squadron membership that given their current home (Montgomery County Airpark) and that most of the members resided in Maryland, it was more appropriate that the Squadron be part of Maryland Wing. This transfer was accomplished in the late 1960s.

It was about this time that the name "Reluctant Dragons" came into popular use by the Squadron membership. To put this in the appropriate perspective - remember that the general membership was very active as a Civil Air Patrol Squadron, one of the largest flying clubs within CAP, and probably one of the largest squadrons in the country (this is still true today). As an example of this commitment to CAP the Squadron and the flying club jointly funded, researched, and developed the "Null Wing" technique used to determine the location of ELTs. This technique preceeded the availability of airborne Direction Finding (DF) equipment and satellite tracking. This is still a viable methodology today for search and rescue aircraft without DF equipment. As a matter of fact, the drawings found in the CAP manual on how to locate an ELT using this technique are part of the project documentation submitted to CAP by the Squadron.

This and many similar activities along with some self-promoting publicity ultimately accounted for the name "Reluctant Dragons" which has come to personify the Squadron and the flying club. Frequently the squadron showed up for a REDCAP with as many as 18 aircraft and extra search crews. It was not unusual for them to have 10 or more aircraft and 15 search crews at a SAR.

With this rather aggressive reputation and activity level, the nickname of the "Dragon Squadron" had begun. This combined with a parallel reputation of being the Black Sheep of CAP (this reputation still exists today) and a dash of pride regarding their accomplishments led to the use and general acceptance of the name. The reluctant part was the result of a comment by and unnamed cynic who said..."The only reluctant thing about these guys is their reluctance to wear the uniform." This is as true today as it was then. The squadron quickly changed the moniker to the "Reluctant Dragons" and promoted the use of it whenever possible. There was more self indulgence and pride in their accomplishments than a conscious effort on anyone's part to sell or promote the name. As a matter of fact, the name was in and out of use during the 1970s and did not really resurface until the 1980s. Throughout this period there was no logo - all that existed was the name.

The patch or logo as it exists today was principally designed and developed by Anne Culver and Bob Hawkins, with input from a lot of club and squadron members. It should be noted at this point that the design of the current patch was done without the consent or involvement of the Board of Directors of Congressional Flying Club, the staff of Montgomery Senior Squadron (with a couple of exceptions), or the Squadron Commander (Earl Burns). Those in power who were involved were sworn to secrecy and shall remain nameless to protect their reputation - if they had any to start with. We selected these co-conspirators for their ability to keep a secret, knowledge of the club, their sense of humor, but primarily their love of a good practical joke. The entire project (the patch, design, and production) was done covertly and primarily for the fun of it - as so many of the activities of the club are done - for the fun and enjoyment of the members. Lastly, the patch was designed to reflect the Squadron and the Flying Club as it had existed and functioned for 30 plus years.

There is considerable tongue in cheek as well as sarcasm in the patch. For example, this is supposed to be a CAP Squadron patch - yet the scarf of the dragon contains the letters CFC representing the Congressional Flying Club. The dragon is red because during the 1960s Bob Hawkins wore a red jumpsuit that irritated the Maryland Wing staff no end. At the time there was no regulation about the color of flight suits so there was little they could do. The portly appearance of the dragon reflects the somewhat sedate lifestyle of many members. The whimsical smile reflects the mutual friendship, comradeship, and occasional practical joke (for which there is a deserved reputation) shared by the members.

In addition, the radial engine is inappropriate for the aircraft depicted and, of course, the propeller is turning the wrong way. Even the landing gear doesn't go with the aircraft. At one point during the design period, the ubiquitous caricature of Kilroy was looking from the cockpit. If that wasn't enough, the original designs (drafts) had a beer mug or wine glass in one hand and a six pack in the other. It was decided that this wouldn't fly (pun intended) so it was changed to a wrench to depict the maintenance activities of the club while the binoculars represented our commitment and involvement in search and rescue activities.

Needless to say, everyone had a lot of fun designing the patch and it has come to symbolize the squadron and is recognized by all of the squadrons in Maryland Wing and many squadrons and pilots in nearby areas. This recognition comes from the fact that the patch is unusual and a bit defiant, which effectively reflects the squadron and its attitude through the years. It is a fact that the more people you ask regarding the history of the patch the more divers answers you are likely to get.

As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure you should trust this explanation!

- Author Unknown