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SDWG Remembers Capt. Neil Schmid

December 22, 2021

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 South Dakota Wing is mourning Capt. Neil Schmid, who died in Arizona December 19.  He had been injured in a serious car accident while on vacation in AZ on Nov 30th.  He was working on occupational and physical therapy multiple times daily to get to a point where he could be medically discharged for a return to Sioux Falls.

Schmid joined CAP in 2012 and served in a variety of positions in Sioux Falls Composite Squadron, including operations officer and public affairs officer, as well as assistant operations officer for South Dakota Wing. An active pilot, Schmid was also an incident commander for South Dakota Wing.  He earned a Certificate of Recognition for Lifesaving in 2012.

“While he was not a big gambler, Neil Schmid was always ‘All-In’ with his approach to life and his volunteer service with CAP,” said Capt. Kurt Johnson, assistant director of operations for South Dakota Wing. “When he accepted a role, mission, or any responsibility, he saw it through with consistent excellence.  I had the honor of knowing and serving with Neil for over 10-years in and outside of the Civil Air Patrol.” 

Schmid was a CAP mission pilot as well as scanner and observer. During his CAP tenure, he also earned his certified flight instructor and instrument instructor ratings with the FAA.  He employed these ratings in CAP as mission check pilot and mission check pilot examiner, as well as often providing cadet orientation flights. 

“We remember Neil for his dedication and commitment to excellence,” said Col. Michael Marek, South Dakota Wing commander. “We offer our prayers for Neill’s wife, Glenda, and his entire family.”

Here is Kurt Johnson’s full memory of Neil: 

While he was not a big gambler, Neil Schmid was always “All-In” with his approach to life and his volunteer service with CAP.  When he accepted a role, mission, or any responsibility, he saw it through with consistent excellence.  I had the honor of knowing and serving with Neil for over 10-years in and outside of the Civil Air Patrol. 

Among his CAP accolades were completing the Mission Scanner, Mission Observer, Form 5 / Form 91 “triathlon of requirements” to become a Search and Rescue / Disaster Recovery Mission Pilot in record time.  From this, he earned the moniker “Lightning Schmid” which stuck for quite some time with his CAP activities!  He had also served as the Low-Level Route Survey point of contact officer for SDWG.  During his CAP tenure, he also earned his Certified Flight Instructor and Instrument Instructor ratings with the FAA.  He employed these in CAP with an ascension to Mission Check Pilot and Mission Check Pilot Examiner statuses as well as an epic provider of Cadet Orientation Flights.  He also had a notable tenure as an Incident Commander for the SDWG.  He enjoyed the impromptu fun of a pop-up SAREX on a random Thursday night at squadron but would be the first to get under the airplanes and scrub grease off the bellies.

My most notable memory of Neil came when he was pilot in command of a real-world search and rescue mission sortie in the Spring of 2013.  This SAR/DR Mission Pilot go-getter (noted above) was in command of our flight in search of an elderly gentleman with dementia that drove away from his son’s home in Miller SD late one night.  Our sortie began searching in the entirely wrong grid 20 miles for the correct search area.  Incident Command at the time provided some strong words of encouragement to relocate to the correct grid as soon as practical.  Neil’s comment to us on board was “well…we had just better find him then.”  And we did just that.  Just as the sun was setting and the mission observer (yours truly) was about to activate the “return to base” leg, a very observant Mission Scanner (Karla West) stated “I think I see something.”  I took my hand away from the Auto Pilot controls and Neil “went around” and the rest of that mission is history now.  The outcome was not what we all wanted but, we brought an ailing family closure with Neil in the lead!  An experience like this solidifies why we train, makes you appreciate what’s in your life all the more, and also just might have inspired a mission observer to earn his own Mission Pilot rating 3-days later.

Fast forward a few years and in pursuit of my Commercial Pilot Rating in 2019 there was Neil serving as my CFI in that quest.  While we had some healthy debate over certain maneuvers related to practical testing, Neil was a consistent professional and exhibited great passion for his flying.  So much passion that his “Lazy 8” demonstration almost sent us inverted over a Russian MiG but, I digress.  We found a compromise that was ultimately much “Lazier”, still met standards and I went on to earn my Commercial Rating.  Much appreciated Neil!

I know there are more stories like this that can be told from many who had the pleasure of knowing Neil.  May all who knew him find solace in sharing a tale or two in fond remembrance.  May the Schmid family and all his friends find peace as they transition to a life without him here while knowing he has found smooth air and clear skies on his journey West.  God bless you my friend!

Neil Schmid's Obituary

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