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THURSDAY, AUGUST 9, 2007
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Civil Air Patrol test-taking probe implicates officer

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Civil Air Patrol has suspended its national commander, Maj. Gen. Antonio "Tony" Pineda, after investigating allegations that another patrol member took Air Force exams for him.

Maj. Gen. Richard Bowling, chairman of the patrol's board of governors, announced the board's suspension Tuesday.

Suspension

He said the suspension resulted from a special board meeting Sunday, where members received an inspector general's report concerning allegations against Pineda. The report was not made public.

Bowling said the suspension would be for up to six months while the board determines its final decision in the matter.

During the suspension, Pineda is prohibited from contacting patrol members, Bowling said.

Pineda said Wednesday the suspension is unjustified and he has hired a lawyer to fight it.

"I've never cheated on any test in my life," he said in a telephone interview.

The Civil Air Patrol's vice commander, Brig Gen. Amy S. Courter, assumed the duties of national commander during Pineda's suspension.

The Civil Air Patrol is an Air Force auxiliary that is best known for conducting volunteer search-and-rescue missions throughout the nation.

Its other operations include aviation programs for young people. It has 55,000 volunteers throughout the country, including the commander, and a paid staff of 100.

The Civil Air Patrol's inspector general announced on Dec. 21 that an investigation had begun of allegations that another patrol member took exams for Pineda in 2002 and 2003 that allowed Pineda to complete courses at the Air Force's Air Command and Staff College.

The college and the patrol's national headquarters are at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.

The investigation began after another patrol member, Lt. Col. Raymond Hayden of Tamarac, Fla., complained that Pineda had assigned him to take his exams.

Contacted Wednesday, Hayden said he spent three hours with the inspector general during the investigation and was not surprised by the suspension.

"I knew it was coming down," said Hayden, who is no longer a member of the patrol.

Pineda is a retired special agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and lives in Plantation, Fla.

He said Hayden filed the complaint to retaliate against him for not stopping a patrol investigation of Hayden.

Pineda joined the Civil Air Patrol in 1988, becoming Florida Wing commander and then Southeast Region commander. He became the national commander in July 2005.

A patrol news release announcing his selection two years ago noted that he was a graduate of the Air Force's Air Command and Staff College.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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