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Civil Air Patrol chief removed

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The national commander of the Civil Air Patrol, Antonio J. "Tony" Pineda, was removed from his post following an investigation into claims that another patrol member took Air Force tests for him.

Pineda was replaced by the volunteer organization's first female leader, Vice Commander Brig. Gen. Amy S. Courter of South Lyon, Mich.

The patrol's Board of Governors voted to act in a teleconference Tuesday night and took Pineda's title of major general, spokeswoman Julie DeBardelaben said Wednesday.

The board suspended Pineda two months ago while investigating complaints by another CAP member that he took tests for Pineda at the U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery in 2002 and 2003.

Pineda denied that anyone took tests for him. But Courter, a member of the board, said the CAP inspector general's findings about the tests prompted the board's decision to change leadership.

The Civil Air Patrol, a federally funded auxiliary of the Air Force, is based at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. It has more than 55,000 volunteer members nationwide and is best known for its search and rescue missions, including the recent search for millionaire aviator Steve Fossett in Nevada. The commander is a volunteer chosen by the board.

Pineda, a retired special agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said Wednesday no one took tests for him and he didn't need the tests for promotions. But he said he never got to tell his side to the board.

"After being a volunteer in this organization for 20 years, this is how they pay me back," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Plantation, Fla.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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