Gnoss Field on Novato's northern outskirts is home to Squadron 23 of the Civil Air Patrol, formed in 2003 after…More Hamilton Air Force Base closed. Lt. Col. Ray Peterson of Petaluma and Lt. Col. Laurence Steffan of Novato were instrumental in creating the squadron. Squadron 23 is part of Group 5 of the national Civil Air Patrol and has 44 members -- 25 adults and 19 cadets (ages 12 - 18) -- from Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.
The Civil Air Patrol traces its roots to the ominous months before the United States was drawn into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and others believed a stable of civilian pilots could help monitor the homeland skies and free up military forces for more urgent tasks. Shortly after LaGuardia created the patrol, the pilots started patrolling coastal areas, helping ships in distress and even bombing German submarines.
Today, volunteers -- from teens to senior citizens -- prepare for emergency situations; contribute to homeland security; and promote aerospace education. The patrol's cadet program is the introduction to air service education for many teens, and guides them toward acheiving a pilot's license and, on occasion, toward entry into a service academy. At Gnoss Field, the cadets meet at 7 p.m. every Monday to learn leadership, discipline and science skills.
Squadron 23 has possession of a Cessna 206 N50MB, a single-engine plane. The group operates out of a double-wide trailer at the south end of Gnoss Field. Messages left on its answering machine are checked on average once a week.