QUARTZ HILL – Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon spoke briefly with about 30 Civil Air Patrol cadets at Joe Walker Middle School on Friday prior to attending his retirement ceremony in Palmdale.
Announcing in January he would not seek reelection, McKeon is retiring at the end of this year after more than two decades of representation for the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita Valley.
Students from Cadet Squadron 804 out of Quartz Hill were eager to ask McKeon both career and military-related questions, picking the brain of the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking Republican representative.
When asked if he supported US military operations in Afghanistan, McKeon said he did, and took aim at the President’s drawdown of troops in the region.
“We have roughly now about 25,000 troops of ours in Afghanistan – on their way down to about 10,000 in December, and about 5,000 the next year. I would not do that,” the congressman explained. “I would not set a timeline. I would base it on conditions on the ground. But that’s what the commander in chief has decided to do. I think we pulled our troops out of Iraq too quickly. Now we’re paying the price.”
But talk about politics was short, and then McKeon received questions from cadets that were more geared toward his personal accomplishments and success as a congressman, such as, “What inspires you to keep doing your job?”
“Meetings like this,” the congressman quipped. “You guys don’t know it, but when you get older and you get this opportunity to come in and meet with a group of young people like this, it’s inspiring. … You are a very sharp-looking group of young people, and you’re going to be the leaders of tomorrow. And it makes me feel good about America – about what our future looks like.”
Rounding out the cadets’ questions, one middle school student asked the congressman if he had any advice for the Civil Air Patrol members that would help them make the best decisions for their futures.
“I think that if we could all become what our mothers (wanted us) to become, it would probably be pretty good,” McKeon told them. “I think that’s a pretty good start to follow in life.”
The congressman’s brief visit with the cadets at the Joe Walker Stealth Academy preceded his retirement ceremony at the Rancho Vista Golf Club in Palmdale later Friday. The Civil Air Patrol color guard also participated in the congressman’s retirement ceremony later that day, presenting the colors at his reception.
Lt. Col. Traci Scott, commander of Cadet Squadron 804, said the Civil Air Patrol program is a nationwide program that provides aerospace education, emergency services, and leadership training, including orientation flights in single-engine Cessnas.