An important goal of parenting is to raise children to be independent, productive members of society. Preferable, I want my children to become influencers rather than mere followers. Developing leadership skills is a high priority in our family. One way to do this is through active membership in Civil Air Patrol Cadets which is the youth development portion of the Civil Air Patrol.
Civil Air Patrol is the official Auxiliary of the United States Air Force, meaning it receives its missions, directives, and funding through the Air Force. Yet Civil Air Patrol members are volunteer civilians, not military personnel.
According to the Civil Air Patrol’s website, CAP’s mission statement is the following:
“Supporting America’s communities with emergency response, diverse
aviation and ground services, youth development, and promotion of air,
space, and cyber power.”
History and Practices of Civil Air Patrol
Formed by concerned U.S. citizens during the beginning of World War
II, these small-engine aircraft owners provided their time and resources
to patrol our nation’s shores by locating, and sometimes harassing,
German U-boats as they approached our continent. Many threats were
extinguished by these diligent volunteers patrolling our shores. Today,
CAP provides emergency services to nearly 1500 communities, on the
ground as well as in the air. Civil Air Patrol trains youth who are
valuable assets on a wide variety of these missions.
Why Do Teens Want To Join Civil Air Patrol Cadets?
Watch the CAP Cadet promotional video to find out.
- Youth ages 12 through 18 years can join, so many of them enjoy the social aspect of participating in activities with other teenagers one evening a week and once a month on the weekend.
- Cadets feel intense pride when wearing the Air Force uniform, including rank insignia, and practicing military customs and courtesies.
- Cadets get a kick out of completing physical training goals once a month, dressed in full camouflage battle dress uniform.
- Cadets relish the aviation and aerospace education component which includes flights in Civil Air Patrol-owned small aircraft.
- There is a sense of pride and exhilaration being a part of a respected organization.
- Search and rescue is a large component of CAP; cadets may participate in real-life scenarios.
- And most cadets aspire to progress up the ranks and become cadet non-commissioned officers and cadet commissioned officers and take on the privileges and responsibilities of being an important cog in the well-oiled gears of cadet leadership.
- There is no obligation to join the military.
Why Do Parents Want Teens To Join?
- Good character
- Science education
- Physical education
- Professional demeanor
- Speaking skills
- Team-building skills
- Strong work ethic
- Desirable peer role models
- Safe environment
- Multiple family members can participate
The core curriculum of the Civil Air Patrol Cadets consists of tasks that cadets are encouraged to complete during their weekly squadron meetings and within activities one weekend day each month.
The Cadet Super Chart is a valuable visual aid for cadets and parents to understand the scope of a cadet’s progression through the ranks of the Civil Air Patrol Cadet program. The Cadet Super Chart outlines what needs to be accomplished for each promotion.
With each promotion, a cadet will stand before a 3-member promotion board to verbally highlight his or her accomplishments while earning the current promotion. This is usually very unnerving for new cadets, yet with practice, teenagers become accustomed to presenting themselves professionally before an audience.
Weekly cadet meetings are planned and implemented by cadets themselves. As a new member, cadets learn as they participate in informal gathering, uniform inspection, announcements, drilling in formation, leadership training, aerospace education, character education, and physical training. They are assigned a more-experienced cadet who will guide and answer questions. As cadets acquire knowledge and achieve rank, they receive more responsibility for planning and implementing cadet meetings.
Informal speaking (giving instructions to other cadets) is practiced weekly, but actually writing an essay and giving a formal speech are not required for promotion until the cadet pursues the rank of Cadet/Chief Master Sergeant, occurring after approximately 18 months in the cadet program.
These are the words of my son, who rose to the rank of Cadet/1st Lieutenant during his four years in the program:
“I am now a contracted software engineer who frequently meets new clients whom I must impress by my knowledge and professionalism. I credit my Civil Air Patrol Cadet experience, especially opportunities for public speaking, promotion reviews, and professional conduct, as being invaluable to my success.”
After his first job interview, my son concluded that it was very much like the promotion boards he’d completed a dozen times before! So the interview was a piece of cake! He was hired, of course; Civil Air Patrol Cadets have a reputation of excellence.
Special activities are conducted outside of the weekly Civil Air Patrol meetings and are not required for cadets. Some activities are week-long events at military facilities or on university campuses. Just like weekly meetings, every special activity strictly adheres to risk-management protocol and is fully adult supervised.
Wildly popular is the annual National Emergency Services Academy held each summer.
Encampment is an 8-day bootcamp-style experience that cadets complete early in the program. Whether attending during the summer or winter break, they learn the basics on aerospace, character, fitness, and leadership. Encampment challenges cadets on many levels!
National Cadet Competition: Competition Color Guard and Drill Teams challenge cadets to be the best in the nation and to receive the honor and respect due cadets who display their very best!
Dozens of other special activities are available to CAP Cadets!
What Will It Cost and How Do We Join?
The cadet annual membership fee (through September 2018) is between $25.00 and $47.00 depending on the state. In order to join, locate a local squadron and arrange for the prospective cadet and his or her parent to visit at a meeting. After the teenager attends three weekly meetings, the local squadron will give him or her a membership application.
A good leader leads by example, and good character is a pre-requisite for good leadership. My two children who participated in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program saw good examples of character and leadership exhibited in higher-ranking cadets. My kids were led by good role models and soon became good role models themselves. Confidence and self-esteem rose quickly. I’m sure both of my children will encourage their own kids one day to become CAP cadets, too.
Do you have any questions about this program or about our experiences in it? I’ll happily answer; simply leave your questions or comments below. The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program has been a great experience for my children and me; I often encourage others to give it a try, too!
Pursuing great things for our children,