Civil Air Patrol also known as CAP, an Air force auxiliary program, was established in December 1941 as part of the WWI war effort to utilize the skills of civilian pilots. The program was not originally intended for youth but has since evolved into a multi-faceted composite volunteer program where cadets ages 12–21 get involved in Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services.
According to the CAP website, “At its establishment, CAP made no provision for the participation of youth. On Oct. 1, 1942, CAP leaders issued a memorandum creating the CAP Cadet Program for boys and girls ages 15 to 18. The cadet program proved to be a powerful force for imparting practical skills and preparing teenagers for the military and other wartime service agencies.”
Today, CAP cadets have opportunities to participate in drill and ceremonies, ground team trainings, radio communication classes, Cessna orientation flights, glider flights, search and rescue exercises (SAREX), model rocket certifications, and cadet encampments.
According to an article titled “A Proud History of Volunteer Service,” “Today CAP has grown into a national support organization with more than 60,000 members in all 50 states. CAP currently operates the largest private fleet of Cessna aircraft in the world and maintains an advanced, nationwide radio communications system.”
The Eagle Rock Composite Squadron in Idaho Falls has been an active CAP squadron for the past 40 years. Like real Airforce soldiers, CAP senior and cadet members wear military uniforms, participate in Physical training, and can promote through the CAP ranks.
Senior members or adult participants are essential to helping cadets on track for promotion and for supervising various CAP trainings and exercises. Captain James Meyer, a senior member with the Eagle Rock Composite Squadron shared his insight on what CAP brings to the lives of young cadets.
“One of our biggest focuses is serving our community state and nation,” Meyer said. “It’s part of our cadet oath…(CAP) gives them a connection to their community on how they can give back and how they can serve. I think that is something that a lot of organizations don’t do anymore is to teach that sense of belonging and sense of community service, dedication and patriotism.”
Meyer also shared his experience with how Civil Air Patrol has provided long-term benefits to many former cadets in their search for jobs in the work force.
“Every one of the cadets that’s moved on from our squadron, that have gone on to get jobs, that have been apart of our squadron has said that their experiences here have set them apart from other job candidates and they were able to get better jobs.”
CAP Chaplain Hillary Lind, a 3-year senior member of the Eagle Rock Composite Squadron and 7-year Navy veteran, explained the challenges of being a senior member but the goal of CAP in teaching young cadets.
“I guess maybe the most challenging this is just to keep reminding ourselves that they’re young kids,” Lind said. “They’re from 12–21…They’re gonna make mistakes and so we just have to keep reminding ourselves of that because we’re in the process of teaching them how to lead, how to follow, how to do all this stuff, and they’re gonna make mistakes. One of the things we like to say is that Civil Air Patrol is a safe place to make mistakes. Try something new. Try something you’ve never done before and if you fail or don’t get it right, it’s okay. That’s how we learn.”
16-year-old Cadet Captain Troy Mooney shared what influenced him to join Civil Air Patrol and the reason why he stays an active member in his home squadron.
“Part of the reason I want to succeed is because I’ve gained so much from the program as a far as knowledge, perspective, and stuff like that,” Mooney said. “So, part of it is just giving it back now. I want to go into cyber security after I graduate, and this can still help with that because there’s stuff like cyber patriot through Civil Air Patrol. There’s a lot of great things you can get from it.”
The Eagle Rock Composite Squadron meets every Thursday from 6:45–8:45 p.m. at Elks Lodge located at 640 E. Elva St., Idaho Falls, ID. CAP activities are also hosted at Taylor’s Crossing in Idaho Falls and Raveston’s Stadium at Idaho Falls High School. For more information about Civil Air Patrol or local squadrons, visit gocivilairpatrol.com or search Eagle Rock Composite Squadron on Facebook.