An Inside Look at the Civil Air Patrol – Today’s Cadets, Tomorrow’s Aerospace Leaders

An Inside Look at the Civil Air Patrol – Today’s Cadets, Tomorrow’s Aerospace Leaders

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was originally established as the civilian auxiliary to the Air Force during World War II to support the wartime effort. Today, members of the Civil Air Patrol continue to serve communities in the United States by providing emergency services such as search and rescue, disaster relief assistance and youth programs. Currently, the Civil Air Patrol has about 60,000 members nationwide. 

The Civil Air Patrol cadet program helps kids explore future careers

The program offers education and training for kids ages 12-18 in the four focus areas of aviation and aerospace engineering, emergency services, physical fitness and leadership. Cadets can choose one of the areas to specialize in but receive some training in all four areas. The cadet program provides an opportunity for kids to earn real-world certifications in their areas of interest and explore their future careers. About 8% of Air Force Academy cadets participated in the Civil Air Patrol program. 

How the Civil Air Patrol cadet program is structured

Cadets participate in weekly meetings that last about two and a half hours, plus a Saturday event each month. Each summer, cadets also participate in a one-week encampment. At the weekly meeting, cadets work on lessons from the four focus areas and complete activities required to earn their rank. As cadets progress through the program and move up in rank, they are assigned tasks with a higher level of complexity and responsibility. Cadets are often assigned to teams to work on projects, which helps cadets learn important life skills such as collaboration and communication. 

Program highlights from each of the four focus areas include:

1. Aerospace & aviation focus: Includes STEM kits containing hands-on activities, such as building aircraft models and learning about computer programming. Cybersecurity lessons and activities have recently been added to the curriculum. Cadets interested in earning their FAA pilot’s license can participate in ground school and take the flight lessons necessary to work towards their FAA pilot’s license.

2. Emergency Services focus: Cadets participate in training scenarios that simulate real-life emergency situations.

3. Physical fitness focus: Cadets learn daily exercise habits that lead to a healthy lifestyle.

4. Leadership focus: Helps cadets learn important problem-solving and relationship-building skills.

How to join the CAP cadet program

To be accepted into the cadet program, an applicant must be at least 12 years old, attend an interview, participate in three squadron meetings and pay annual dues. Dues can vary by location but are typically between $24 and $60. Cadets must also buy uniforms but your local squadron may be able to provide some assistance. 

To join the Columbus Squadron, call 706-718-0255 or email Their cadet program meets at the Columbus Airport on Mondays at 6:30pm, excluding holidays. Parents who have a background in the military, aviation or emergency services are encouraged to become cadet program volunteers. For more, visit 



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