Thursday December 14, 2017
Students ages 12 to 18 all across Vermont have the inimitable opportunity to participate in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), which is an auxiliary partner of the U.S. Air Force. South Burlington High School student Paige Dean has been a CAP cadet since February 2017. She was first introduced to CAP by her father, a retired army pilot who joined as a senior member. After attending a few meetings with him, Dean decided to become a cadet, realizing “this program would give me valuable skills,” she said.
The cadets meet every Thursday for two hours, starting with an opening ceremony and drills. Every week there is a focus on one of the three main program components: aerospace education, volunteer service, and emergency services. The cadets have a myriad of opportunities to learn new skills such as leadership, communication, and most notably, teamwork. Whether it is leading the national anthem at a baseball game or surviving 24 to 72 hours in the wilderness, the cadets are always working together.
Exercises range from hands-on activities, learning drills, physical training, listening in the classroom, and taking trips such as camping in Washington, D.C. Currently, Dean and the other cadets are working together, hands-on, building a functioning quad copter, which is essentially a mini drone. “There are normal extracurricular groups but this is really out there, something that not a lot of people do. It is a great opportunity to be a part of this group, learning about leadership and general life lessons,” Dean explains.
Who, one may ask, would be interested in joining the CAP? Actually, it ranges widely. Many cadets want to learn to fly, join the military, or become aerospace mechanical engineers, while others are interested in taking on a new experience to learn valuable skills. Dean notes that, “I’ve been able to get an insight into how the military works.”
Cadets are promoted with similar rankings to the military. Dean has been promoted twice and is now an Airman First Class. Her mentor, Cadet Commander Heidi Walko has challenged her to make sergeant by the end of the school year. A promotion entails successfully completing a leadership and aerospace test, physical training, and a drill test. Each time a cadet advances a rank, the next level gets increasingly difficult.
Overall, Dean has had a great year being a CAP cadet. She has been exposed to new experiences, grown as a leader, and learned skills she would never learn anywhere else. For anyone interested, Dean says, “Don’t be intimidated if it is out of your comfort zone. I know I was, even with my prior exposure to the military. If you’re interested, stick with it and you will soon feel comfortable.” Dean looks forward to new recruits, new rankings, and new experiences.
For more information about joining the Civil Air Patrol, contact Michael E. French, 802-660-8057. Meetings are every Thursday from 6:30-9 p.m.
SOURCE: Ann Wong, SBHS CDC Correspondent