Training for future Air Force recruits gets early start

Civil Air Patrol cadets practice military-style formation in order to prepare for potential military futures realistically.

Bradyn Johnson | The Chronicle

The education of military hopefuls has been taking an earlier flight.

Civil Air Patrol is an arm of the U.S. Air Force, an auxiliary program, comprised of civilian volunteers. It is a non-profit organization that was established on December 1, 1941, and consists of roughly 60,000 members nationwide between the ages of 12 and 20. The program teaches young teens situational awareness, critical thinking, and basic safety skills through interactive exercises and teamwork. This program achieves three specific missions: Cadet Programs, Aerospace Education and Emergency Services.

Lt.Col Linda Poland, who is from a local squadron, has been a part of the Civil Air Patrol for 12 years. She mentioned that the program not only teaches cadets about the Air Force side of things, but how to be a better person as well.

“We teach life skills, teamwork, leadership, [And] self-discipline, to help get your life in order,’’ Poland said. The Civil Air Patrol program helps individuals focus on these characteristics not only for the present, but the future as well.

This program isn’t just about instilling key values into its participants, but also about creating a warm and supportive environment, so that everyone can succeed and continue to the next level if they so choose. And, according to Poland, that welcoming environment proves to be beneficial, as she noted that “10 percent of every freshman class at the Air Force Academy are former Civil Air Patrol cadets.”

To foster this supportive environment, the CAP has a “wing-man system”, as described by senior Cadet/Lt. Col. Heather Long. She believes that, while the program provides safety, it’s also a “good mentorship program.” And she found her mentors through her grandparents.

“I joined because my grandparents are directors of Honor Flight Tri-State,” Long said, “And I always saw the Civil Air Patrol.”
When most think about learning or training for the U.S. Armed Forces, many may contemplate obedience, strictness, and excessive conditioning. However, with CAP that’s not necessarily the truth. For Long, who has been a part of CAP for 5 years, there’s no fear associated with the US troops.

“We do have strict uniform regulations, but as far as the military, the meeting aspect of it, I wouldn’t say it’s scary,” Long said.

Cadets spend a lot of their training and learning about the science behind flying. This includes what C/Sgt. Auriana describes as, “learning Bernoulli’s Principle, [And] doing [activities] with balloons, and observing the way the air moves,” connecting it to Newton’s laws.

While the auditory education aspect of CAP is crucial, a lot of the participant learning occurs during hands-on experience through various activities. One example, titled Orientation Flights, provides the cadets with an opportunity to observe the pilot and, sometimes, assist while operating the plane. Among other ventures, CAP members also participate in parades and community service.

Civil Air Patrol’s mission is to be impactful to many teens and their decisions for their futures, and Long and senior C/Sgt. Madeline Auriana are living proof. Long has been participating in CAP since she was only 12 years old and even though she doesn’t plan on becoming a soldier, she still appreciates the experience that she’s had.

“I am not planning on going into the military,” Long said. “I’m going to college just like everyone else, in hopes of becoming a nurse. I [just] wanted to be in that uniform, wanted to look that crisp. I wanted to join something bigger than me.”

C/Sgt. Auriana’s path through CAP is taking a different course. She dreams of becoming an AirForce pilot. Taking to the skies has become a newfound passion for her, but it wasn’t her first time getting an idea of what a pilot is like.

“[I want to] fly in the Air Force or the Navy as a F-18 pilot or a C-17 pilot and then retire and become Airline,” Auriana said. “My dad is a pilot and my mom used to be a pilot. I first got the interest from them.”

Auriana aspires to serve time in the Air Force and return to the CAP program someday, wishing to “be a senior member and help cadets” after she serves. This aspiration, in part, can be equated to how the program has transformed her into who she is today.

“If I was the person I was when I first joined,” Auriana said, “I don’t think I would be able to do this.”

Photo by Bradyn Johnson