Young Volunteers Take Flight with Civil Air Patrol
July 4, 2014 — In the 1930’s, as conflict increased across Europe and Asia, thousands of Americans with a passion for aviation were eager to help defend their country. The result was the Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer force that today still provides education and emergency services. Lakeshore reporter Sarah Holst recently joined a group of young volunteers as they began their training in an organization designed to teach discipline and community service.
On a warm Saturday afternoon, dozens of volunteers between 12 and 18 years old gather at the Indiana National Guard facility at the Gary–Chicago International Airport.
The group listens patiently to a lesson in military customs, all the while waiting for the opportunity that brought most of them here—the chance to fly.
On this day, new recruits to the Civil Air Patrol are waiting for morning fog to clear so they can take their first flight as cadets. Their instructor, Major Aaron Angelini, remembers that feeling. He began as a cadet himself some 14 years ago. Today he leads eight units with a combined 75 cadets.
“The Civil Air Patrol was actually created 7 days before Pearl Harbor happened, December First, 1941.” says Angelini. “It was really a bunch of aviation enthusiasts trying to get together to do some flying. After that happened we were tasked, because we’re the largest group of single engine aircrafts around, to do coastal patrol during World War II.”
After sinking two German submarines and rescuing pilots whose aircraft were shot down, the Civil Air Patrol became a permanent volunteer wing of the newly formed United States Air Force in 1948. Today the non-profit group focuses on three missions, including emergency services.
Angelini says, “Our main focus is with search and rescue. Airplanes have emergency locating transponders and when they go off they send us to go find them. We either are called out by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center to do Air Force missions or the Governor can call us out for different disasters. And we never know. A tornado can hit at any time, an earthquake can hit at any time, and we’re always preparing because we never know when we’re gonna be needed.”
The second mission is the cadet program, which stresses leadership, discipline, and community service.
Angelini says the program instills leadership, self-discipline and other good morals. Participants attend one meeting each week, usually lasting about two and a half hours, and weekend activities. There’s no formal commitment or contract required. Angelini adds, “A lot of it is teaching them follower-ship and how to manage themselves before they can manage others. So it’s really a ‘crawl, walk, run’ kind of strategy we use for developing our cadets.”
Cadet Logan Cripe says he joined to get an early start at a military career.
“I really liked airplanes and my uncle was in the Army and I thought about joining the Army so then I decided to join CAP from somebody from our church who told us about it.” says Cripe. “I was pretty excited. I wanted to fly the airplanes the most, and then later I actually joined an academy where I could fly gliders and such, and then I got my private gliders license so I can fly around and have fun.”
The third mission, aerospace education, is an important part of cadet training. Programs are also presented to the community and at local schools.
Cripe says, “That was my favorite part. Like, how the airplanes work and how they fly and stuff like that. That was what I really liked.”
While many of the cadets aspire to join the military, no commitment is needed. Cadets go on to use their skills in a variety of fields, and some simply enjoy flying.
Cripe agrees. “That’s basically what the majority of the people do, is join CAP because they like to fly. If you really like airplanes, I highly suggest the program.”
Angelini concludes, “The wildest thing is to have a cadet who’s real timid and shut down and not really talking, and after about two years of us being able to develop them, they’re telling people what to do, giving orders, telling them how to march right, fixing their uniform and completely come out of their shell. It’s definitely rewarding.”
YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8_G6nLWJng