United States military personnel are easily identified by the camouflaged uniforms they wear, but not all personnel are active duty soldiers—some are Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets.
Civil Air Patrol, an Air Force auxiliary program for youth ages 12–21, was founded on Dec. 1, 1941, as part of an organized recruitment of civilian pilots in the United States for the World War I war effort.
A current CAP squadron functions out of Idaho Falls. The Eagle Rock Composite Squadron meets every Thursday from 6:45–8:45 p.m. at at Elks Lodge located at 640 E. Elva St., Idaho Falls, ID. CAP activities are also hosted at Taylor’s Crossing in Ammon and Raveston’s Stadium at Idaho Falls High School.
The squadron is composite because it is made up of a cadet squadron and a senior member squadron. The senior members are primarily in charge of piloting and flying for aerospace exercises and the cadets primarily participate in community service and leadership trainings .
According to the general 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.”
Since its foundation, the ages for participation have been amended and CAP has continuously prepared young adults for the services described. Cadet Senior Airman Abigail Rubio, a 13-year-old cadet explained why Civil Air Patrol benefits her future.
“I would like to join the Airforce when I’m older, so this is a good start for that,” Rubio said. “I think it’s really good to build your character so you learn how to lead, you learn how to work as a team, how to wear the uniform. In the long run, it really helps you to become a better leader.”
Eagle Rock Composite Squadron has been active in Idaho Falls for over 40 years and continues to benefit the community by its participation in local events such as the Rexburg airshow, the Independence Day Parade, and Wreaths Across America. CAP also offers ground team training, radio communication classes, orientation flights, search and rescue exercises, and model rocket certifications.
“I personally really love it because this is stuff that normal youth do not get to do,” Rubio said. “Kids my age don’t get to control parking, find downed aircraft or locate missing people. It really does teach you a lot.”
The opportunities open to cadets are unique, especially for the age groups involved. Captain James Meyer, one of the senior leaders of the Eagle Rock squadron, explains why he chooses to volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol as a senior member.
“Having an opportunity to work with the cadets, to teach them and help them and work with them at encampments and work with them in the field, I have some skill sets there I’m able to bring to bear and help them become better at what it is they train to do,” Meyer said.
Meyer became involved with the squadron after his sons joined. He saw the value CAP can bring to the surrounding community through the rising generation.
“(CAP) gives them a connection to their community on how they can give back and how they can serve,” Meyer said. “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.”
Although CAP remains true to its roots, it is a lot more expansive and accessible to youth even in non-war times.
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.”
Cadet 1st Lieutenant Hannah Carr recently transferred from her home squadron in Colorado to the Eagle Rock squadron. She had personally benefited from the availability of CAP across states.
“You get to make a lot of friendships out here,” Carr said. “You get to be involved in a lot of really cool learning opportunities. Civil Air Patrol is meant for kids to learn and figure out who they are as a leader.”
CAP Chaplain Hilary Lind, a 7-year Navy veteran, has a lot of experience working with youth. He shared the greatest challenge as a volunteer leader for the squadron.
“The most challenging thing is just to keep reminding ourselves that they’re young kids from 12–21,” Lind said. “They’re gonna make mistakes. We are 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 that we say is CAP is a safe place to make mistakes. Try something new. Try something you’ve never done before.”
For more information about the Eagle Rock Composite Squadron, visit their CAP website.