Civil Air Patrol cadet program helps shape future leaders

Pangborn Composite Squadron members have a Christmas celebration on Dec. 11. (Provided photo/Ethan Larsen)

 

By Ethan Larsen
Guest columnist

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was founded on Dec. 1, 1941 and is older than the U.S. Air Force, which was founded in 1947. CAP began as a group of pilots dedicated to tracking German submarines off the Atlantic coast during World War II, and has grown over time to its current 60,000 active members.

Today, CAP supports three major missions as the official civilian auxiliary of the Air Force: Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs, and Emergency Services. Wenatchee’s local unit is Pangborn Composite Squadron, based in the recruiting building at the National Guard Armory, 604 Ringold St. in Wenatchee.

Cadets may join CAP at any age from 12 to 18. However, a member may stay a cadet until 21 years of age, provided that he or she joins before reaching the age of 17. Senior members are those who join CAP at 18 years or older, or transfer from the cadet side at either 18 or 21.

Both cadets and seniors have a rank structure based on that of the U.S. Air Force. Senior members who served in any branch of the military above an E-4 have the option to join as an non-commissioned officer, or NCO. Aside from squadron operations and promotions, a wide variety of events and activities are available to both cadets and seniors, as well as opportunities to serve in various staff positions in the local squadron or the Washington Wing.

Several cadet promotions are known as “milestones” for their significance. One such promotion is the Brigadier General Billy Mitchell Award, named for General Mitchell who is regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force. This award marks the completion of the enlisted phase of the cadet program and the transition to the officer ranks. Those who attempt the award must complete physical fitness, cumulative aerospace and leadership evaluations, as well as exhibit responsibility on par with the standards of the award. After the Mitchell award, the only milestones remaining are the General Ira C. Eaker Award and the prestigious General Carl A. Spaatz Award, CAP’s highest cadet honor.

On Nov. 6, Pangborn Composite Squadron promoted another two cadets: Emmanuel Larsen, who received the Brigadier General Billy Mitchell Award; and Austin Darlington, who was promoted from Airman First Class to Senior Airman. Both have been members of Civil Air Patrol for over two years.

Capt. Ian Schuelke is the Pangborn Composite Squadron’s recruiting and retention officer. For further information, contact him at ian.schuelke@wawg.cap.gov or at the squadron’s meetings which are held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the National Guard Armory.

 

Captain Ethan Larsen is cadet commander and public affairs officer for Pangborn Composite Squadron, and Cadet Advisory Council chair for CAP’s Washington Wing Eastern Group.