Generally speaking, the only time the average citizen pays attention to a Civil Air Patrol cadet is when you're pounding on their door in the middle of the night with a device that looks vaguely like something you'd use to signal passing spaceships. This actually happens quite a bit because of one of our lovely missions foisted upon us by Truman himself: emergency services. Under this heading is smushed a considerable number of missions mainly united in their potential to get your neatly starched BDUs absolutely filthy. They are as follows:
So why does the Air Force prefer a bunch of civilians over highly trained professional ee-light airmen? Because we're much cheaper and we can be trained not to kill ourselves and others while trying to do our job.
In the pursuit of competence, Civil Air Patrol members can specialize in a variety of areas ranging from transport pilot to radiological monitor. Training is notoriously difficult to get for a lot of the specialties, but I intend to node what I learn to the best of my ability.
I'm just going to dump the General Emergency Services requirements here because it's the jumping off point for everything else.
General Emergency Services
The basic requirement for training for any emergency services specialty is general emergency services, or GES. Obtaining your GES rating will allow you to participate in all sorts of fun stuff such as manning shelters, delivering food and water after a disaster, running messages, or other scut work they couldn't give a fancy name.
The requirements for GES are as follows:
- Achievement 1 (Curry Award) if you are a cadet
- Level 1 if you are a senior member
- CAPT 116 GES Questionnaire
- CAPT 116 ICS 100
The first two tasks, like everything else in CAP, are much easier than they sound like and more complicated than they need to be.
Proving Your Hoop-Jumping Abilities
As a cadet, if you have your first stripe ( C/Amn), than all you have to do is beat the dates of your physical fitness test (CPFT), moral leadership class, leadership test, and unit activity out of your admin officer (it should be entered into that huge green chart) and plug this into e-services, found at http://www.capnhq.gov. Now twiddle your thumbs and wait for your squadron commander to sign off on it.
I'm not sure what the procedure is for senior members but I'll ask if I can ever hunt down a willing senior member -- "Sir! I do not know but I will find out, sir!"
Taking the Test
CAPT 116 is an online examination linked to from the CAP site (http://level2.cap.gov) that I could train a particularly nimble chimpanzee to pass. There are two parts to the test -- the general questionnaire and the incident command system (ICS) section, making up fifty questions in all. I recommend taking them separately, though, so you only have to have a few windows open at a time. Both of these suckers are open book. There is a powerpoint presentation that you can stare at zombie-like before taking the test if you are so inclined, but I passed with flying colors before I ever knew it existed.
To pass, just find the pdf version of all of the regulations you will be tested on -- found on http://level2.cap.gov under "publications;" the exact ones escape me -- and have them open while you take the test. Searching for the phrasing of the question will usually get you to the information you need to know, though it does help to at least be familiar with where general types of information are locating within the regulations.
If you fail, you can always start the test again, but if you have half a brain you should be able to do it the first time around.
Once you've jumped through all the hoops, you can now print out a 101 card of your very own. The 101 is a little wallet-size card that lists your vitals -- name, rank, serial number, weight, specialties, hair and eye color -- that you will have to present in the unlikely event that you are ever called on to be an Emergency Services Lackey. I thought I was very badass for about a week afterwards and even had it laminated. Don't -- if you aren't a complete idiot, you should be able to pick up a few *actual* specialties within a few months.
After you get your GES you can start to train for any one of myriad specialties, which I will categorize as ground, air, or administrative. I'll be noding the different requirements of each specialty as I complete them (of course, given that I am a groundpounder by nature, it'll probably be concentrated around that area).
A Note on Qualifications
For all of these specialties there are two levels of qualification: trainee and fully qualified. While you are training for a given specialty you will be issued a 101T card listing all the tasks that must be completed before you become fully qualified in that specialty. During this period you are a trainee, indicated by a star next to the abbreviation of the specialty on your 101 card (i.e. MRO*). As a trainee you can be taking on actual missions or training exercises but must be properly supervised by someone fully qualified in the specialty at all times.