The Civil Air Patrol is the United States Air Force Auxiliary. Like its name says, its members are civilians (although a lot of cadets go on to join the armed forces, and some senior members are also members of the armed forces). The Civil Air Patrol (or "CAP" for short) has three missions given to it by Congress. They are:
- The Cadet Program
- Emergency Services
- Aerospace Education
There are two basic types of members-- cadets and senior members. Cadets can join anytime between the ages of 12 and 18, and can stay cadet until they turn 21, or become seniors when they turn 18 (hence the popular catch phrase, "Hoorah, stay cadet!" Cadets learn drill, customs and courtesies, and uniform wear just as the Air Force does. Certain awards in the cadet program can lead to privileges outside of CAP, such as attaining the Mitchell award (attaining the grade of cadet second lieutenant) will let you either (1) enlist in the military at a higher pay grade following basic training, or (2) take time off of ROTC.
The reason I put the Cadet Program first is because that it is the lifeblood of CAP. About 2/5 of the members are cadets, but cadets are more like the military than the senior members. For example:
- Cadets learn drill, seniors do not.
- Cadets do things like train at summmer encampments, seniors do not-- they simply serve there as staff sometimes.
- The cadet uniform is more like the Air Force uniform (cadet officer epaulets are Air Force blue, unlike the senior member epaulets, which are gray).
If you do happen to see a senior member that knows his drill and customs and courtesies, etc., the only possible explanations are:
- He or she is a former cadet.
- He or she is a former or current member of the Armed Forces.
- He or she has been trained in an outstanding manner by someone (very, very rare).
True, nobody is perfect, but the very fact that Senior Members start out as officers is appaling, as becoming an officer in the cadet program or in the military is an honor, and requires a lot of work and training. What is even more appaling is the amount of corruption that occurs among the ranks of the senior members. I won't get into it, but in short, when you get to that level (especially if you are a cadet dealing with senior members) it is all politics. Senior members are obviously given too much power with too little training. Also, the cadet program is substandard compared to foreign ones, such as the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. In CAP, cadets must pay for their uniforms (except for the Blues uniform, which may be provided for free, but takes months to arrive most of the time). Cadets must pay for most CAP sponsored activities (summer encampments, national cadet special activities, etc.) In the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, all cadets get free uniforms and insignia, and free encampments and schools, all without any obligation to enlist or otherwise join in the Canadian armed forces.
Now, being a cadet, and a cadet who has to deal with these things, I know this.
Senior members, when they join need to get their fingerprints taken to find out if they were ever convicted of a felony involving child abuse or the like, to protect the cadets. Also, strict rules and programs are in place to protect cadets from any kind of violation from senior members. This is called the Cadet Protection Policy, and the training for it is abbreviated as CPPT. Cadets over 18 also need to take CPPT. Once senior members join, they pick a specialty. Specialties include:
- Communications Officer
- Administrative Officer
- Personnel Officer
- Moral Leadership Officer
- Emergency Services Officer
- Public Affairs Officer
- Aerospace Education Officer
- Cadet Programs Officer
- Senior Member Programs Officer
This list includes most of the specialties, but there are a few more. In general, the purpose of CAP is good, but unfortunately, the ends do not justify the means. Keep in mind, though, that these corrupt senior members are just a few bad apples. The general membership of CAP are outstanding, good people. Just as the senior program has bad apples, the cadet program is no different.
CAP offers a lot more things than I can explain in this node, but if you do decide to join, if you have the luxury to do so, look for a squadron that has more attention to detail. Most of the time, these will have more cadets than senior members. Before you fill out a form 15 or 12, check out the program, and see if it fits you.
Rather than CAP being organized by job, it is organized by location (the USAF has a job based architecture, i.e., 234th Medical Squadron, or 180th Airlift Wing). From the national level, there are eight regions, which are further separated into 52 wings (one for each state, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia). Further down, there are groups (but sometimes those aren't feasible, so they are omitted), and then there are squadrons, which are the basic unit of CAP operations. Different wings name their squadrons differently. For example, my Squadron is named Brooklyn Tech Cadet Squadron 1, and another squadron in my group is named Academy Cadet Squadron, but a squadron in Wyoming could be named (insert name here) River Senior Squadron 5.
One of the missions of CAP is Emergency Services, which includes:
- Search and Rescue
- Disaster Relief
- Homeland Security
- Civil Defense
These are sorted by frequency, with the top one being the most frequent. CAP does more than 80% of the inland search and rescue as tasked by the AFRCC (Air Force Rescue Coordination Center). Check out their website if you don't believe me (http://www2.acc.af.mil/afrcc//) Most of the time on a mission, CAP will be the first one to arrive, and the last one to leave.
CAP also does disaster relief when necessary, but other agencies usually handle it. The last two, Homeland Security and Civil Defense, are seldom acted upon, and are more of a "safety net" in case the other agencies handling it need help.
CAP Emergency Services personnel are well trained, and I would advise complying with them if they are on a mission looking for and ELT, unless you want to get slapped with a 10 grand fine from the FCC (assuming you are the owner of the ELT).
CAP also assists numerous other organizations, such as AFROTC, The Red Cross, and The Salvation Army (if I'm not mistaken).
Also, the CAP website is www.capnhq.gov.
If you are a dedicated person and want to make a difference, but can't join the military for whatever reason, I would highly recommend joining CAP (especially as a cadet).
EDIT: Regarding the issue with senior members starting out as officers, I have some corrections to make. After finding out more about the Senior Member program, it became increasingly evident that even though the senior members who didn't deserve their grade didn't deserve it, they had it for the purposes of consistency, and because they "Devote a good portion of their time to CAP." After thinking about this for a while, I asked myself, "What do the cadets do then? Not devote lots of their time to CAP? And if I hear that "We're not the military, so we don't have to be like it," excuse again, I will be mad. Very mad. Fortunately, customs vary with location, and I hear that in other states/cities/places, stuff is run better than here in the Big Apple.
Noders that are or have been in the Civil Air Patrol: