Civil Air Patrol Pt. 2

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Part two of Andrew Shipotofsky’s series on South Dakota’s Civil Air Patrol program is all about youth leadership. Watch the entire series here.

There are many youth-oriented programs in America today, but the Civil Air Patrol offers a unique experience with aviation as a cornerstone. CAP cadets range in age from 12 to 18 years old, and progress through a 16-step program to introduce youth to leadership training, physical fitness, and morals.

"We are developing tomorrow's leaders,” said Senior Member Col. David Small, the South Dakota Wing Commander. “If we can give them values, the judgment, the skill set, we have accomplished a lot. And Civil Air Patrol is a wonderful foundation to do that through."

Civil Air Patrol, despite being the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a civilian outfit. But the program is still run like a military organization.

"Having that military background teaches you a bunch of respect and just decency,” said Cadet CMSgt. Branden Spence. “That looks amazing on your resumes. It just makes you an overall better person. It doesn't matter what you want to do. It doesn't have to be military, it is ‘Civil’ Air Patrol."

In addition to learning leadership skills, CAP helps cadets experience different career possibilities through learning encampments.

"There is so many classes you can take once you get in, go to your first encampment,” said Spence. “There is so many schools you can go to, and it is just an amazing opportunity too. If you still don't know where you want your life to go, it is a great way to trial and error things."

Senior Member 1st. Lt. Samuel Huntington is now studying mechanical engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology after attending an encampment as a cadet.

"There is one that I went to that was ETECH,” said Huntington. “Basically, it was about a week at Auburn University in Alabama. And we learned something about the basics of engineering. It was kind of, 'is this something you would like to do when you get older?'"

Upon turning 18 years old, cadets become senior members.

"It is not like the Boy Scouts, where you have the program for the kids and the senior members - the grownups - are the chaperones,” said Huntington. “Senior members, get to do emergency services, the flying, often with search and rescue. You have senior members up in the aircraft. They get to do very important jobs as well."

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