Civil Air Patrol - Teens

Has anyone here ever been in the US Civil Air Patrol Cadet division?
My 12 year old is interested, but I’d love some real-life opinions.

Is it very military-oriented? Did you stay in it for a long time? Do you feel it helped you in life? Is it more for outdoor/outgoing types, or would my introverted computer-geek son fit in?

Any thoughts/opinions/anecdotes would be much appreciated.


Didn’t do Lee Harvey Oswald any harm.

I was in CAP in the mid 80’s. I was in my 20’s. I was actually in the Ground Search and Rescue arm for Colorado.

So, not the cadet division.

Mountain rescue is what we focused on. Basically a bunch of guys would get together and talk about technique and gear. And we would practice it a few times a year.

I’ve been in a stokes over the side of a cliff, and have dropped out of a Chinook on a jungle penatrator. Interesting experiences.

I did not need to participate too much in the pseudo military part of CAP. Mostly, we focused on communication (boy, has that changed) and survival.

It could be a good experience for your son. There are a lot of different things besides flight in the CAP.

I was an adult lieutenant in the CAP in the '80s, and both squadrons I was in had cadets. The L.A. squadron was pretty lax. The cadets would form up for roll cal and inspection, and then have lectures on aviation. It seemed to me that there wasn’t much marching or other ‘military’ training. About the same as what I imagine the Boy Scouts (with which the squadron was affiliated) would have. The Lancaster squadron placed more emphasis on military-like training and took the fitness training more seriously.

I think the ‘outdoors’ aspect depends on where you are. We had fat kids, skinny kids, introverts, and extroverts. An ‘introverted computer-geek’ would not be out of place. We didn’t have computers back in the '80s, but I’m sure such skills will be useful today.

Take your son to a few meetings so you both can get the feel of your local squadron. They will be most helpful. In the meantime: Civil Air Patrol website.

I was in CAP during the early 70s as a teen; what was called back then a Ranger Squadron so it was pretty military. Some of it struck me as hokey back then like weekend drills of us guarding airports from enemy attack (the enemy usually being ROTC students) but I did get to participate in several ground searches and will always remember the one that had a good outcome; we found the plane and the people were still alive. I did three years and then “turned traitor” in college going with the Army ROTC instead of the Air Force program. (I did NOT accept a commission - Uncle and I came to the understanding at the end of that that we were better off apart than married even for a single hitch)

Mr. GilaB was in it when he was about twelve, about twenty years ago. He says that while it depends on what group you’re in, there are a lot of military drills and they do encourage being in the military. He learned how to search for downed planes and got to fly a Cessna, and said that it was overall pretty outdoorsy.

I was in the CAP in 7-11th grades in Illinois and California. Yes it’s military oriented. You wear a uniform, progress in rank and practice marching. There are opening and closing formations for your monthly meeting.

On the plus side; lots of plane rides. My squadron was part of a disaster relief effort for a flood outside Chicago in the early 80’s. In the mid 90’s I was part of a search for a downed private airplane on Regan’s ranch in CA. Lots of land-search and rescue training. We worked as ‘security’ at lots of air shows. I thought it was great fun. I understand that each squadron is different. So your best questions are asked to the leaders of that squardon. Many have web pages.

Email if you have more questions.

Thanks for the replies, everyone.

We’ll go to the meeting this weekend to find out how military-oriented this unit is.

My only concern is my son’s color blindness. He’d never be able to fly a plane, obviously, but I hope it won’t disqualify him joining the CAP.

Thanks again!

Colorblindness is not an absolute bar. It’s entirely possible to get a medical certificate as long as you can show an ability to distinguish between red and green.

Yah my cousin is in his fourth year at the academy and he is pretty color blind.