What to Expect

Background and "What to Expect"

**NOTE -- With the exception of the haircuts, training with fire and Battle Stations 21, you will experience nearly everything in this video.**

The Illinois Wing Spring Encampment is a unique experience which not only fulfills a cadet's Mitchell Award requirement for participation in an encampment, but more importantly affords cadets various real-world follower and leadership opportunities, while also providing a taste of life on the United States Navy's Great Lakes RTC, which is currently the only location for Navy Basic Military Training (BMT). 

The Great Lakes RTC is one of the Navy's premier training bases and the Department of Defense has spent in excess of $770 Million dollars over the last decade updating and rebuilding nearly every building, ship, and related infrastructure.  It is essentially a "brand-new" base, with state-of-the art amenities and capabilities throughout.

Not only is the venue unique in the world, but within Civil Air Patrol the ILWG Spring Encampment is one of very few Basic Encampments which can be completed in only two weekends. From its inception over 26 years ago, one of the over-all goals of the activity has been to provide cadets and senior members the encampment experience when they otherwise may not be able to participate because of other commitments.  

Another unique aspect of the activity is the pace.  Former participants will agree that you will be hard-pressed to find a more aggressive schedule in any other CAP activity.  The time allotted for the required training, meals, and other activities comes very close to being exactly the same amount as we spend on the RTC.

You may have heard the term "50/50", which is the staff's reference to the fact that CAPR 52-16's required curriculum for a basic encampment is 50 hours, while after meals and sleeping we have just about 47 hours left to accomplish the mission.  In addition, we share most of the facilities with active Naval recruits on their normal BMT rotation.  Just like Navy Recruit Divisions, our encampment is slotted into the training schedules of the various facilities we use (SAMT, Galley, Combat Pool, etc.), and we have to be in and out "on the bounce", otherwise we will be holding up recruits and other Navy personnel. 

This requires a significant amount of advanced preparation, as well as precise schedule timing on the part of the encampment staff, Naval personnel, and cadet line staff.  To put it succinctly, we have no down time - if you are not in a class or activity, you are eating or sleeping.  This pace may not afford as much social time as other encampments, but it will test your leadership and follower skills - directions need to be clear, concise, and well thought out, and then carried out as indicated without much room for discussion. 

Most who have experienced an ILWG Spring have indicated that it is as close as you will get to BMT in CAP, at least as far as the pace and environment is concerned (and then we get to go home on Monday).

In many cases, our cadets are exactly the same age or older than the Naval Recruits, which makes for some interesting glances across the galley, and a real hands-on feeling for military life.  Customs and courtesies are rigorously enforced and exchanged between all parties, Navy and CAP. In addition to that, proper uniform wear is ALWAYS stressed.  As ambassadors of a different service, it is important to present ourselves in a way which casts the best light possible on the USAF, because as “aliens” in a strange land, we wear different uniforms, different grade, and have different procedures than everyone around us, yet because this is a BMT base, our officers are the most brass that many of these recruits will see for quite a while, certainly in such close quarters.  We are frequently asked by Navy NCO’s about CAP, and are routinely complimented on our bearing and appearance.  We protect our relationship very closely, because it is critical to our operations the rest of the year. 

The above mentioned it is important to stress we also have a lot of FUN!  While we have to take the training seriously, we also get to play with some of the Navy’s coolest 'toys', and this year we are hoping to change things around a bit and add some new experiences and activities. 


Upon arrival at the RTC gate (both Fridays), you will be greeted by several CAP personnel.  As per USN dictates, your vehicle will be directed to the visitors center and you will then have a short walk to the reception area. The initial reception desk is where you will check in with the encampment, ensure you have brought with you all of the required equipment and any medications you will need, place your gear in a transport vehicle, and be assigned to an initial in-process flight for a march to our assigned ship. Whomever brought you WILL BE REQUIRED to stay until you are checked in to ensure you have everything you need.
Since we do not have any scheduled meals on Friday night(s), you will also be asked if you have eaten dinner, if not, you will be directed to the retail visitors area where there are several fast-food outlets including a Pizzahut, Subway, and Taco Bell. Note, these locations close early, and can be crowded on Friday nights - your best bet is to eat dinner before you arrive. 

Assuming you have everything you need and are ready to report to the ship, you will be directed to fall into an in-process flight while you wait for others to arrive.  Once there are enough cadets in your in-process flight, you will march to our assigned ship with a Naval RDC and CAP supervision.  Usually this is a 10-15 minute march, depending on which ship we are assigned to, and the weather.

Upon arrival at the ship, you will pick up your gear (transported separately) and move to our compartment, generally this is on the upper floors of a ship - 1-2 for males and 1 for females, clearly marked.

From here you will be greeted by an admin line where you will be more formerly checked in, assigned to your flight, have your gear checked for contraband, receive your t-shirts, and then move to your rack to put away your gear.  While in line you will be expected to wait quietly, and once you receive it, may be directed to stand in front of your rack and read your Encampment Workbook & Operating Instructions (OI) - this is a small booklet which contains everything you need to know for the encampment.

Depending on your arrival time, there may be a training class or other activity, but generally Friday nights are referred to as “Flight Time” when you will meet the others in your flight, secure your gear, shine your boots, and otherwise get yourself ready for the rest of the weekend. 

Cadets will shower in the evenings and seniors shower in the mornings, so at some point your flight commander will direct you to hit the showers and get ready for bed.  Lights out and other important times will always be clearly posted in the Orders of the Day.


The US Navy serves some of the best chow in the US Military, and the RTC galleys are some of the best in the Navy.  You will not go hungry!  Your Flight Commander will provide you any information on restricted items, but the main rule is “take all you want, but eat all you take”.  The galleys are cafeteria-style mess halls with excellent menus and fresh products.  You’ll be eating right next to active recruits, some with less time in the Navy than you have in CAP.  Because of this, there will be protocols and procedures to follow to insure that we get in and out smoothly - look to your Flight Commander for details. 


The Navy “ships”, as the quarters are referred to, are open-bay style barracks.  The building is a “ship” (named in honor of a real-world Navy ship), the rooms are called “compartments” and the bunks are referred to as “racks”.   These facilities are all brand-new, bright, clean, beautiful facilities, with integrated galleys and state-of the art classrooms.  The Navy has spent a lot of effort to maximize a recruit's time, and we reap the benefits.  If we are lucky enough to be assigned to a galley in our ship, weather and transit time become a matter of simply “going downstairs”. 

Each cadet is assigned his own rack, and personal items are to be stored as directed in the OI underneath the rack in a “coffn locker”.  Your rack will have a nametag on it, and this will be your “home” for the duration. 

As to the classrooms, by “state-of-the-art” we mean sweet!  Bright open rooms that can accommodate the entire encampment in one room, with dual 200-inch screen projection systems.  We generally have access to several of these classrooms at once, and the compartments all have projection systems as well, and some training may take place in these areas.

Typical Classroom


In addition to classes required by 52-16 for encampment credit, we request access to various naval facilities to learn and “play” with some of the Navy’s toys. 

Our access to these facilities is always on a “Space-A” basis, but the Navy has traditionally been very accommodating in opening its doors to CAP.  As in year’s past, we will be requesting access to:

 Small Arms Marksmanship Trainer (SAMT) - a laser-based M16 rifle range.

 U.S.S. Indiana Combat Training Pool - participants will swim in the Naval combat training pool and learn about life-saving water techniques.

             Freedom Hall - A 2-story, state of the art gymnasium with running track, volleyball, weightlifting equipment and related activities.

In addition to the above, we are discussing access to other facilities which have not been open to us in the past, these may include the Naval Wet Trainer, and Battle Stations 21. As new activities are added, detail will be posted on this web site and sent to the various email lists.

For classroom training, the emphasis is on interactive, group dynamic activities.  Whenever possible, the chairs will be moved, and you will up and active.  The Illinois Wing State Director is an active, ongoing, advisor to the senior staff to insure our activities will meet CAP-USAF requirements for certification of the encampment.


The culmination of ILWG Spring Encampment is the Pass & Review on the second Sunday.  You will practice drill and ceremonies for this activity, and a color guard will be selected from your peers by the Cadet Commander and his staff.  The P&R takes place in the U.S.S. Midway Ceremonial hall, the same place 1800+ Navy Recruits are graduated every week.  Your friends and family may attend and see the rewards of your hard work as they watch you parade past them in your service dress with your flight.

In addition to the P&R, awards will be presented in various “honor” categories, as well as major Achievements and promotions for cadets and seniors.