We realize that you may not be familiar with the Civil Air Patrol, its mission, and how your son or
daughter actually participates in CAP. So, we’ve prepared the following list of answers to some of the most common questions parents and guardians may have. Of course, we also encourage you to meet with your child’s squadron commander to discuss any additional questions you may have.

Let’s tackle the toughest question first...

Question #1: Will my son or daughter be obligated to join the military once they complete the CAP cadet program?

Answer: No, absolutely not. CAP is not a recruiting arm of any of the branches of the military. Period. That said, many of our cadets do go on to enlist in the military after high school or join ROTC in college. But, that is by their choice. We might also add that many of our finest cadets go on to attend one of the service academies; including the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, as well as West Point and Annapolis. Each year, at least 10 percent of the freshman class at the U.S. Air Force Academy is made up of former CAP cadets. Also, the leadership experience gained in becoming a senior CAP cadet often is one of the deciding factors in college and academy admissions.

Question #2: Why do CAP members wear military uniforms?

Answer: Civil Air Patrol is the official Auxiliary of the United States Air Force. We have chosen to wear the Air Force “blues” and camouflage utility uniforms to signify our affiliation with the Air Force. In addition to the uniform, CAP does follow a military model in our unit and command structure, as well as in cadet and senior (adult) ranks. We believe this model develops self-discipline and teaches pride in appearance.

Question #3: Wait a minute...you said my kid’s not “in the military,” but CAP’s part of the Air Force. What’s the connection?

Answer: Congress made CAP the official auxiliary of the Air Force in 1948 because both organizations are affiliated with aviation and technology. This was a fairly natural fit. BUT, it is important that you understand Congress also prohibited CAP from serving in a combatant role, and instead mandated CAPto focus its energies in three areas or “missions”: Aerospace Education, Emergency Services, and Cadet Programs.

Question #4: Will my child get to fly?

Answer: Yes. Cadets complete an orientation flight with a licensed pilot or certified flight instructor as part of their initial membership year. If they have an interest, cadets can go on to complete formal flight training to become an FAA-certificated glider or powered aircraft pilot.

Question #5: What will my son or daughter learn in CAP?

Answer: The goal of the CAP cadet program is to help young people develop character, leadership ability, personal integrity, accountability, self- discipline, and respect for others. These are skills that will help make them successful throughout their entire life.As your son or daughter progresses through CAP’s multi-level cadet training, they’ll learn the principles of aviation and aerospace flight, rocketry, and physics through hands-on experiments. Yes, they’ll even get a taste of military life, and learn about military history, customs, drills and inspection. All of this inspires them to excel academically and teaches them the importance of organization and attention to detail.

    CAP also offers national events with activities in emergency services, engineering, technology, physical fitness, teambuilding and flight training. They can even visit foreign countries through the International Air Cadet Exchange.

Question #6: What are the phases of the “multi-level training”?

Answer: The cadet program itself is divided into four phases —the Learning Phase, the Leadership Phase, the Command Phase, and the Executive Phase. The four phases use aerospace education, leadership, physical fitness, and moral leadership to instill and develop the qualities of leadership and responsibility in the cadet members. The entire cadet program is oriented toward an activities program held within the individual squadron setting. Activities selected by a squadron for its program are designed to meet the individual member's need.

    Throughout the cadet program, from the first achievement through to the completion of the program; emphasis is placed on individual and group study, instruction, and attainment. Each of the four phases emphasizes the four program areas mentioned above as well as individual unit activities, such as drill team, color guard, model rocketry, and emergency services training. As cadets progress, they earn ribbons, awards, and increased grade, rewarding their commitment and achievement in the program. Each phase becomes more challenging and builds on what the cadet has previously learned. Phase I, the Learning Phase is just that: cadets learn to function in a military-type environment. They learn to march, wear their uniform properly, learn the principles of followership, and begin to learn about the aerospace environment.

    In Phase II, the Leadership Phase, cadets become more involved in the program. They may enter leadership roles in their squadron and attend a CAP encampment, which is designed to give cadets an introduction to the Air Force culture and hands-on leadership and aerospace training in a team environment. It is at the conclusion of this phase that they receive the first major award for achievement, the General Billy Mitchell Award. In Phase III, the Command Phase, the cadet is expected to take on greater responsibility for activities and training within their squadron. They must assume a leadership position and mentor younger cadets in a variety of areas. In addition, they must also become knowledgeable in different staff areas, learning from their senior member counterparts in areas how to perform the various squadron duties. This is in
addition to continuing the activities they began in Phases I and II. At the conclusion of this phase, the cadet may receive the Amelia Earhart Award and go on to the final phase of cadet training.

    The achievements in Phase IV, the Executive Phase, are designed to provide high-level leadership experiences to the individual cadet. When the cadet has completed the requirements for Phase IV, they will receive the General Ira C. Eaker Award and become eligible to test for the highest award for achievement in the program, the General Carl A. Spaatz (pronounced: “spots”) Award.

    The Spaatz Award is a comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the cadet program. This exam is passed by less than one percent of the total cadet population. Once a cadet has passed the Spaatz examination, they are promoted to the highest grade in the program, Cadet Colonel. Most attend college and pursue aerospace careers; many have earned a pilot certificate; and all are advisors to those involved with conducting the cadet program. Spaatz cadets continue to improve themselves through applying what they have learned throughout the cadet program and assisting other cadets to excel.

Questions #7: Who oversees cadet meetings and activities?

Answer: Each cadet unit must have a minimum of at least three (3) adult leaders involved. This “depth of leadership” serves as a check and balance to ensure regulations and procedures are followed. All adult members of CAP – including cadet leaders – must submit to fingerprinting and an FBI background check to guard against lapses in security and potentials for abuse. In addition, all members – both youth and adults – must go through initial AND refresher training on CAP’s Cadet Protection Program. CAP is committed to doing everything reasonably possible to combat the potential for child abuse within our organization and to discourage our cadets from illegal use of alcohol and other drugs. CAP members are expected to avoid even the appearance of impropriety involving cadets and report suspected abuse immediately. The Civil Air Patrol has “zero tolerance” for all forms of child abuse and drug abuse within our program.

The protection of CAP cadets is our highest priority and we have taken steps to do our best to eliminate both child abuse and drug abuse from all CAP activities.

Question #8: What does it cost to enroll my son or daughter in Civil Air Patrol?

Answer: Initial dues vary between the wings (states) and squadrons. Costs for participation also depend on the activities a cadet may desire to attend. All CAP squadrons attempt to keep costs to a minimum to allow for maximum participation. The U.S. Air Force also contributes significant funding to the cadet program for uniforms to allow for maximum participation. Most CAP parents would attest that costs are minimal for the benefit received by their cadets. To view the current membership dues table, click here.

Question #9: What can I do to support my son’s or daughter’s CAP career?

Answer: CAP leaders frequently convey their gratitude to the parents of our cadets. That’s because we know the critical role they play. First and foremost is transportation—we appreciate parents and guardians who take the time to drive their cadet to meetings, training exercises, encampments, and other activities. Second, we encourage you to take an active interest in your child’s advancement within the program by staying up to speed on his or her progress. Finally, think about getting involved yourself.

Question #10: How can I (as an adult) get involved in Civil Air Patrol?

Answer: Civil Air Patrol has many families that participate as a group, and we encourage adults to become involved in serving their fellow citizens through CAP. There are two categories of adult

    Senior Members take an active part in CAP by attending squadron meetings; performing specific staff and operational duty assignments; and take part in the training programs, exercises, and other unit activities. Many licensed pilots join CAP in order to lend their skills and experience to various air operations related to our mission, such as search and rescue and disaster relief. Other people simply perform the logistical and administrative tasks necessary to run the squadron, such as stocking supplies, tracking finances, and organizing files. Whatever talents you have—even if it’s just an extra pair of hands—we can use you!

    Cadet Sponsor Member is a membership category established to allow parents, grandparents, and guardians of current CAP cadets to assist their squadron’s cadet program by providing adult supervision, transportation, overnight chaperons, and any other cadet-related tasks deemed necessary and proper by the squadron commander. A cadet sponsor member is a financial supporter who maintains current membership through payment of annual dues, but only participates in a limited capacity.

Contact your local squadron commander to learn more about what you can do in CAP.