BY TABATHA RENEGAR
Civil Air Patrol.
Chances are that those three words are not familiar to you. And that’s okay! Not many people know what the Civil Air Patrol is or have had experience with it, but once you do, it’s hard not to be impressed.
Dating back to World War II, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was established just six days before Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 1st, 1941. Civilian pilots flew their private aircraft from the Atlantic coast, patrolling America’s shores for German U-boats and enemy subs. The need arose from the fact that most of Army Air Corps aircraft were deployed to Europe, Africa, and the Pacific.
These efforts of the CAP’s civilian pilots were recognized and, after the close of the war, CAP Patrol transitioned from being part of the United States Army to the newly formed Air Force. It was incorporated as a non-profit organization of volunteers and declared to be of a benevolent nature, never again to be involved in direct combat activities.
Since that time, Civil Air Patrol has carried out three congressionally mandated objectives: emergency services (including search and rescue operations), aerospace education for youth and the general public, and cadet programs for teenage youth.
Your Local Squadron
Right here in the Triad, you will find the North Carolina Wing, Winston-Salem Composite Squadron, located at North State Aviation Building at the Winston-Salem Airport. The WS Squadron is one of 31 Squadrons of the NC Wing, which is part of the United States Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer organization with over 60,000 youth and adult members.
Open to both boys and girls as young as 12, the WS Squadron is comprised of over 100 members, ranging in age from 12 to 75. The Squadron meets every Thursday night. Activities at the meetings include emergency services and search and rescue training, physical training, aerospace education, team-building and ethics studies. Prospective new cadets are required to attend three meetings before committing to join. Along with the meetings, Cadets are required to complete online course work and to participate in scheduled activities, such as those which foster character development. During the summer, there are Encampment opportunities for cadets wishing to achieve the rank of Cadet Second Lieutenant.
For a look inside Winston-Salem’s Composite Squadron, I had a conversation with Cadet Second Lieutenant Alexandra Mallison about her experience as a member of Civil Air Patrol. Alexandra is a 9th grader at Atkins High School.
How long have you been a member of the CAP, and how did you first learn about it?
I joined in August of 2016. I had been to an Air Show with my family in 2011 and, although I don’t really remember it, the CAP was there. After I attended Space Camp in Alabama and realized I had an interest in Aviation, my parents reminded me about the CAP, and I started going to meetings and joined.
What was most appealing to you about the CAP?
In the beginning, it was aviation, and that’s why I continued to attend, but I stayed for the leadership opportunities and because of the people. It is nice to be with like-minded individuals who have similar interests.
What has been your most rewarding experience so far?
It is hard to choose between Flight Academy and the 2018 Encampment at Ft. Pickett, Virginia, but I will say Encampment. I was selected as Cadet First Sergeant out of over 100 applicants and given four months to complete a lot of prep work for my 35-Cadet Squadron. I had to learn to balance yelling with motivating Cadets while also being immersed in team building and education.
At the start of the week, one Cadet was having a hard time adjusting and was very homesick. I took the time to talk to her about her feelings and to ensure her that she could push through. The next day, she was much better and was really beginning to shine. She told me at the end of the week that she never could have done it if I hadn’t been there.
What advice would you give to a young person who is considering joining the CAP?
Keep an open mind and know that everyone there wants to help you and see you succeed. Attend meetings and participate as much as possible. The more you participate, the more opportunities you will have.
Great advice, considering that some of the opportunities Alexandra has taken advantage of include riding in a C130 Aircraft and a Chinook Helicopter, attending Glider Academy in Vermont, taking orientation flights in the Civil Air Patrol Cessna 172, and being a part of numerous service experiences, such as “Wreaths Across America.”