US Air Force auxiliary’s program grooms cadets to be future leaders

Getting a civil education

Cadet Tech. Sgt. David Herrera stood tall and authoritative in his uniform as the rest of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 101 cadet flight climbed the stairs to their meeting room at the Santa Maria Public Airport.  Moments before, the 14-year-old David who has been in the squadron’s cadet program for more than a year and a half, was leading the 13 cadets dressed in fatigues in formation around the tarmac, taking them from attention to forward march and through a gamut of drill orders.

“My motivation for promoting quickly is more responsibility, more command,” said David, who serves as the logistics commander for inventory, including cadet uniforms and insignia, and who plans on joining the Army or Air Force after school.  The cadet program “has taught me discipline and respect and how to cooperate with others. That will help me in the future,” he said.

The mission of the cadet program of the Civil Air Patrol — the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force made up of volunteers from both military and civilian backgrounds — is to shape young people into future aerospace leaders and involved community members through a military model grounded in Air Force tradition.

One day a week, for three hours, anywhere from 10 to 30 Santa Maria-area youths ages 12 to 21 meet with senior members of CAP Squadron 101 to participate in aerospace education, physical training, leadership and character development.

CAP 2nd Lt. Josh Geismar, who serves as deputy commander for cadet programs, said the cadets not only study aerospace history and principles of flight, but are also taught time and resource management as well as study skills and respect for peers.  “We want to encourage kids to form good study habits (and get them excited about) the fields of science, engineering and math,” Geismar said.

As cadets achieve classroom and physical training goals, they are tested and promoted through a ranking system structured much like that of the Air Force, starting with cadet airman basic and moving 18 steps to the highest rank, cadet colonel. With each promotion comes more responsibility. Cadets who promote to a certain level are also given an orientation flight in the squadron’s plane to get them more familiar with and excited about aviation.

Outside of the classroom, cadets take part in special weekend events and competitions. Supervised by senior CAP members, cadets give support at events like the Thunder Over the Valley Air Show in Santa Maria and Oceano Airport Days, where they help with flag line safety and security, including putting up rope barriers and monitoring off-limits areas, said Maj. Joseph Shrum, commander of CAP Squadron 101.

The cadets also recently competed in a California Wing honor guard and drill competition where they took second place. Shrum attributed the high placing to the tenacity and drive of his group of cadets.

“We didn’t have an honor guard or drill team until about a month before this event,” Shrum said. “(The cadets) committed to it and practiced and practiced, even on non-meeting nights and weekends. That is a great example of their focus and dedication.”

Shrum noted that the can-do philosophy and dedication of the youths in his group spills over into their daily lives.  “I have had parents come to me and state that their children’s grades have improved from their participation in Civil Air Patrol cadets,” Shrum said. “The program enables them to focus on objectives and set goals. It heightens their awareness of what they need to do.”  The cadets agree.

Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Katie Batemen, 17, who says she would like to enlist in a branch of the armed forces following college, agreed, saying the four years she has spent in the cadet program will give her a leg up as she moves forward in her military career.

“You won’t get as much experience going straight into ROTC,” she said. “The stuff you learn (in the cadet program) you will be able to use when you get there.”

The Civil Air Patrol squadron 101 meets at its headquarters at the Santa Maria Public Airport at 3203 Lightning St. at 6 p.m. Wednesdays.

For more information, including how to join the program, contact Josh Geismar at cadetprograms@gmail.com.

Posted in Local on Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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