By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The cadet program of the Civil Air Patrol, the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a demanding one.
Its young members, between the ages of 12 and 18, learn leadership, discipline and physical fitness, in an organization whose rank structure is patterned after the Air Force.
But to the cadet members of Enid Civil Air Patrol Composite Squadron, CAP means something else entirely.
“It’s been everything from outstanding to scary,” said Cadet Airman 1st Class William Lohan, a junior at Chisholm High School, of his eight months in CAP.
Lohan, whose father is a pilot at Vance Air Force Base, said he joined because of his joint interest in the Air Force and aviation.
“It was all about aerospace education and military discipline, which is of huge interest to me,” he said.
Among the highlights of his CAP experience, Lohan said, is encampment, a week-long boot camp setting during which cadets put their fellow cadets through their paces.
“Encampment is a lessened-down version of military basic training,” Lohan said. “So you go out and get yelled at by people for a week, which is awesome, because it gets you back into the military way of life, which I enjoy.”
The dividends paid by membership in the CAP help its members negotiate the often winding and bumpy road of being a teenager.
“Leadership is No. 1,” Lohan said. “Outside of Civil Air Patrol I have leadership positions like drum major in band, and I have a couple of other class positions.”
CAP also teaches people skills, Lohan said.
“Meeting different people and just the way we interact with each other,” he said. “That’s been a huge plus, even in school and especially outside of school.”
Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Caleb Morriss is a CAP veteran, having been involved in the program for two years.
He joined because he has his sights set on an Air Force career.
“It provides me with many facets of Air Force life,” said Morriss, who is home-schooled. “For example it gives me the Air Force uniform. We also wear Air Force blues for our dress uniform. It also gives me drill and ceremonies, it gives me physical training. It helps me a lot in preparing myself for the Air Force life.”
CAP cadets who become officers and then enlist in the Air Force will go in as an airman first class, rather than an airman basic.
“That’s a considerable thing to achieve,” Morriss said.
CAP requires a commitment of time and effort many high school students are not willing to make.
“It is difficult to stay in,” Morriss said. “It takes a lot of work. That keeps the quality of the cadets in the organization. It keeps a high quality of kids, much better than most of the kids you might meet around.
“I personally have improved a whole lot in the two years I’ve been in.”
Morriss said CAP has made him tougher.
“I don’t regret a bit of it,” he said. “It’s been wonderful, much better than my expectations.”
To a young person thinking about joining CAP, Morriss would say “It would improve your chances of anything you want to do in your future. Even if the job you want to get into has nothing to do with the military or Civil Air Patrol, it still helps you in public speaking, and respect, and all those things someone would look for if they were interviewing you for a job.”
And besides that, Morriss said, “It is a lot of fun.”
Morriss has been through CAP encampment twice, once as an airman basic and once as a flight sergeant.
“When I went in, several ranks ago, as a basic in encampment, I learned all there was to learn about being an airman, about wearing the uniform, about respecting officers,” he said. “Then going in as a flight sergeant, I learned everything there was to learn about leading those airmen, about thinking on your feet. I was surprised, it was just as intense as it was as a basic, it was just a completely different experience.”
Cadet Airman Basic Travis Nelson, a junior at Enid High School, is in the early stages of his CAP journey. He has been involved for about seven months. He likewise has his sights set on the Air Force.
“I feel as if it will be a really good opportunity,” he said. “Civil Air Patrol can help me meet my goals, from learning basic movements like drills, to leadership development, to aerospace.”
CAP has an impact on its cadets beyond practical military training, Nelson said.
“It really helps with your character, your leadership,” he said. “Everything that you do, it teaches you to be excellent.”
He called his CAP experience thus far, “outstanding.”
“It’s learning, but it’s also fun,” Nelson said. “It’s serious, and still fun.”
Nelson comes from a family with deep military roots. His father served in Vietnam, while his maternal grandfather fought under Gen. George Patton in World War II.
And even CAP is a family affair for Nelson. His brother, Joey, also is a member of the Enid Composite Squadron. Joey hopes to someday become a Marine.
The highlight of CAP for Nelson has been “Learning about leadership. I honestly think the leadership portion of this really helps in everything that you do. It brings more confidence, and you learn not just to lead in specific things, but everything.”