Frequently Asked Questions for Cadet Recruits
Why should I join Civil Air Patrol?
CAP provides a rewarding opportunity for teenagers to develop themselves into leaders while transitioning to become young adults. Most teens are looking for a unique experience to take on actual, real-world responsibilities and to take on new challenges in a safe, structured, and fun environment. Most importantly, CAP provides people with a team environment where they can feel that they are part of something much bigger than just themselves.
Remember that the CAP Cadet Program is not for everyone. The program requires a lot of dedication and will expect cadets to develop good study habits and become responsible for their own work. The Cadet Program is designed so that cadets work together to plan important events and solve issues, not to fill open time. The program takes years to advance through and will be quite challenging at times.
Is Civil Air Patrol like the military?
While the Cadet Program has a military-style training structure and military feel, it only gives a small taste of what a military career might be like. The program uses the U.S. Air Force's rank structure and wears Air Force-style uniforms; however, cadets will not go through Air Force training programs (basic training/boot camp). There are some training experiences that may be more physically and mentally challenging at times, but it is far from what actual military members would experience during military training.
The week-to-week experience of the Cadet Program is much more like what one might experience of a college-level Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, which is intended to train students to become military officers over several years. The closest comparison is that cadets would experience weekly training gatherings and have staff work to complete during the week in preparation of upcoming training events.
What is the cadet training program like?
New cadets will start off in Basic Cadet Training, which is an 8-week training course to provide new members with the fundamentals of what it means to be a Civil Air Patrol cadet. The course will include weekly training meetings with cadet instructors to learn the basics of Air Force-style drill and ceremonies, wear of the cadet uniform, and principles of leadership and aerospace theory.
What uniform do I need to wear?
All cadets are required to possess the Air Force-style service uniform which is worn for business-type occasions. The unit will provide the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU), which is Civil Air Patrol's cadet field uniform.
Click here to learn more about cadet uniforms.
Do I have to get a military haircut?
Cadets are required to maintain a haircut comparable to what you would see of most military members. Male and female cadets have different standards for how to style hair.
For males: Hair must be cut short and neat. Acceptable haircuts would be buzzed/shaved heads, high-and-tight style, short and faded, crew cuts, and similar style haircuts. Hair must be kept off the ears, and males are not permitted to possess bangs.
For females: Hair must be cut to shoulder-length, or be styled into a ponytail or bun if hair exceeds shoulder length. Females are permitted to have male-styled haircuts. Hair dye must be of natural color and must compliment hair roots and eyebrows.
How fit do I need to be?
Physical fitness is a key element of the Cadet Program. Cadets will be required to regularly conduct physical fitness training and pass fitness tests in order to advance in the program. While many cadets join after years of participating in youth sports, many cadets join never having much participation in athletics. Cadets will be expected to improve athletic performance as they get older and promote through the ranks.
Waivers are available for cadets who have medical conditions which limit physical mobility. Obesity is not a waivable condition. Obese cadets will be expected to actively pursue weight loss in order to progress through the program.
NOTE: CAP's physical training program does not guarantee significant improvement in physical performance. The program is intended to encourage additional physical activity outside of CAP meetings.
Click here to read more about fitness standards and waivers.
I have participated in other military cadet programs. Can my rank be transferred into CAP?
No. Cadets must progress through the CAP Cadet Program standards in order to advance. There is no process to join as a CAP cadet and start out with a higher rank.
However, CAP cadets may be eligible for accelerated promotions based on participation in JROTC, ROTC, or Service Academies.