The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program's primary mission is to develop the aerospace leaders of tomorrow.
The goal of the Cadet Program is to build well-rounded young leaders who influence their local communities, explore and excel in career opportunities, and to give back to the next generation of youths who come after them.
What is the age range?
Cadets may enter the program at any point between their 12th birthday before turning 18 years of age (there is no school grade requirement). Upon turning 18, cadets may choose to stay in the Cadet Program until turning 21, or they may elect to become a senior member in Civil Air Patrol and/or depart the Cadet Program.
What do cadets learn?
Weekly "cadet life" consists of participating in a hands-on leadership program where cadets learn to take charge and become instructors and mentors to their peers. Meetings will vary between subject matter but will emphasize topics on leadership, fitness and nutrition, aerospace and cyber defense, and character-building. Additionally, cadets will practice Air Force-style drill and ceremony which includes marching, rifle drill, color guard, and uniform wear. Cadets will also learn and rehearse leadership techniques through practical field training applications to include search and rescue, land navigation, and radio communications exercises.
Do cadets learn how to fly airplanes?
All cadets have the opportunity to hop into the seat of a Civil Air Patrol airplane—with a qualified pilot—to learn first-hand about aerodynamics and flight control...and yes, cadets get the chance to fly! Powered flights are conducted in propeller-driven aircraft, while un-powered flights are also available in gliders. While the mission of the Cadet Program is not to train pilots, Civil Air Patrol does offer cadets the unique opportunity to work toward their pilot license as well as scholarship opportunities for flight training. Cadets may also participate in several flight academies across the country.
What other opportunities are there?
In addition to local activities, such as field trips, color guard, and social activities, Civil Air Patrol operates a number of training academies at which cadets may learn new skills and explore career opportunities. These include aeronautical engineering, military flight training, search and rescue, and other activities unique to Civil Air Patrol. Cadets may also work toward search and rescue qualifications to serve on actual mission response teams as well as aircrew members for live emergency operations (age requirements may vary).
Is there a military commitment required for participating?
Absolutely not. Civil Air Patrol is not a recruiting agency for the military; although, cadets may have opportunities to meet military personnel at various activities. While the majority of cadets go on to stay in civilian careers, many cadets do decide to go into the military. Cadets who achieve the rank of Cadet Second Lieutenant (nearly two years into the program) may enlist in the U.S. military at the grade of E-3. Civil Air Patrol consists of a number of volunteers with military backgrounds and can help guide cadets who are interested in going into the military, just as there are many volunteers who can guide cadets interested in civilian careers.