Main Content

Senior Membership

Ages 18 Years and Older

Senior members—often referred to as SMs—are adult members in Civil Air Patrol who are at least 18 years or older and do not serve as a cadet member or in another specialized category

NOTE:  Cadets who turn 18 years of age may elect to remain a cadet until turning 21, at which time they must decide to transition their membership to senior member status or leave CAP. 


Rank Structure

Senior members hold rank (grade) in accordance with Civil Air Patrol's promotion and advancement concept. Each rank requires:

  • Time in current grade to advance to the next

  • Satisfactory completing of education and training to fulfill promotion knowledge requirements

  • Advancement in a CAP Specialty Track in accordance with the member's "career track"

  • Satisfactory review and approval by promotion review boards and higher commanders


The Civil Air Patrol officer rank structure mirrors that of the U.S. Air Force (from lowest-to-highest grade)

  • Second Lieutenant

  • First Lieutenant

  • Captain

  • Major

  • Lieutenant Colonel

  • Colonel (Reserved for Wing Commander—state-level—and Region Commander—geographical region)

  • Brigadier General (reserved for CAP National Vice Commander)

  • Major General (reserved for CAP National Commander/CEO)


For members under 21 years of age:

All senior members under the age of 21 will hold a Flight Officer grade. Members in these grades are afforded the same opportunities as all other senior members.

NOTE:  Time served as a Flight Officer carries into time commitment for advancement into traditional officer grades upon turning 21. 


For members with current or prior service as a military grade E-4 or above (enlisted only):

Military service members who held a pay grade of E-4 or higher (regardless of branch of service) are eligible to serve as a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) pending review of the individual's military service record and authorization to hold NCO grade in CAP. 

Members choosing to serve as an NCO in CAP will advance under CAP's promotion concept specific to NCO grades. Credit for time served as an NCO may also be applied to officer advancement should the member wish to transition from NCO to officer (or vice versa). 

NOTE:  NCOs may not serve in Commander or Chaplain positions; however, NCOs are afforded the same opportunities as all other senior members. 


Other Membership Opportunities

Parents or Grandparents of Existing Cadets:  Consider joining as a Cadet Sponsor Member and become activity involved in weekly CAP activities without staff responsibilities. 

Educators and Teachers (including Homeschoolers):  Consider joining as an Aerospace Education Member and employ CAP learning materials in your classroom. 

Click here to explore additional ways to get involved as an adult. 


© 2024 Civil Air Patrol. All rights reserved.