By STEVEN NALLEY
The Civil Air Patrol Golden Triangle Composite Squadron will hold an interest meeting tonight for young people ages 12-18 at the Columbus Air Force Base Chapel Annex from 6-8 p.m.
CAP Commander Jon Maynard said this interest meeting will restart his squadron’s cadet program after a long hiatus.
“We finally have somebody that is willing to work with cadets,” Maynard said. “She’s very interested in revitalizing the cadets program.”
This cadet activities officer is Liz Poeppelman. She says she knows how valuable experience as a cadet can be from her personal experience in the Air Force ROTC.
“It’s taught me a lot, just how to be a stronger leader, feeling more confident when you are in different environments, working environments, school environments (and) just life in general,” Poeppelman said. “It’s a great way for kids to socialize and to take on responsibilities to feel proud of themselves for accomplishments and different goals that they need to achieve. It’s a great way for them to stay on task and learn how to time manage and even how to take tests.”
Poeppelman said she is planning to visit local schools and colleges to recruit potential cadets. She has already sent notices of the meeting to schools and generated some interest from students. Poeppelman said the program helps cadets map out their futures, and those who become officers in the program have the opportunity to join the Air Force at a higher rank than others starting fresh because the Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary to the Air Force.
“We’ll have the chance to take them out and have them go through obstacle courses and learn to work as a team and also as leaders, and also how to accomplish a mission or a task together,” Poeppelman said. “(I would also like to) get some cadets on the Columbus Air Force Base and get them into some simulators, to talk with some Air Force pilots, and also to get them up flying in our Civil Air Patrol airplanes. There’s other programs throughout the U.S. the cadets can participate in where they’ll actually be able to do some flying on their own if they progress along, and they also can travel overseas to learn a little bit about other cultures.”
Maynard said the cadet program’s ties to the Air Force create several parallels between the two.
“They get to wear a uniform that is very similar to the Air Force uniform,” Maynard said. “They also do a lot of drill and ceremony stuff, so there’s a lot of color guard drills and physical training. It’s very much a junior training area where they do some ROTC-type stuff, but it’s just different.”
The cadets also have a search and rescue exercise every month, Poeppelman said, where they work with senior Civil Air Patrol members.
“Depending on what it is,” Poeppelman said, “they’re also allowed to help to a certain degree with an actual event.”
Because few Civil Air Patrol cadets advance to primary flight training, Maynard said, cadets primarily work with ground teams for such operations as search and rescue.
“If I’m dispatched to go fly the airplane and then look for a downed Air Force aircraft ... we need a ground team to actually, physically be there on site, and the cadets would be part of the ground teams,” Maynard said. “They learn emergency service activities such as CPR, all of the first aid activities (and) how to coordinate on the radio with air crews, other ground crews and emergency services like ambulances and fire trucks.”
Technologically inclined cadets can also form a CyberPatriot team and compete in drills testing their ability to detect and correct vulnerabilities in computer security systems. Poeppelman said she would like to start a CyberPatriot team in the Golden Triangle, and the technological backgrounds taught at Mississippi State University and other local colleges and secondary schools would be instrumental in its success.
More information about the Civil Air Patrol and its cadet program can be found at http://www.capmembers.com .