Civil Air Patrol

From Academic Kids

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Civil Air Patrol members searching for an emergency locator transmitter

Template:Spoken Wikipedia The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force (USAF). It was created just days before the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and is credited with sinking at least two German U-boats. Today, CAP is no longer called on to destroy submarines, but is instead a benevolent entity dedicated to education and national service. It is a volunteer organization with a strongly aviation-minded membership that includes people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. It performs three key missions: Emergency services (including search and rescue), aerospace education for youth and the general public, and cadet programs.

During World War II, the Civil Air Patrol was seen as a way to use America's civil aviation resources to aid the war effort, rather than grounding them, as was the case in the United Kingdom. The organization eagerly assumed many missions, including: anti-submarine patrol and warfare, border patrols and courier services. Despite being a volunteer force that was largely untrained in combat and military science, the organization's performance far exceeded expectations in its tasks.

After the end of World War II, Civil Air Patrol became the civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. The incorporation charter declared that CAP would never again be involved in direct combat activities, but would instead be of benevolent nature. CAP still actively performs search and rescue missions within the United States. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center demonstrated the importance of the Civil Air Patrol, as it was this organization's aircraft that flew blood to victims of the attack as well as providing the first aerial pictures of the World Trade Center site.



Birth of the Civil Air Patrol

The general idea of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) originated with a collective brainstorm of pilots and aviators during the start of World War II. In the later half of the 1930s, the Axis Powers became a threat to the United States, its allies and its interests. As the Axis steadily took control of the greater part of Europe and South-East Asia, aviation-minded Americans noticed a trend: in all of the conquered countries and territories, civil aviation was more or less halted, in order to reduce the risk of sabotage. Countries that were directly involved in the conflict strictly regulated general aviation, allowing military flights only. American aviators did not wish to see the same fate befall themselves, but realized that if nothing was done to convince the Federal government that civil aviation could be of direct and measurable benefit to the imminent war effort, the government would most probably severely limit general aviation.

The concrete plan for a general aviation organization designed to aid the US military at home was envisaged in 1938 by Gill Robb Wilson. Wilson, an aviation writer, was on assignment in Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II. He took note of the actions and intentions of the Nazi government and its tactic of grounding all general aviation. Upon returning, he reported his findings to the New Jersey governor, advising that an organization be created that would use the civil air fleet of New Jersey as an augmentative force for the war effort that seemed impending. The plan was approved, and with the backing of Chief of the Army Air Corps General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold and the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the New Jersey Civil Air Defense Services (NJCADS) was formed. The plan called for the use of single-engine aircraft for liaison work as well as coastal and infrastructure patrol. General security activities regarding aviation were also made the responsibily of the NJCADS.

Other similar groups were organized, such as the AOPA Civil Air Guard and the Florida Defense Force.

During this time, the Army Air Corps and the Civil Aeronautics Administration initiated two separate subprograms. The first was the introduction of a civilian pilot refresher course and of a civilian pilot training program. The motive behind this step was to increase the pool of available airmen who could be placed into military service if such a time came. The second step was concentrated more on the civil air strength of the nation in general, and called for the organization of civilian aviators and personnel in such a way that the collective manpower and know-how would assist in the seemingly inevitable all-out war effort. This second step was arguably the Federal government's blessing towards the creation of the Civil Air Patrol. It was followed by a varied and intense debate over organizational logistics, bureaucracy, and other administrative and practical details.

Thomas Beck, who was at the time the Chairman of the Board of the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, compiled an outline and plan to present to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that would lead up to the organization of the nation's civilian air power. Beck received peer guidance and support from Guy Gannett, the owner of a Maine newspaper chain. On May 20th, 1941, the Office of Civilian Defense was created, with former New York City mayor and World War I pilot Fiorello H. LaGuardia as the director. Wilson, Beck, and Gannett presented their plan for a national civil air patrol to LaGuardia, and he approved the idea. He then appointed Wilson, Beck, and Gannett to form the so-called "blueprint committee" and charged them with organizing the national aviation resources on a national scale.

By October of 1941, the plan was completed. The remaining tasks were chiefly administrative, such as the appointment of wing commanders, and Wilson left his New York office and travelled to Washington, D.C. to speak with Army officials, as the Civil Air Patrol's first executive officer. General Henry "Hap" Arnold organized a board of top military officers to review Wilson's final plan. The board, which included General George E. Stratemeyer (presiding officer of the board), Colonel Harry H. Blee, Major Lucas P. Ordway, Jr., and Major A.B. McMullen, reviewed the plan set forward by Wilson and his colleagues and evaluated the role of the War Department as an agency of the Office of Civilian Defense. The plan was approved, and the recommendation was made that Army Air Forces officers assist with key positions, such as flight training and logisitics.

With the approval of the Army Air Corps, Director LaGuardia signed the order that created the Civil Air Patrol on December 1, 1941.

World War II

On December 8, 1941, Director LaGuardia published Administrative Order 9. This order outlined the Civil Air Patrol's organization and named its first national commander as Major General John F. Curry. Wilson was officially made the executive officer of the new organization. Additionally, Colonel Harry H. Blee was appointed the new operations director.

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The Subchasers of the Civil Air Patrol.

The very fear that sparked the Civil Air Patrol "movement"–that general aviation would be halted–became a reality, when the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On December 8, 1941, all civil aircraft, with the exception of airliners, were grounded. This ban was lifted two days later (with the exception of the entire West Coast), and things went more or less back to normal.

Earle E. Johnson took notice of the lack of security at general aviation airports despite the attack on Pearl Harbor. Seeing the potential for light aircraft to be used by saboteurs, Johnson took it upon himself to prove how vulnerable the nation was. Johnson took off in his own aircraft from his farm airstrip near Cleveland, Ohio, taking three small sandbags with him. Flying at 500 feet (~150 meters), Johnson dropped a sandbag on each of three war plants and then returned to his airstrip. The next morning he notified the factory owners that he had "bombed" their facilities. The CAA apparently got Johnson's message and grounded all civil aviation until better security measures could been taken. Not surprisingly, the Civil Air Patrol's initial membership increased along with the new security. Template:Inote

With America's entrance into World War II, German U-boats began to operate along the East Coast. Their operations were very effective, sinking a total of 204 vessels by September of 1942. The Civil Air Patrol's top leaders requested that the War Department give them the authority to directly combat the U-boat threat. The request was initially opposed, for the CAP was still a young and inexperienced organization. However, with the alarming numbers of ships being sunk by the U-boats, the War Department finally agreed to give CAP a chance.

On March 5, 1942, under the leadership of the newly promoted National Commander Johnson (the same Johnson that had "bombed" the factories with sandbags), the Civil Air Patrol was given authority to operate a coastal patrol at two locations along the East Coast. They were given a timeframe of 90 days to prove their worth. The CAP's performance was outstanding, and before the 90 day period was over, the coastal patrol operations were authorized to expand in both duration and territory. Template:Inote

Coastal Patrol

Originally, the Coastal Patrol was to be unarmed and strictly reconnaissance. The aircrews of the patrol aircraft were to keep in touch with their bases and notify the Army Air Force and Navy in the area when a U-boat was sighted, and to remain in the area until relieved. This policy was reviewed, however, when the Civil Air Patrol encountered a turkey shoot opportunity. In May, 1942, a CAP crew consisting of "Doc" Rinker and Tom Manning were flying a coastal patrol mission off of Cape Canaveral when they spotted a German U-boat. The U-boat crew also spotted the aircraft, but not knowing that it was not armed, attempted to flee. The U-boat became stuck on a sandbar, and consequently became a sitting duck.

Rinker and Manning radioed to mission base the opportunity and circled the U-boat for more than half an hour. Unfortunately, by the time that Army Air Corps bombers came to destroy the U-boat, the vessel had dislodged itself and had escaped to deep waters. As a result of this incident, CAP aircraft were authorized to be fitted with bombs and depth charges. Some of CAP's larger aircraft had the capability to carry 325 pound (~147.42 kilogram) depth charges or an equal weight in bombs. Most light aircraft, however, could only carry 100 pounds (~45.4 kilograms), which was equivalent to one small bomb. In some cases, the bomb's flight fins had to be removed so they would be able to fit underneath the wing of a light aircraft.

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Artist's recreation of a Coastal Patrol subchaser.

The CAP's first kill was claimed with one of the larger aircraft. The Grumman Widgeon amphibian, armed with two depth charges and crewed by Captain Johnny Haggins and Major Wynant Farr, was scrambled when another CAP patrol radioed that they had encountered an enemy submarine but were returning to base (due to low fuel). After scanning the area, Farr spotted the U-boat cruising beneath the surface of the waves. Unable to accurately determine the depth of the vessel, Haggins and Ferr radioed the situation back to base and followed the enemy in hopes that it would rise to periscope depth. For three hours, the crew shadowed the submarine, but it didn't rise. Just as Haggins was about to return to base, the U-boat rose to periscope depth, and Haggins swung the aircraft around and aligned with the submarine and dove to 100 feet (30.48 meters). Farr released one of the two depth charges, literally blowing the submarine's front out of the water. As it left an oil slick, Farr released the second charge and debris appeared on the surface, confirming the U-boat's demise and the Civil Air Patrol's first kill.

The kill was perhaps the crowning achievement for CAP's Coastal Patrol, which continued to operate for about 18 months (from March 5, 1942 to August 31, 1943) before being officially retired. In this timeframe, the Coastal Patrol reported 173 U-boats, 57 of which were attacked by CAP aircraft with 83 ordinance pieces and confirmed two sunk. For a group of volunteer civilians, this is without a doubt a monumental achievement. In addition, the Coastal Patrol flew 86,865 missions, logging over 244,600 hours. Coastal Patrol aircraft reported 91 ships in distress and played a key role in rescuing 363 survivors of U-boat attacks. 117 floating mines were reported and 5,684 convoy missions were flown for the Navy. Template:Inote

Border Patrol

Between July, 1942, and April, 1944, the Civil Air Patrol Southern Liaison Patrol was given the task of patrolling the border between Brownsville, Texas, and Douglas, Arizona. The Southern Liaison Patrol logged approximately 30,000 flight hours and patrolled roughly 1,000 miles (~1,610 kilometers) of the land separating the United States and Mexico. Southern Liaison Patrol tasks included looking for indications of spy or saboteur activity, and were similiar to counterdrug missions executed by Civil Air Patrol today. Aircraft piloted by the Southern Liaison Patrol often flew low enough to read the license plates on suspicious automobiles travelling in the patrol region.

During its time of operation, the Southern Liaison Patrol, more commonly known as the "CAP Border Patrol", reported almost 7,000 out-of-the-ordinary activities, and 176 suspicious aircrafts' descriptions and direction. During the entire operating period, only two members lost their lives. Considering the fact that the Border Patrol was one of the most dangerous missions CAP flew (along with Coastal Patrol), this is an exceptionally low number.

Target towing

In March of 1942, CAP aircraft began towing targets for air-to-air (fighters) and ground-to-air (anti-aircraft batteries) gunnery practice. Targets would be trailed behind the aircraft (similar to the way an aircraft trails a banner) and simulate strafing attacks. CAP aircraft would also climb to various altitudes and would trail two targets for heavy AA guns to practice on. Although uncommon, an antiaircraft round would occasonally hit the aircraft. Surprisingly, no deaths resulted from errant shots.

Similarly, CAP aircraft also flew night missions to provide tracking practice for the crews of searchlights and radar units. These missions were dangerous in the sense that the pilot ran the risk of accidentally looking into the glare of a searchlight while performing evasive maneuvers, which would blind and disorient him. Such was the case of Captain Raoul Souliere, who lost his life after he went into a steep dive; witnesses surmised that he looked into the glare of a spotlight that had locked on to him, became disoriented, and did not realize he was in a dive.

Despite the dangerous nature of these missions, fatalities and accidents were rare. CAP flew target missions for three years with 7 member fatalities, 5 serious injuries, and 23 aircraft lost. A total of 20,593 towing and tracking missions were flown. Template:Inote

Search and Rescue operations (SAR)

During the period between January 1, 1942, and January 1, 1946, the Civil Air Patrol flew over 24,000 hours of federal- and military-assigned search and rescue missions, in addition to thousands of hours of non-assigned SAR missions. These missions were a huge success, and in one particular week during February of 1945, CAP SAR aircrews found seven missing Army and Navy aircraft.

The Civil Air Patrol had several decisive advantages over the Army Air Force in terms of SAR ability. First, because CAP was using civilian aircraft, they could fly lower and slower than the aircraft of the AAF. Second, unlike AAF pilots, CAP pilots tended to be local citizens and therefore knew the terrain much better. Third, CAP utilized ground teams, which would travel to the suspected crash site (often by foot, although some wings had other ways of reaching a wreckage).

Courier service and cargo transportation

In the spring of 1942, the Pennsylvania Wing conducted a 30-day experiment with the intention of convincing the AAF that they were capable of flying cargo missions for the nation. The Pennsylvania Wing transported Army cargo as far as Georgia, and top Army officials were impressed. The War Department gave CAP permission to conduct courier and cargo service for the military.

Although not generally remembered as one of CAP's "glamourous" jobs, cargo and courier transportation was an important job for the organization. From 1942 to 1944, the Civil Air Patrol moved around 1,750 US tons (~1,587,573 kilograms) of mail and cargo and hundreds of military passengers.

Pilot training and the cadet program

In October of 1942, CAP planned a program to recruit and train youth with an emphasis on flight training. The CAP cadets assisted with operational tasks and began indoctrination and training towards becoming licensed pilots. Cadets were not excempt from being conscripted; however, the military atmosphere and general setting around them would provide an advantage to cadets who were in fact called into service. To become a cadet, one had to be between the ages of 15 and 17, and be sponsored by a CAP member of the same gender. The cadet program called for physical fitness, completion of the first two years of high school, and satisfactory grades. It was open only to native-born American citizens of parents who had been citizens of the United States for at least ten years. These restrictions were intentionally imposed to hold down membership levels until a solid foundation could be established.

Perhaps the most astonishing fact of the cadet program's 20,000-plus initial membership was the lack of cost; it cost the Office of Civilian Defense less than $200 to get the program underway, and this was to cover administrative costs. Template:Inote


CAP pilots were called on to provide a variety of missions that weren't necessarily combat-related, but still of direct benefit to the country. Some of the most notable of these missions were: flying blood bank mercy missions for the American Red Cross and other similiar agencies; forest fire patrol and arson reporting; mock raids to test blackout practices and air raid warning systems; supporting war bond drives; and assisting in salvage collection drives.

Perhaps the most curious job for CAP was "wolf patrol". In the southwestern United States, the native wolf population had been disrupting ranching operations. One rancher alone lost over 1,000 head of cattle due to wolf predation. This represented a huge monatary loss to ranchers and an added restriction to the already low supply of beef due to wartime rationing. By the winter of 1944, Texas ranchers lobbied the Texan governor to enlist the aid of Civil Air Patrol to control the wolf populations. CAP pilots, armed with firearms, flew over wolf territory and thinned the population to lower levels.

Results of wartime activities

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L-4 Aircraft with CAP markings

The Civil Air Patrol's success with the cadet program, along with its impressive wartime record, led the War Department to create a permanent place for it in the department. On April 29, 1943, by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the command of the Civil Air Patrol was transfered from the Office of Civilian Defense to the War Department and given status as the auxiliary to the Army Air Forces. On March 4, 1943, the War Department issued Memorandum W95-12-43, which assigned the AAF the responsibility for supervising and directing operations of the CAP.

A direct outcome of this transfer was the loaning of 288 L-4 aircraft from the AAF to the CAP. These aircraft, designated as the Piper Grasshopper, were used in the cadet recruiting program. By 1945, there was an oversupply of cadets, and CAP took over the responsibility of administering cadet mental screening tests.


With the close of World War II, CAP suddenly found itself looking for a purpose. It had proved its worthiness and usefulness in wartime, but the ensuing peace had reduced CAP's scope of activities, for the AAF assumed a great many of the tasks that the CAP had performed. The very existence of CAP was threatened when the AAF announced that it would withdraw financial support on April 1, 1946, due to massive budget cuts. General "Hap" Arnold called a conference of CAP wing commanders, which convened in January of 1946 and discussed the usefulness and feasibility of a postwar Civil Air Patrol. The conference concluded with the plan to incorporate the Civil Air Patrol.

On March 1, 1946, the 48 wing commanders held the first CAP/Congressional dinner, honoring President Harry S. Truman, the 79th Congress of the United States, and over 50 AAF generals. The purpose of the dinner was to permit CAP to thank the President and others for the opportunity to serve the country during World War II.

On July 1, 1946, Public Law 476, 79th Congress, 2nd Session, was signed as law. The law incorporated the Civil Air Patrol, and stated that the purpose of the organization was to be "solely of a benevolent character". In other words, the Civil Air Patrol was to never participate in combat operations again. With the creation of the United States Air Force on July 26, 1947, the command of the Civil Air Patrol was transfered from the United States Army to the newly created Air Force. In October of 1947, a CAP board convened to meet with USAF officials and plan the groundwork of the Civil Air Patrol as the USAF auxiliary. After several meetings, the USAF was satisfied, and a bill was introduced to the United States House of Representatives. On May 26, 1948, Public Law 557, 80th Congress, Second Session, was signed into law, and CAP became the official auxiliary to the United States Air Force.


The Civil Air Patrol has three key missions: Emergency Services, Cadet Programs, and Aerospace Education. Each blade of CAP's propeller represents one of each of these missions, and the spinner represents CAP members bringing these three together.

Emergency Services

There are several Emergency Services areas that the Civil Air Patrol covers. The principal categories include Search and Rescue missions, Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Services, and Air Force Support. Others, such as Homeland Security and Counterdrug Operations, are becoming increasingly important.

Search and Rescue

Civil Air Patrol is arguably best known for its Search and Rescue (SAR) activities. CAP now flies about 95 percent of inland SAR missions directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Outside of the continental United States, CAP directly supports the Joint Rescue Coordination Centers in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. CAP is credited with saving an average of 100 lives per year. Template:Inote

Disaster relief

CAP is particularly active in disaster relief operations, especially in hurricane-prone areas such as Florida. CAP aircrews and ground personel provide transportation for cargo and officials. Squadrons and Wings often donate manpower and leadership to local, state, and federal disaster relief organizations during times of need. In late 2004, several hurricanes hit the southeastern half of the United States, particularly Florida. CAP was instrumental in providing help to areas that were hit. Template:Inote

Humanitarian Service

The Civil Air Patrol conducts Humanitarian Service missions, usually in support of the Red Cross. CAP aircrews transport time-sensitive medical materials, such as blood and human tissue, when other means of transportation (such as ambulances) are not practical or possible. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, all general aviation was grounded. The first plane to fly over the destroyed World Trade Center was a CAP aircraft flying blood. Template:Inote

Air Force support

CAP performs several missions that are not combat-related in support of the United States Air Force. Specifically, this includes damage assessment, radiological monitoring (particularly over areas such as Yucca Mountain), transportation of officials, communications support, and low-altitude route surveys. Template:Inote

Cadet Programs

Cadet Grades
Grade Name and Abbreviation Insignia Associated Award
Cadet Colonel
C/Col insignia Gen. Carl A. Spaatz
Cadet Lieutenant Colonel
C/Lt Col
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C/Lt Col insignia

Gen. Ira C. Eaker
Cadet Major
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C/Maj insignia

Cadet Captain
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C/Capt insignia

Amelia Earhart
Cadet First Lieutenant
C/1st Lt
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C/1st Lt insignia

Cadet Second Lieutenant
C/2d Lt
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C/2d Lt insignia

Gen. Billy Mitchell
Grade Name and Abbreviation Insignia Associated Award
Cadet Chief Master Sergeant
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C/CMSgt insignia

Dr. Robert H. Goddard
Cadet Senior Master Sergeant
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C/SMSgt insignia

Gen. Jimmy Doolittle
Cadet Master Sergeant
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C/MSgt insignia

Charles A. Lindbergh
Cadet Technical Sergeant
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C/TSgt insignia

Capt Eddie Rickenbacker
Cadet Staff Sergeant
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C/SSgt insignia

Wright Brothers
Cadet Senior Airman
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C/SrA insignia

Mary Feik
Cadet Airman First Class
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C/A1C insignia

Gen H.H. "Hap" Arnold
Cadet Airman
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C/Amn insignia

Maj. Gen. John F. Curry
Cadet Airman Basic
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C/AB insignia


Civil Air Patrol's cadet program is a traditional military cadet program. CAP cadets wear modified versions of Air Force uniforms, hold rank and grade, and practice military customs and courtesies. They are also required to maintain physical fitness standards and are tested on their fitness and their knowledge of leadership and aerospace subjects for each promotion. This program is not unlike that of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC); the reason for this is primarily that the Air Force JROTC program was 'cloned' from the CAP Cadet Program in the 1960s. It should be noted that there are several key distinctions between the two programs.

The current Cadet Program was designed by Jack Sorenson, who held the position of Civil Air Patrol's Director of Aerospace Education in the 1960s. This program is composed of four phases (Learning; Leadership; Command; Executive), each of which is divided into several achievements. Achievements generally correspond to a grade promotion while phases are tied to a level of responsibility. The Cadet Program is executed at the local unit (squadron) level with weekly meetings and weekend activities, along with national and wing sponsored week- and multi-week long summer activities, of which encampments are an example.

Cadets have a rank structure similar to the United States Air Force enlisted and officer ranks. A cadet starts as a Cadet Airman Basic and is promoted as he or she completes each achievement. To complete an achievement, a cadet must pass a physical fitness test as well as two written tests; one for leadership and one for aerospace education. The only exceptions to this rule are the promotion to C/Amn and C/SSgt (no aerospace test). The achievements and their corresponding grade are listed below. (Note: the C/ prior to each grade is read as 'Cadet', so C/AB would be "Cadet Airman Basic".) The highest award in the cadet program is the General Carl A. Spaatz Award, with the corresponding promotion to Cadet Colonel.

A cadet will progress through the cadet ranks upon completion of formal testing and minimum participation as well as taking on greater responsibility in actually running the local cadet program. One of the features of the Cadet Program is that the cadets actually learn to function in a unit that is structured as a formal military cadet organization. As the cadets progress they are responsible for scheduling, teaching, guiding and commanding the other cadets in their unit. As part of the program cadets are eligible for five powered orientation flights in CAP aircraft, as well as five glider flights in CAP sailplanes. Some CAP wings have flight academies for cadets to learn to fly. The USAF also frequently schedules orientation flights for CAP Cadets in aircraft such as the KC-10, C-130, and C-17. Besides the emphasis on aerospace, cadets are allowed to participate in various military-oriented activities, such as encampments and honor guards.

The major awards in Civil Air Patrol's cadet program are the Wright Brothers Award, Gen. Billy Mitchell Award, Amelia Earhart Award, Gen. Ira C. Eaker Award, and the Gen Carl A. Spaatz Award. To date, there have only been a little over 1550 Spaatz cadets in the history of CAP. Cadet members do not incur a military obligation upon leaving CAP, but may enter the Air Force as an Airman First Class (E-3) if they have earned the Mitchell Award. Even though the Mitchell Award is not the highest CAP award, it is typically considered by the military, scholarship groups, and others to be the equivalent of the Eagle Scout award. Several former CAP cadets have become astronauts and leading Air Force and Navy pilots, including Shane Osborne, who was pilot of the United States Navy EP-3E Aries II aircraft that collided with a Chinese fighter in April 2001 and Capt Scott O'Grady, whose F-16 was shot down in Bosnia in 1995.

In addition to the aforementioned, cadets may participate in CAP missions authorized by the Air Force, particularly search and rescue. It is this important detail that sets the CAP cadet program apart from other (non-CAP) cadet programs such as JROTC. Template:Inote

Cadet Oath

Cadets ascribe to an oath during their membership: "I pledge to serve faithfully in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program and that I will attend meetings regularly, participate actively in unit activities, obey my officers, wear my uniform properly, and advance my education and training rapidly to prepare myself to be of service to my community, state, and nation."

Aerospace Education Program

Civil Air Patrol's Aerospace Education Program serves the CAP cadet and senior member population as well as the general public. The program includes formal graded courses for members to become knowledgeable about all aspects of aviation, including flight physics, dynamics, history, application, etc. The course work also includes all aspects of the space program and new technologies that make advances in aviation and space exploration possible. There are also several programs for CAP pilots to improve their flying skills and FAA ratings so that the safety of the CAP aviation program may be enhanced. Outside of its organization, CAP provides school teachers with resources and help in terms of integrating aviation and aerospace into the classroom. This outreach program includes seminars, course material and sponsorship of the National Congress on Aerospace Education. Members also help municipalities better understand the needs and benefits of airports and other aviation related facilities to their communities, and how to better manage them.

Cadet Aerospace Education

The CAP Cadet Program has a mandatory aerospace education program; in order to progress, a cadet must take courses and tests relating to aviation. They also have educational opportunities through guest speakers, model building, and actual flight.

Senior Aerospace Education

Senior members of the CAP may choose to study aerospace as part of the Senior Member Training Program progression requirements. CAP encourages its senior members to learn about aviation and its history, although this is not mandatory. Those who complete the Aerospace Education Program for Senior Members may earn the Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager Aerospace Education Award.

External Aerospace Education The purpose of the EAE, as stated in CAP's 1946 Congressional Charter, is to "encourage and foster civil aviation in local communities." CAP has focused on providing schools and teachers materials and help in educating youth about aerospace. CAP members may visit schools, host field trips, science competitions and fairs, and other assorted activities. In addition to schools, CAP reaches out to other organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America, 4-H, etc.



Besides aircraft, the Civil Air Patrol operates a number of ground vehicles, radios, and electronic pieces.


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N9824L: a Cessna 172 Skyhawk operated by the Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol owns the largest fleet of single engine piston engine aviation aircraft in the world, primarly Cessna 172 Skyhawk and Cessna 182 Skylane aircraft. Recently the Gippsland GA8 Airvan has been added to the fleet. Other aircraft include the Cessna 206 and the Maule MT-235. Some members use their own airplanes. CAP also has several dozen gliders, such as the Blanik L26 Super Glider, primarily used for cadet orientation flights.

There are more than 550 corporate-owned aircraft and over 4,000 member-owned aircraft in the CAP aircraft fleet.

Ground vehicles

CAP owns and assigns roughly 1,000 vans to local- and wing-level units for use in the cadet program and by CAP's ground teams. Members may use their own vehicles and be reimbursed for fuel, oil, and communications costs during a USAF-authorized mission.


Up until very recently, CAP has relied upon the usage of amateur radios for communication with aircraft, ground teams and other regions. A major issue facing the CAP has been the requirement to retire most of the organization's HF and VHF Radios to be replaced by digital radios compliant with NTIA specifications. CAP's radio network of thousands of Amateur Radio equipped stations has become obsolete and is being replaced with equipment meeting the new specifications. Some of the conversion has been funded by the USAF, but the task has been monumental, with final deadlines between 2004 and 2008 for conversion. Members are allowed to continue using their older radio equipment until the sunset date. They are not, however, allowed to introduce new noncompliant radios to CAP's radio network.


CAP has over 58,000 members in over 1,700 local units across the United States. CAP members are civilians (unless they are also serve as active duty military, reservists, or guardsmen) and are not paid by the U.S. government; instead, they may wear a modified version of the USAF uniform and practice military courtesy and customs such as saluting.

A person must be at least 18 to join CAP as an adult member. As of 2005, National dues are US$35 per year (US$25 for cadets)Template:Inote, plus region and wing dues that vary in cost. For the protection of cadets, prospective members 18 and over must undergo a fingerprint screening, and complete a Cadet protection training course to recognize child abuse. CAP's cadet membership program is open to those between 12 and 18 years of age.

Under the UCMJ, CAP members do not have command authority over members of the United States military. Similarly, military officers have no command authority over CAP members. As part of recognition of CAP's service to the USAF, however, CAP members are allowed to wear "U.S." as part of their uniform and most members of the U.S. military will render military courtesy to CAP officers. CAP members are required to render military courtesy to all members of U.S. and friendly foreign military personnel.

Senior members

Grade Insignia
Major General
Maj Gen
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Major General insignia

Brigadier General
Brig Gen
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Brigadier General insignia

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Colonel insignia

Lieutenant Colonel
Lt Col
Lieutenant Colonel insignia
Major insignia
Captain insignia
First Lieutenant
1st Lt
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First Lieutenant insignia

Second Lieutenant
2d Lt
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Second Lieutenant insignia

Senior Member
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Senior Member insignia

Senior members are those who are over twenty-one years old, or who joined CAP for the first time past the age of eighteen. There is no retirement age, and no physical requirements for joining. Many successful CAP members have been physically challenged. Colonels are typically current or former wing commanders, Brigadier Generals are typically current Vice National Commanders or former National Commanders, and Major Generals are typically current National Commanders. Senior members who have not yet turned twenty-one years are eligible for a specialized rank category of flight officers, including Senior Member (SM), Flight Officer (FO), Technical Flight Officer (TFO), and Senior Flight Officer (SFO).

U.S. Military officers (current, retired and former) may be authorized CAP grade equivalent to their military grade through Lt Col, and members who hold enlisted grade in any branch of the military may hold that grade in CAP. The National Commander is a CAP member, and is often a retired USAF officer. Grade is normally used as a sign of progression in training and experience. First Lieutenants may often command squadrons, with Lieutenant Colonels working under them.

For a CAP member to wear the USAF style uniforms, weight and grooming standards must be met. For those not meeting the standards there are unique CAP uniforms (Aviator Shirt, Blue BDU and Flight Suits).

For information relating to cadets, see Civil Air Patrol#Cadet Programs

Senior Member Program

While it is not a requirement for membership, Senior Members are provided with their own professional development program and are encouraged to progress within it. Progression in the Senior Member Program is a requirement for promotion for those Senior Members that are not simply using their current or former military grades within CAP.

The Senior Member Program consists of five levels and each has components of leadership training, corporate familiarization, and aerospace education, as well as professional development within chosen 'Specialty Tracks'. There are many Specialty Tracks, and they are designed to both support the organization and to provide opportunities for Senior Members to take advantage of skills they have from their private lives. Available Specialty Tracks include Logistics, Communications, Cadet Programs, Legal, Administration, Emergency Services and Finance; there are many more.



Civil Air Patrol is organized along a military model, with lower levels of command reporting to higher levels. There are seven distinct levels of command in CAP, although not all are used at all times.

CAP National Headquarters is located at Maxwell Air Force Base outside Montgomery, Alabama. There, the organization is staffed by the National Commander, who holds the CAP grade of major general, and his command staff. There is also a core of CAP employees who support the command staff and the rest of the organization.

Below the National Headquarters level there are eight Regions and a handful of overseas squadrons at various military installations worldwide. Regions, commanded by a CAP colonel, are comprised of several states (or 'Wings', in CAP parlance). The eight regions are Northeast, Mid Atlantic, Southeast, Great Lakes, Southwest, North Central, Rocky Mountain and Pacific. The overseas units operate independant of the CAP Regions or lower echelons and report directly to National Headquarters. Commanders of overseas units must be an active duty Air Force non-commissioned or commissioned officer holding the rank of E-6 (Technical Sergeant) or above in addition to being a member of Civil Air Patrol.

Each state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are designated Wings, each with a commander who is a CAP colonel. Wing commanders are effectively the highest level of direct command within the organization, with the ability to mobilize hundreds of trained volunteers and millions of dollars in corporate assets.

Below the wing level of organization are the optional levels of 'Sector' and 'Group'. Only two of the geographically largest wings, Texas and California, use sectors. Groups, which are subordinate to sectors, are used in most wings; several of the smaller northeastern states being exceptions. Sectors and groups are generally commanded by lieutenant colonels or majors.

At the lowest level of the organization are 'Squadrons' and 'Flights'. Squadrons are the true heart of the Civil Air Patrol and it is at the squadron level where most of the missions of the organization are accomplished. Active members are assigned to a squadron (excepting the few assigned to higher echelons of command) and will generally attend a meeting every week. There will also be occasional weekend training activities. Squadrons will often work cooperatively on training activities and there is a great deal of coordination between squadron commanders. Squadrons are generally commanded by a CAP captain or major, but exceptions are common.

A CAP flight is a semi-independent unit that is used mainly as a stepping-stone for a new unit until they are large enough to be designated a squadron. There are very few flights in Civil Air Patrol. A flight will be assigned to a squadron and it is the job of the flight and squadron commander to work together to build the flight into a full squadron.


The Civil Air Patrol is a non-profit corporation established by Public Law 476. It receives its funding from four major sources: membership dues, corporate donations, Air Force financial support, and private donations.

Today, apart from member dues, Civil Air Patrol receives funding from donations and grants from individuals, foundations and corporations; from grants and payments from state governments for patrolling and other tasks as agreed by Memorandums of Understanding; and from USAF funding for liaison officers and for reimbursement of fuel, oil, capital expenses for aircraft and vans and communications costs.

There are very few paid positions in Civil Air Patrol. Most are located at National Headquarters, but a few wings have paid administrators or accountants.

Future changes

The USAF's Air Education and Training Command, through the Air University, has been the parent command of CAP. In October 2002, the USAF announced plans to move CAP into a new office for homeland security. Currently remaining under the AETC, CAP now has a Memorandum of Understanding with the 1st Air Force. In addition, CAP's National Commander was promoted to the rank of Major General from Brigadier General.

See also



  • Civil Air Patrol. CAPP 50-5 (
  • Civil Air Patrol. CAPR 52-16 (
  • Civil Air Patrol (2005). Retrieved April 21, 2005.
  • 102nd Composite Squadron, Rhode Island Wing, Civil Air Patrol (2005). Retrieved April 21, 2005.
  • Spaatz Organization (2005). Retrived April 25, 2005.

External links


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