WHEATLAND – Local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) unit, the Captain Michael S Walker Memorial Cadet Squadron 059, celebrated 17 years as a squadron this past week with a dinner and awards.
Founded on Dec. 1, 1941, to mobilize the nation’s civilian aviation resources for national defense service, CAP has evolved into a public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions when needed while also promoting aviation and related fields through aerospace/STEM education and helping shape future leaders through CAP’s cadet program.
Cadets aged 12-years-old through high school meet at the Wyoming National Guard building on Cole Street in Wheatland every Tuesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. year-round. Depending on the week, they work on different aspects of the program including learning about aerospace, aviation or other STEM activities, military protocol, marching and fitness. The curriculum focuses on leadership, aerospace, fitness and character. As cadets participate in these four elements, they advance through a series of achievements, earning honors and increased responsibilities along the way. Many of the nation’s astronauts, pilots, engineers and scientists first explored their careers through CAP. Wheatland graduates Christian and Haiden Moody were members of CAP and are now enrolled at the Air Force Academy. Christian just received the highest honor in CAP, the Spaatz award, last year.
The squadron leader is Major Gregory Howden. However, the weekly meetings are led by Deputy Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Susan McDonald and she has been with the chapter since it was reinstated in 2004. There was a chapter in 1942 and again in the 70s or 80s, but they both folded. She is the driving force and spirit and is a firm believer in the importance of teaching aerospace. Wheatland is the only unit in the state that has completed the Aerospace Education and Excellence Program for 17 consecutive years.
Second Lieutenant Rory Winter was awarded the Cadet of the Year Top Gun award. She is a freshman at Wheatland High School and has been with the program since she was 12-years-old. She is hoping to attend the Air Force Academy and become a pilot, specifically flying C-130s.
“Civil Air Patrol is an organization that can help me with my goals in a fun way,” Winter explained. “It’s supportive and I learn so much. I also like launching the rockets I’ve built.”
The organization is also very involved in Wreaths Across American helping to place over 1,000 wreaths on Veteran’s graves throughout Platte County this past December and holding a ceremony at the Veteran’s Memorial in the Wheatland cemetery.
The Wheatland Chapter is currently accepting new members of all ages. Anyone is welcome to come on Tuesday evening and see what it is all about. They also have a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/Wheatland059.