GUERNSEY – Cadets from all over the U.S. converged at the National Guard Camp in Guernsey last week to learn and practice drill, perform physical training every day, take classes in leadership, aerospace and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related subjects, make their beds every morning with perfection and march in formation. Oh, and they are all teenagers. No, this isn’t a punishment, they all wanted to come. It’s the annual Encampment for Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
CAP was first created during World War II to help organize and utilize civilian pilots and volunteers to monitor the coastline to stop enemy airplanes before they could inflict more damage to our ships. After the war, it turned into a public service organization under the U.S. Air Force. The groups around the country help in search and rescue missions when called on and volunteer in the community.
Kids are able to join when they are 12-years-old, but many join later in their teen years. There is a ranking system similar to the military and they advance through learning and testing through a curriculum that focuses on leadership, aerospace, fitness and character. Additional requirements to rank up include attending an Encampment and clocking volunteer hours.
Encampment is an intensive learning experience, with some fun and games thrown in. Ultimate Bunny Ball was a favorite and spontaneous kick lines tended to pop up on the field. No hazing is allowed. It is almost like a summer camp, just more structure and discipline. Both girls and boys attend and while they sleep in separate dormitories, they are treated equally and expected to perform the same duties. The cadets were also treated to a ride in a Black Hawk helicopter and a C130 four-engine turboprop military transport plane. Twisters restaurant of Guernsey provided three meals a day for staff and participants.
“I really enjoy training with other people and helping others advance and get to where they want to be,” explained Alice Wood. A mechanical engineer major from the University of Wyoming who has been with CAP for seven years. “I’m investing in the future, mine and the kids coming up through the program.”
There are several Encampments held all over the country including Alaska and Hawaii. 43 students attended Wyoming’s camp and they traveled from neighboring states and Oregon, Michigan and as far as Maryland to name a few. 18 young members worked as junior staff and 14 adult volunteers were on hand to keep everything running smoothly. The camp ends with a graduation ceremony in full uniform and formation for family and friends.
Several of the attendees hope to someday join a military branch or academy when they graduate high school. Representatives from the Airforce, Navy and Merchant Marines gave presentations and were on hand to answer questions about their respective service organizations. Some cadets are there for the STEM and leadership learning opportunities and don’t plan on joining the military.
Haiden and Christian Moody are recent Wheatland graduates that are active members in CAP and are now attending the Air Force Academy.
“It was really great when I went in for my interview and wore my CAP uniform with all my rankings I had earned,” said Haiden. “Everyone else were just wearing suits and civilian clothing. I felt it really made me stand out.”
The CAP unit in Wheatland is led by Commander Susan McDonald. Two local cadets, Justin and Brandon Miller from Guernsey, attended the camp and Wheatland’s Rory Winter attended as a junior staff member.
“It was really exciting to fly in the Black Hawk because my dad was the pilot,” said Justin with a smile. “I’ve never gotten to fly with him before.”
Wheatland’s CAP group meets every Tuesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. year-round at the National Guard Armory building on Cole Street. New members, young and adult, are welcome to stop in and learn what can be gained by being involved. For more information contact Commander McDonald at (307)331-5936.