Civil Air Patrol teens strive 'to define excellence'

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Cadet 1st Lt. Alex McGregor, 17, has always been interested in aerospace and a military career. 

"I knew I had to join," she said of the all-volunteer Civil Air Patrol. 

She is among the 40 cadet leaders and senior staff guiding and forging the way for 140 CAP basic cadets during the annual Colorado CAP encampment June 13 through Saturday at the Preparatory School. 

The basic training challenges cadets in drill, team building, proper Air Force uniform wear and appearance, proper care and appearance of quarters, physical fitness and strategic planning. In the classroom, basic cadets delve into such subjects as aerospace history and its impact on American defense and military customs and courtesies. Cadets also enjoy touring the Academy, experiencing flight in the simulators and taking to the skies in a glider. 

The Colorado CAP sponsors the event, themed "To Define Excellence" this year. With 35 squadrons all over the state, members focus on emergency services, aerospace education and cadet programs for youth from ages 12 through 18. 

"They are all very squared away and very mature," Capt. Scott Orr, public affairs officer for the encampment, said of the basic cadets, some as young as 12. "They have a sense of motivation unlike others their age. These are young adults." 

During the rest of the year CAP cadets work on accumulating aerospace education, community service, going out on emergency missions, working as scanners and observers on air crews and serving as honor and color guards for events. 

Encampment is not a requirement to become a CAP cadet, but attendance is required for cadets desiring to become CAP officers. 

Cadet Maj. Aaron Murphy, from Elizabeth, Colo., is serving as cadet commander. A six-year CAP veteran, he gains satisfaction from seeing how CAP is enriching the lives of young people. 

He noted that although cadets may not reach the highest standards in some areas, "It is not how well they perform but how they learn the values," he said. 

The program stresses teamwork, honor, discipline and excellence. The cadet cadre oversee the encampment with senior staff as overseers. 

"I love it," said three-year encampment veteran Cadet Lt. Col. Daniel Jackson, 20, from Sacramento, Calif. "I like to help cadets achieve what they couldn't do on their own."
He said the young cadets often show up confused and scared in a whole new environment. "This gives them a whole new world view." 

Cadet Master Sgt. Sabrina Lounsbury, 14, eventually would like to join the Air Force and become a pilot. She is returning for her second encampment, this year for the Advanced Training Flight, and she is impressed with the cadets. 

"They are very motivated, and they're working hard," she said. 

It's lights out at 9:30 p.m. and up at 5:15 a.m. for the basic trainees, a schedule Cadet Airman 1st Class Devon Bruce, 12, is not accustomed to. 

"I have a lot of trouble getting out of bed," he said. 

Cadet Bruce, an avid reader from Colorado Springs, joined CAP last summer. He has been looking forward to the encampment since before summer vacation. 

"I definitely wanted to come here," he said. "I'm loving it and trying to do my very best."
Cadet Airman 1st Class Teodoro Valerio, 13, from Montrose, Colo., would also like to join the Air Force eventually. 

He, too, made the decision himself to come to the encampment. 

"It's hard work but I'm enjoying it," he said. "I couldn't wait to get here." 

Cadet Valerio's favorite activities are PT and drill because he said his favorite activities are exercise and following orders. 

How about the food? 

"It's delicious," he said.