Monday, Feb. 16

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[FEB. 16, 2004]  They're not very far away. They can be found within 50 miles of Lincoln in the direction of any of the four compass corners. They're in Springfield, Peoria, Bloomington and Decatur. They're learning, they're training, and they're on standby and ready to serve. They're a combined nationwide sum of 65,000 volunteers ready to serve their community on the ground and in flight, if called upon.

Who are they?

They are the Civil Air Patrol, or CAP, a nationwide organization established the same week as Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Capt. Michael L. Willis from the Bloomington unit was guest speaker at the Heritage-In-Flight Museum meeting on Feb. 7. Willis is deputy commander for seniors for McLean County Composite Squadron - IL240. He gave an overview of the basic types of activities and services the organization offers.

The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary to the U.S. Air Force. As the name "Civil" intimates, the group is strictly a civilian membership, not military, but offers some services like that of the military. They patrol our coastal waters, defending our country, and are locally available at the community level as well.

Civil Air Patrol services fall into categories of emergency services, protection and education. They offer operations that include search and rescue, assistance at disasters, emergency transportation of people and materials, communications, and assistance to local law enforcement with drug reconnaissance and homeland security.

CAP is often called out to search for downed or missing aircraft. This may happen if a plane is late for arrival or if an aircraft's emergency locator transmitter, known as an ELT, goes off. Either of these are most often false alarms. A pilot may have forgotten to close out his or her flight plan. Or an ELT can be set off by a bump such as a hard landing or by a run-down battery.

Last spring an ELT was located in Logan County by a volunteer driving around using a hand-held receiver. It was found in a farm house not far from the airport. Someone had taken it out of one plane, intending to install it in another the next day.

Searches are initiated to rule out a real need.

There are three categories of CAP units. They are established at the time of their charter by age and intent.

1. Seniors: Strictly adult membership.

2. Cadets: Primarily composed of youth ages 12-20 with senior leaders. Cadets 18-20 may become a senior.

3. Conglomerates: A combination of seniors and cadets.

All types of units emphasize leadership and service. Each unit has minimum attendance requirements.

Seniors in CAP promote through a set airman program and earn rank from basic to colonel with knowledge and physical testing. They are also assessed for leadership. The focus in this group is service.

Units have various officers, such as commander, deputy commander, finance officer and historian. In addition to deputy commander, Willis also serves as safety officer for his unit.

Seniors meet a minimum of twice per month. Each unit sets its own agenda and meeting times. Members say it is fun and interesting. But, according to Willis, almost everyone who joins says it is so they can serve their community.

The focus at the cadet level is on education and experience. Cadets learn respect and discipline. They are given opportunities year-round to gain knowledge and develop communication and leadership skills through meetings, camps and by performing service.

In addition to information shared by senior leaders, the cadets build knowledge during the school year by taking field trips to museums and through guest speakers. They use what they learn to work on projects and to set personal goals.

The Bloomington unit is in the third category, as a conglomerate. They currently have 30 cadets and 20 senior leaders. Their focus is on youth, but they also provide senior operation services. They hold weekly 2-hour meetings with a minimum attendance of three per month required.

 

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Willis said that what most of the cadets and leaders look forward to most are the encampments. In the summer, youth may attend camps to expand on their knowledge base or experience. Camps are two weekends or weeklong and are conducted at military encampments, bases or colleges. Many participants begin their flight training, starting with gliders, then hot-air balloons, and ultimately they may pilot powered aircraft.

In the last year the Bloomington cadets have attended the Challenger Learning Center, visited Chanute Air Force Base Museum, performed model rocketry experiments, practiced or performed ground emergency missions (with more planned), and plan to participate in a 72-hour bivouac, a limited resources field exercise that requires roughing it in the outdoors.

The cadet program often launches a student into a professional military career. CAP cadets represent 10 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Bloomington unit currently has a cadet who is a senior at the academy.

Whether they are military, professional or volunteer, we need and appreciate these groups that are practicing to be there in our time of need, if it should come. Not since Pearl Harbor until 9/11 have we been given so much reason to appreciate their presence.

But it isn't just in the area of defense or emergency response that they are valuable. They are also growing up quality new leaders.

Area CAP websites are listed below. You will find more information about the day they meet and the contacts for each unit. A general overview of the organization and other units can be found at http://www.cap.af.mil/.

You can find more information on Heritage-In-Flight at http://www.lincolndailynews.com/
Features_new/sites_HIF.shtml
.

Heritage-In-Flight Museum meetings take place inside the museum, which is located at the Logan County Airport. Their meetings are the first Saturday of every month at 1 p.m. Meetings and membership are open to the public. People interested in military history in particular are invited to attend.


EAA Young Eagles Day on Aug. 23, 2003, drew crowds to the Heritage-In-Flight Museum and hangar. Visitors viewed vintage aircraft and vehicles outside the museum and in the hangar while youth received their first flight.
["Young Eagles magic"]

Address:

Heritage-In-Flight Museum
Logan County Airport
1351 Airport Road
Lincoln

Phone: (217) 732-3333

Also visit www.heritageinflight.org.

[Jan Youngquist]

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