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.
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.
Seniors: Strictly adult membership.
Cadets: Primarily composed of youth ages 12-20 with senior leaders.
Cadets 18-20 may become a senior.
Conglomerates: A combination of seniors and cadets.
All types of units
emphasize leadership and service. Each unit has minimum attendance
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
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 2½-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
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
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
You can find more
information on Heritage-In-Flight at
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.
Logan County Airport
1351 Airport Road