Woodward, Okla. —
The Civil Air Patrol has a lot to offer youngsters who are interested in aeronautics, the military, and having new experiences.
Just ask Connor Taylor, 16, and Harley Sample, 13, who are both cadets of the Woodward Composite Flight of the Civil Air Patrol. The Woodward Composite Flight is the local group of this civilian volunteer arm of the United States Air Force.
The News recently met with Taylor and Sample as they prepared to take their first orientation flights in a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) plane at the West Woodward Regional Airport this past weekend.
When asked why they had joined CAP, both teens said one of the big reasons was because they each have an interest in joining the military when they're older.
“Well, I want to go into the Army and military intelligence so that I can become an agent. And this (CAP) will help with that,” Sample said.
“I'm interested in joining the Air Force,” Taylor said, noting “my dad is ex-military, so it's kind of a family thing.”
Sample's father is also former military. But her involvement in the Civil Air Patrol is even more of “a family thing,” because her father, mother and older brother also all participate in the Woodward Composite Flight.
“I think it's kind of cool,” Sample said of having her whole family participating in CAP. “Because it means there are people who I know really well there, so if I have a question I can ask them.”
In addition to their family ties and an interest in one day serving their country, Taylor and Sample had other reasons for participating in the Civil Air Patrol.
“I'm also interested in doing air evacuations,” Sample said. “I think it would be cool to fly the helicopters, and sad at the same time because I feel sorry for the people who are hurt.”
For Taylor, his interest is more in the broader scope of all of aerospace and not just one type of aircraft or particular aeronautic occupation.
“I'm interested in just everything, from the way planes fly to outer space; just pretty much everything about aerospace and the science of everything,” he said.
Taylor, who currently serves as the cadet commander for the Woodward Composite Flight, said he also joined CAP because of the leadership opportunities it provides. As the cadet commander, he said he is in charge of all the cadets in the group, which currently includes around 20 students aged 12 to 18 from the Woodward area.
Sample said another reason she joined CAP was because “I wanted to try something new.”
Both she and Taylor said Saturday's orientation flight, which was in a Cessna 172 flown by CAP Lt. Rihat Gautem of Oklahoma City, was a bit of a new experience for them.
“I've only flown maybe once before and it was in a commercial airliner. This time the plane's going to be quite a bit smaller,” Taylor said.
Sample said she had ridden in a 2-seat “water plane” before. “I didn't really like it though, and this time I have some medicine to help me,” she said.
She admitted that “I'm kind of afraid of heights. But I think this (CAP) will help me to get over that.”
FLIGHTS AND CAP TRAINING HELP CADETS REACH THEIR GOALS
CAP leaders Col. Robert Castle, of Oklahoma City, and 2Lt. Paul Mitchell, commander of the Woodward Composite Flight, said that the Civil Air Patrol offers a variety of learning opportunities that can help Taylor and Sample reach all of their goals.
For example, Sample will have plenty of chances to overcome her fear of heights since each CAP cadet is required to go on at least 5 powered and 5 glider orientation flights, according to Col. Castle.
“The orientation flights help to familiarize them with the aircraft and their operations,” he said.
In addition, the colonel said the flights help the cadets take all the aeronautics information they are learning as part of the cadet program and “put it to use and see how it all works together to have a safe flight.”
“Each of the 5 orientation flights covers specific information, with the first flight including the pre-flight inspection, the parts of the plane, and going over the checklists we use to make sure we don't miss a step,” Castle said. “Then we'll make a normal take-off and once airborne, we'll show them how the flight controls affect the flight, including roll, pitch and yaw.”
As part of the initial flight, he said the cadets will also be flown over local landmarks, such as their houses, as well as flying over the airport itself to better understand it's layout before coming in for the landing.
In the later flights, he said the cadets will learn about various basic and advanced flight maneuvers, the various flight instruments and about how weather affects flights.
These orientation flights can also assist the cadets with their other goals, whether it's helping Sample learn the basics of flight as she considers pursuing a pilot's license or getting Taylor used to flying in different types of aircraft as he considers going into the Air Force.
Mitchell said the cadets also receive additional training that further helps them pursue their various goals.
For example, the flight commander said the students wear uniforms, work to advance to different ranks, and train in military drills, which can help both Sample and Taylor be ready if and when they do eventually enlist after high school.
Taylor said he already realizes what a bonus his CAP experience will be.
“It's going to give me more leadership experience starting out as well as drill and ceremonies experience, so I will have a little bit of a head start when I join the Air Force,” he said.
But regardless of whether CAP cadets pursue military careers, Mitchell said the program can provide the youngsters with “character development and professional development” that will help them throughout their adult lives.
CIVIL AIR PATROL FOR ADULTS TOO
While important, Mitchell said the cadet training program is only one of the Civil Air Patrol's “3 main missions.”
The other 2 missions are to promote aerospace education and to provide emergency services, particularly in terms of search and rescue operations, he said.
“Over 90 percent of search and rescue operations in the inland United States (as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center) are performed by the Civil Air Patrol,” Mitchell said.
In addition to search and rescue operations, the CAP also helps provide other emergency response services, such as taking damage assessment photographs following natural disasters like tornadoes and floods, Castle said.
To help fulfill these emergency service missions, the CAP depends on adult volunteers. But no prior aviation or military experience is required to volunteer with the organization.
“The misconception is that you have to be a pilot to be a CAP member, but that's not the case,” Castle said. “We're actually looking for people from all different backgrounds. Because each unit is required to maintain their own equipment and handle their own matters, so we also need people who are good with finances or communications.”
In addition, he said you don't even have to be a pilot to become a member of a CAP flight crew.
“When we go up for flights, we also need observers and scanners on our crews, which you don't have to be a pilot to do,” Castle said. “And we even provide the training.”
If you would like to find out more about Civil Air Patrol or how you can get involved, then visit the organization's national website at gocivilairpatrol.com.
Or you can contact the Woodward Composite Flight Commander Paul Mitchell at (580) 334-0883.
“They can call me and I'll walk them through what they need to do to join and when and where we meet,” Mitchell said.