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Prospective Cadets - Parent Guide

Become a CAP Cadet Parent

Parents are always looking for a way to encourage their children, a way to activate their young minds and push them to succeed. If your child is always looking up at a passing airplane or has an interest in science and engineering, Civil Air Patrol's cadet program may be for them. At Marin Composite Squadron, we will be the first to admit that Civil Air Patrol (CAP) isn't for everyone. For more than 70 years, the cadet program has been structured as a mild military environment, that helps instill a sense of discipline, respect, and an atmosphere of leadership. The core of our program is centered around Character, Leadership, Physical Fitness, and Aerospace.

Marin Composite Squadron, like other units across the country, gives young Americans ages 12 - 18 access to programs and training that let them reach into the sky, or even the stars. CAP's Cadet Program is a challenging journey, that will develop skills they didn't know they possess. As CAP Cadets, they will have numerous opportunities to pilot a real airplane under the supervision of our Certified Flight Instructors. If your teen has the interest and drive, we can even help to them become a fully licensed pilot before they graduate High School. CAP represents an amazing opportunity for young people to learn to lead and succeed. Teens are encouraged through a variety of activities to build robots, crack the next cyber security challenge, launch rockets, and test their skills with more than 24,000 other cadets across the U.S.

While CAP is the Auxiliary of the United States Air Force, and cadets proudly wear the the Air Force uniform, there is no obligation to join any military service. While CAP does provide a route to the U.S. Military Academies, CAP can also help them get into a College or ROTC program, access a scholarship or start a career in aviation. Cadets actively learn Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills centered around aerospace. In addition, we teach them skills that produce integrity, excellence, respect, the value of volunteer service, and the power of a great attitude.

Cadet Programs in Civil Air Patrol are designed to be a challenge, your son or daughter will need your support to derive the full benefit of our program. Through a program we call "Stripes to Diamonds" cadets progress intuitively, first learning to follow and work as a team, before learning to lead and command.

Cadet Program Facts

"My experiences as a CAP cadet were fundamental to my success."
Maj. Nicole Malachowski
USAF Thunderbirds

Parents always have questions about the Cadet Program, and we are happy to answer any questions that you may have. CAP Cadets need your support to succeed, and like any program, it may not be for every young adult in the world. We encourage you and your son/daughter to come to one of our weekly meetings and see the program in action. Below are some answers to the most common questions about Civil Air Patrol's Cadet Program:

How much does it cost to join CAP?
Fees vary by state, but in California Wing the fee is $45 a year (FY 2021). Most, but not all of the other costs associated with activities are offset in some way by Marin Composite Squadron. Some uniform items can be acquired from the Squadron supply; the most common uniform expense is footwear.

What are the age requirements for joining CAP?
Youth aged 12 - 18 may join CAP as cadets and remain cadets until age 21.

Are cadets obligated to join the military?
No, but many do. Cadets who earn the Billy Mitchell Award may enter the Air Force at an advanced grade (E-3) if they choose to enlist. The service academies and ROTC also look favorably on CAP experience. Approximately 10% of the USAF Academy cadet corps got their start in CAP. There is absolutely no commitment or obligation to the U.S. military.

This looks like a military program. 
At first glance, CAP's Cadet Program looks like a JROTC program, and Cadets proudly wear the uniform of the U.S. Air Force. Cadets learn marching skills and courtesies as part of the program, but it is important to emphasize that this is part of our leadership education. In Civil Air Patrol, Cadets are never hazed, punished in a military manner, or forced to participate in military activities. The focus of the Marin Squadron is leadership and the S.T.E.M. program mentioned above.

What level of commitment is expected from cadets?
CAP expects cadets to participate actively, but of course CAP recognizes that cadets have school, family, and other obligations that take priority. Marin Squadron meets weekly for about two hours, and offers monthly special activities on the weekends and during the summer. If your son or daughter is unable to attend a CAP activity, please have them let their commander know in advance. Like any extra-curricular activity, cadets will get out of CAP only what they put into it.

Who is working with, and supervising my son/daughter? 
Everyone has seen or heard a bad story about a youth program somewhere in America, and Civil Air Patrol takes the responsibility of mentoring today's youth very seriously. All CAP senior members must pass an FBI fingerprint background check and must complete a training course called Cadet Protection Program before they are allowed to participate in CAP activities. Cadets are never left alone with anyone and cadets are never alone with a senior member. The only exception to this rule is during Cadet Orientation Flights, when there is a single flight instructor and one or two cadets. Senior members who serve on the Cadet Programs staff receive training in Character Development, Drug Demand Reduction, and Aerospace Education to better assist in program success.

Do cadets need to maintain a certain grade point average to participate in CAP?
School comes first. CAP expects cadets to maintain "satisfactory performance" at school, as defined by the cadet's parents. Because CAP emphasizes self-discipline, it's not uncommon for parents to see their son's or daughter's grades increase as a result of their participation in the Cadet Program.

What's involved with cadet orientation flights?
Through orientation flights in powered aircraft and gliders, cadets experience flight first-hand. CAP's pilots are licensed by the FAA, follow a syllabus for each flight, and ensure the flight is conducted safely. Orientation flights are free to cadets. See the squadron commander for information about when the next opportunity to fly is scheduled.

How do cadets advance and earn promotions?
Cadets advance at their own pace through self-study and group study. To progress, cadets must (1) participate actively; (2) pass a written leadership test; (3) pass a written aerospace test; (4) pass a physical fitness test; (5) participate in character development forums; and most of all (6) demonstrate they have the maturity to accept increased responsibility. (In some stages of the Cadet Program, these requirements differ slightly.)

Does CAP offer any scholarships?
Yes. See the National scholarships page for details.

How do we get started?
Attend at least three meetings - meet the cadet and senior members, learn what we do, talk with our commander. This is your chance to make sure your son or daughter is a good fit for our program and vice versa. Contact us to learn about attending your first meeting as an observer. 

More Information

See the overview information on CAP National HQ's Join - Youth pages. We have additional details on our Prospective Cadets page. Details on specific parts of the Cadet Program for active cadets are under National's Cadet Programs pages.

We invite you to come and see Marin Civil Air Patrol in action any time we are meeting (check the calendar). If you have additional questions about any CAP program, use our contact form for a quick reply.

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