Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Civil Air Patrol
- Emergency services, including search and rescue
- Aerospace education for youth and the general public
- Cadet programs
For a detailed history, see Civil Air Patrol -- History.
The general idea of of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was a collective brainstorm of pilots and aviators during the opening chapters of World War II. In the later half of the 1930's, the Axis Powers became a threat to the United States, its allies and its interests. As the Axis steadily took control of the greater part of Europe and South-East Asia, aviation-minded Americans noticed a trend: in all of the conquered countries and territories, civil aviation was more or less halted. Similarly, countries that were directly involved in the conflict strictly regulated general aviation, allowing military flights only to reduce the risk of sabotage.
American aviators did not wish to see this same fate bestowed upon them. Realizing that if nothing was done to convince the Federal government that civil aviation could be of direct and measurable benefit to the imminent war effort, the government would most probably severely limit general aviation.
The actual conception of a general aviation organization designed to aid the US military at home was envisaged in 1938 by Gill Robb Wilson . Wilson, an aviation writer, was on assignment in Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II. He took note of the actions and intentions of the Nazi government and its tactic of grounding all general aviation. Upon returning, he reported his findings to the New Jersey governor, advising that a organization be created that would use the civil air fleet of New Jersey as an augmentive force for the war effort that seemed imminent. The plan was approved, and with the backing of Chief of the Army Air Corps General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold and the Civil Aeronautics Authority , the New Jersey Civil Air Defense Services was formed. The plan called for the use of single-engine aircraft for liaison work as well as coastal and infrastructure patrol. General security activities regarding aviation were also handed to the NJCADS.
Other similiar groups were organized, such as the AOPA Civil Air Guard and the Florida Defense Force.
CAP's relationship with the all other components of the US military comes only through CAP-USAF headquarters. CAP does not have a combatant role, and is not authorized to be used in law enforcement except for passive reconnaisance and transportation roles. The parent unit of CAP is the Air University of the Air Education and Training Command.
The Civil Air Patrol is actually a non-profit corporation established by public law 476 in 1947. It receives funding from several sources:
- USAF funding, usually for liaison officers and for reimbursement of fuel, oil, capital expenses for aircraft and vans and communications costs
- Member dues
- Grants and payments from state governments for patrolling and other tasks as agreed by Memorandums of Understanding
- Donations and Grants from individuals, foundations and corporations
One of the grim jokes in the organization is CAP stands for "Come and Pay". Meaning that CAP volunteer members pay for dues, uniforms, travel expenses, etc. This joke is becoming obsolete as more effort is being made to help fund activities and make reimbursement procedures less burdensome.
There are very few paid positions in Civil Air Patrol. Most are located at National Headquarters, but a few wings have paid administrators or accountants.
Civil Air Patrol owns the largest fleet of single engine piston engine aviation aircraft in the world. It is composed primarily of Cessna 172 and Cessna 182 aircraft, and recently has added the Gippsland GA-8 Airvan to the fleet. Some members use their own airplanes. CAP also has several dozen gliders primarily for cadet flying.
In addition, CAP owns and assigns several hundred vans to local units for use in the cadet program and by CAP's ground teams. Members may use their own vehicles and be reimbursed for fuel, oil, and communications costs during a USAF-authorized mission. Most CAP members are unpaid part-time volunteers.
One issue facing the CAP has been the requirement to retire most of the organization's HF and VHF Radios to be replaced by digital radios compliant with NTIA specifications. CAP's radio network of thousands of Amateur Radio equipped stations have become obsolete and are being replaced with equipment meeting the new specifications. A portion of the conversion has been funded by the USAF, but the task has been monumental, with final deadlines between 2004 and 2008 for conversion. Unfortunately the funding shortfalls have significantly degraded the CAP radio infrastructure.
Civil Air Patrol has also taken some bold steps in the field of aerial photography and remote sensing. In cooperation with the US Naval research establishment, CAP has demonstrated and is readying deployment of a Hyperspectral Imaging System which has the ability to identify from the air the exact spectral signature of an oil spill, paint on an aircraft wreck, a specific material, marijuana plants, or any item with a particular color signature. This enhances CAP's ability to provide enhanced search and rescue and reconnaisance services.
For immediate delivery of aerial photography, CAP has invested heavily in the Satellite-transmitted Digital Imaging System  which is able to transmit digital aerial photographs from a flying aircraft anywhere in the USA via satellite to a secure webserver. An additional system is being developed to transmit digital photographs to directly to ground stations by spread spectrum datalinks where line of sight transmission is available from the aircraft to the ground station. The advantage of direct transmission of pictures to emergency responders is that an immediate picture of ongoing developments can make the response to an emergency much more effective, such as the progress of a wildfire, extent of a hazardous material spill, effects of an ice jam or damage in a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
Missions and Duties
The Civil Air Patrol carries out the search-and-rescue tasks of the USAF in the Continental United States, through the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Langley Air Force Base, Virginia .
CAP aircraft and its extensive radio network have been used not only by the USAF, but by other Federal, state, and agencies in a variety of civil emergencies. The state of Maryland, for example, uses CAP aircraft to regularly patrol the waters of Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for boats in distress and to detect water pollution. Floods of the Mississippi River in 1995 led to the greatest deployment of CAP assets since the Second World War.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, CAP aircraft were used for homeland defense by several states, such as New York and Maryland. A CAP aircraft was the first to overfly the wreckage of the World Trade Center. CAP aircraft also carried blood supplies to the sites of the disaster.
Civil Air Patrol's cadet program is a traditional military cadet program. Civil Air Patrol Cadets wear modified versions of Air Force uniforms, hold rank and practice strict military customs and courtesies. They are also required to maintain physical fitness standards and are tested on their fitness and their knowledge of leadership and aerospace subjects for each promotion. While the program is not unlike Air Force JROTC, that is primarily because the Air Force JROTC program was 'cloned' from the CAP Cadet Program in the 1960s.
The Cadet Program was founded in the earliest days of the CAP in the 1940s and was initially open only to young men, each of whom had to be sponsored by an adult member of the organization. The primary focus of the Cadet Program during the World War II years was to provide initial screening and training for potential Army Air Force pilot trainees.
The current Cadet Program was designed by Jack Sorenson, who held the position of Civil Air Patrol's Directory of Aerospace Education in the 1960s. The current program is composed of serveral 'phases', each of which is divided into several 'achievements'. Achievements generally correspond to a grade promotion while phases are tied to a level or responsibility. In this model, completing an achievement will promote a Cadet from from airman to airman first class or second lieutenant to first lieutenant; while the First Phase is called the 'Learning Phase' and includes the grades airman, airman first class and senior airman. The Cadet Program is executed at the local unit (squadron) level with weekly meetings and weekend activities, along with national and wing sponsored week long and multi week long summer activities.
The Cadet program consists of:
- Aerospace Education
- Leadership Training
- Physical Fitness
- Moral Leadership
A cadet will progress through the cadet ranks upon completion of formal testing and minimum participation as well as taking on greater responsibility in actually running the local cadet program. One of the features of the Cadet program is that the cadets actually learn to function in a military structured cadet organization. As the cadets progress they are responsible for scheduling, teaching, guiding and commanding the cadets in their unit.
As part of the program cadets are eligible for five powered orientation flights in CAP aircraft, and five glider flights in CAP sailplanes. Some CAP wings have flight academies for cadets to learn to fly.
In addition to the aforementioned, cadets may participate in CAP missions authorized by the Air Force, particuarly search and rescue. It is this important detail that sets the CAP cadet program apart from programs such as JROTC.
Civil Air Patrol's Aerospace Education program obviously serves the CAP Cadet and adult member population. The program includes formal graded courses for members to become very knowledgeable about all phases of aviation - military, business, and general; about the history and direction of aviation and the importance of air power. The course work includes all aspects of the space program and new technologies that make advances in aviation and space exploration possible.
Civil Air Patrol shows kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers how to integrate aviation and aerospace into their classes to enrich the learning experience and improve the preparation of students for careers in the aerospace industry. This outreach program includes seminars, course material and sponsoring the National Congress on Aerospace Education.
Civil Air Patrol members also help municipalities better understand the needs and benefits of airports and other aviation related facilities to their communinities, and how to better manage them.
Ther are also many programs for CAP pilots to improve their flying skills and FAA ratings so that the CAP flying program safety can be enhanced.
The Civil Air Patrol is organized in the following manner:
- National Headquarters is located at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The National Commander is the only CAP member with the rank of Major General.
- A CAP-USAF liaison board assists National Headquarters.
- The nation is divided into eight regions.
- Each region has several wings. There are 52 wings, one for each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
- Large wings are divided into groups, while small wings are directly divided into squadrons.
- Groups are divided into squadrons.
- There are several cadet squadrons located at U.S. bases overseas.
CAP members are civilians (unless they are also serve as active duty military, reservists, or guardsmen) and are not paid by the U.S. government; however, they may wear a modified version of the USAF uniform and practice military courtesy and customs such as saluting.
A person must be at least 18 to join CAP as an adult member. National dues are $76 per year, plus region and wing dues that vary in cost. For the protection of cadets, prospective members must undergo a fingerprint screening, and complete a Cadet protection training course to recognize child abuse.
CAP's cadet membership program is open to those between 12 and 18 years of age.
Local units may be found using the CAP Unit Locator.
Under the UCMJ, CAP members do not have command authority over members of the United States military. Similarly, military officers have no command authority over CAP members. As part of recognition of CAP's service to the USAF, however, CAP members are allowed to wear "U.S." as part of their uniform and most members of the U.S. military will render military courtesy to CAP officers. CAP members are required to render military courtesy to all members of US and friendly foreign military personnel.
CAP has over 64,000 members in over 1,700 local units across the United States.
Senior members are over twenty one years old, or who joined CAP for the first time past the age of eighteen. There is no retirement age or physical requirements to join. Many successful CAP members have been physically challenged.
For a CAP member to wear the USAF style uniforms weight and grooming standards must be met. For those not meeting the standards there are attractive and unique CAP uniforms (Aviator Shirt, Blue BDU and Flight Suits).
Senior members twenty one years and older are eligible to hold the following ranks:
- Senior Member (SM)
- Second Lieutenant (2d Lt)
- First Lieutenant (1st Lt)
- Captain (Capt)
- Major (Maj)
- Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col)
- Colonel (Col) - This rank is reserved for current and former wing commanders.
- Brigadier General (Brig Gen) - This rank is reserved for the National Vice Commander and former National Commanders who were Commander prior to the addition of the rank of Major General.
- Major General (Maj Gen) - This rank is reserved for the National Commander.
Senior members who have not yet turned twenty one years are eligible for a specialized rank catagory (flight officers) including:
- Senior Member (SM)
- Flight Officer (FO)
- Technical Flight Officer (TFO)
- Senior Flight Officer (SFO)
US Military officers (current, retired and former) may be authorized CAP grade equivalent to their military grade through Lt Col. Members who hold enlisted grade in any branch of the military may hold that grade in CAP.
The National Commander is a CAP member, and is often a retired USAF officer.
Rank is normally used as a sign of progression in training and experience. First Lieutenants may often command squadrons, with lieutenant colonels working under them.
Cadets have a rank structure similar to the USAF enlisted and officer ranks. A cadet starts as a Cadet Airman Basic and are promoted as they complete each achievement. To complete an achievement a cadet must pass a physical fitness test, and two written tests, one for leadership and one for aerospace education (exception: no aerospace test for C/Amn or C/SSgt). The achievements and their corresponding grade are listed below, however there are more achievements than there are cadet grades. (Note: the C/ prior to each grade is read as 'Cadet', so C/AB would be Cadet Airman Basic and is the first grade any cadet will hold before passing the first achievement.)
- Airman Basic (C/AB)
- Maj. Gen. John F. Curry , Airman (C/Amn)
- Gen H.H. "Hap" Arnold, Airman First Class (C/A1C)
- Mary Feik, Senior Airman (C/SrA)
- Wright Brothers Award, Staff Sergeant (C/SSgt)
- Capt Eddie Rickenbacker, Technical Sergeant (C/TSgt)
- Charles A. Lindbergh, Master Sergeant (C/MSgt)
- Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, Senior Master Sergeant (C/SMSgt)
- Dr. Robert H. Goddard, Chief Master Sergeant (C/CMSgt)
- Neil A. Armstrong (No corresponding promotion in grade.)
- Gen. Billy Mitchell Award, Second Lieutenant (C/2d Lt)
- Flight Commander (No corresponding promotion in grade.)
- Administrative Officer, First Lieutenant (C/1st Lt)
- Public Affairs Officer (No corresponding promotion in grade.)
- Amelia Earhart Award, Captain (C/Capt)
- Leadership Officer (No corresponding promotion in grade.)
- Aerospace Education Officer (No corresponding promotion in grade.)
- Operations Officer, Major (C/Maj)
- Logistics Officer (No corresponding promotion in grade.)
- Cadet Commander (No corresponding promotion in grade.)
- Gen. Ira C. Eaker Award, Lieutenant Colonel (C/Lt Col)
- Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, Colonel (C/Col)
The major awards in Civil Air Patrol's cadet program are the Wright Brothers Award, Gen. Billy Mitchell Award, Amelia Earhart Award, Gen. Ira C. Eaker Award, and the Gen Carl A. Spaatz Award. To date (April, 2005) there have only been 1556 Spaatz cadets in the history of CAP (a current list is maintained on the Spaatz Association's website.)The Mitchell Award is commonly thought of as the equivalent of an Eagle Scout award in terms of honor and commitment.
Cadets take part in all CAP missions, including practice and actual search-and-rescue missions. In addition, cadets take part in summer encampments, honor guards, and drill and ceremonies competitions, and may take part in an international exchange with cadets from Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and several other nations.
Cadet members do not incur a military obligation upon leaving CAP, but may enter the Air Force as an Airman First Class (E-3) if they have earned the Mitchell Award. Several former CAP cadets have become astronauts and leading Air Force and Navy pilots, including Shane Osborne , who was pilot of the United States Navy EP-3E Aries II aircraft that collided with a Chinese fighter in April 2001 and Capt Scott O'Grady, whose F-16 was shot down in Bosnia in 1995.
The USAF's Air Education and Training Command, through the Air University, has been the parent command of CAP. However, in October 2002, the USAF announced plans to move CAP into a new office for homeland security. Currently remaining under the AETC, CAP now has a Memorandum of Understanding with the 1st Air Force. In addition, CAP's National Commander was promoted to the rank of Major General from Brigadier General.
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