Civil Air Patrol Opens Doors of Opportunity

Greg Darling joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) when he was 12. A lifelong homeschooler, the young man lived and breathed the organization's cadet program, attending meetings and participating in competitions with undying enthusiasm. Six years later, he was admitted to North Carolina's Campbell University on a full ROTC scholarship for his junior and senior years. With CAP training under his belt, Darling was chosen as a member of his school's Ranger Challenge team, opposing other schools in the divisions of physical training, marksmanship, weapon assembly, rope bridge construction, and a 10K road march. He also served as captain of the varsity team during his senior year.

As Darling's record shows, a CAP education is a wise investment in the future. Thousands of students pursuing a career in aviation have taken their first orientation flights through the cadet program. Those who are interested in a military career have benefited from the leadership training and technical education that a CAP squadron offers. And at yearly CAP encampments, cadets learn search and rescue techniques and disaster relief, growing into stronger citizens because of their experience. Cadets may also enjoy overseas travel through the International Air Cadet Exchange.

A nonprofit volunteer auxiliary of the United States Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol was organized by legendary New Jersey aviation advocate Gill Robb Wilson, who foresaw aviation's potential to supplement America's military operations. With the help of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the Civil Air Patrol was established on December 1, 1941, a few days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Today, the organization's mission is three-fold: "to meet civil emergencies, to encourage aerospace education of the general public, and to motivate young men and women to ideals of leadership and service through aerospace education and training."

The CAP's cadet program encourages discipline, academic excellence, physical fitness, and moral leadership. The organization offers more than $200,000 in college scholarships each year, and approximately 10 percent of the yearly freshman class at the US Air Force Academy is composed of former CAP cadets. Individuals become eligible to join the cadet program when they turn 12, and they may continue to participate until they are 21, when they may join the CAP as adult members.

The cadet program is especially popular with homeschoolers because of the emphasis placed on academic excellence. While cadets do enjoy lively activities as a part of their squadron events, they also gain tremendous experience in the areas of math and science, and cadets are often taught by professional military personnel. And, as in Greg Darling's case, the CAP cadet program helps young men and women achieve future career goals. Civil Air Patrol cadets have an advantage over their peers because of the wealth of knowledge they have gained. Currently, CAP cadets may join the U.S. Air Force as Airmen First Class (E-3) rather than Airmen Basic (E-1).

And whatever happened to CAP cadet Greg Darling? Now he's a second Lieutenant and rifle platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army. According to news reports, the unit (normally stationed at Fort Drum, New York) is currently on duty in or near Afghanistan.

To learn more about the Civil Air Patrol or to locate the CAP squadron nearest you, call 334-953-7568 or visit

[ Editor's Note: I joined the Civil Air Patrol as a cadet and earned the rank of Staff Sergeant as well as my solo wings not to mention many other memorable experiences. ]


Claire Novak is a freelance writer and journalist. Her article shave appeared in The Girlhood Home Companion, The Pebbly Brook Farm Journal, Country Line Magazine, and other publications. She plays an active role in her family's ministry.

Copyright 2005. Used with permission. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Right now, 19 free gifts when you subscribe.