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Cadet Programs

Cadets make up about half the active membership of the Civil Air Patrol and are essential to the success of the Aerospace Education and Emergency Services missions.  With the guidance and mentorship of Senior Members and other Cadets, cadets advance by mastering leadership skills, assuming command responsibility, and eventually becoming part of the executive team of their squadron, group, or wing.  As cadets advance in the program, additional opportunities become available.  Most of these programs operate yearlong with an intensive training opportunity during the summer or winter.  These Cadet Special Activities include cyber, space sciences, search and rescue, UAS (drones), and many others. Recently, CAP has introduced the Cadet Wings program which provides an opportunity for cadets to earn their private pilot's license.  Entrance to many of these programs is competitive.

Cadet FAQ

How old do I have to be to join?

Youth members must be at least 12 years old and not yet 19 years old.  Cadets joining a unit in their school may join under the age of 12 as long as they are in the sixth grade.  Cadets can remain a cadet until they are 21.  Cadets under 18 are restricted from some activities for safety and liability reasons.  For example, cadets cannot be a member of a flight crew until they are 18.  Cadets 18 and above can be CAP pilots if they have a valid pilot's license and can be flight crew (scanners, observers, aerial photographer, etc.) at 18.  Orientation flights are only available to cadets under 18.

Are non U.S. citizens allowed to join?

Aliens admitted for permanent residence are eligible.  Other non-citizens who are legally admitted to the country must request a waiver of the citizenship requirement through the unit they are joining.  

Can I join if I have a medical condition or disability?

Civil Air Patrol does not preclude membership due to medical conditions or disabilities and is committed to doing everything we reasonably can to help cadets succeed.   Keep in mind that participation in certain activities may be limited for his or her safety depending on the cadet's condition, illness or disability.   Read more about Cadets with Special Needs.

Do cadets need to maintain a certain GPA to participate in CAP?

School should always come first for the cadets. 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.  Access to some advanced schools and programs are competitive and academics are often considered in the application process.

Do cadets have to join the military?

CAP is a civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force, part of the total force structure,  and we wear the uniform with pride but we are not military.  We have no military obligation, no military commitment, no military authority.  We do not have or carry weapons.  Our missions primarily consist of emergency services and disaster recovery.

No, you do not have to join the military, but many choose to do so. 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.  But no matter what career you choose, the skills you learn in CAP will be invaluable.

How often do cadets meet?

To get the most out of the cadet program you should participate regularly.  Like any other activity, you’ll get out of CAP only what you put into it.  Most Cadet or Composite Squadrons meet four times a month for about 2 1/2 hours.  The squadron typically has at least two weekend events and group or wing activities each month whether they are cadet programs, emergency services, classes, or something else.  You decide which activities interest you.  It is to your advantage to attend regularly if you can.  Unit activities and schedules should be posted on their web sites.

Who leads and supervises the cadets?

CAP takes its responsibility to safeguard youth very seriously. The adult volunteers who interact with cadets (known as CAP senior members or cadet sponsors) have been fingerprinted and screened by the FBI. All adult members and cadets over 18  also take a Cadet Protection course as part of their initial training.  The cadets participate in the Wingman program which addresses cadet protection from the cadet's perspective.

What uniforms do cadets wear?

New cadets need one uniform to get started.  Eventually, the cadet will want to have both the camouflage utility uniform (ABU or BDU) and the Air Force-style blue uniform.  The squadron has a limited number of these free of charge although sizes and availability can vary greatly.

Upon completing Achievement 1 and becoming a Cadet Airman, cadets qualify for the Curry Blues Voucher, which covers some of the costs of the Air Force-style blue uniform. Therefore, we suggest you obtain BDUs or ABUs first, and then use the Curry Blues Voucher to obtain your “blues.”      

How do cadets obtain uniforms?

Maryland Wing has a central supply for many free uniform items.  Check with your squadron for details.

Uniforms may also be purchased through a variety of sources. The official source for CAP insignia and uniforms is Vanguard. Shop with them at vanguardmil.com, (800) 221-1264. If you’re near an Air Force base, you can buy uniform garments (but not CAP insignia) at the Exchange or base thrift store.   The thrift store at Joint Base Andrews (and other facilities) may provide used uniforms, if available, at no cost to CAP members with CAP ID.  Availability may vary and some items are restricted to active duty military only.  At many squadrons, cadet insignia for Phase I and Phase II cadets is provided free of charge ... when they promote, they turn in their previous grade insignia.  Phase III and IV cadets may have insignia items if they are available but may need to purchase these items on their own.  Hats, shoes and boots, belts, and undergarments must be provided by the cadet.

Does CAP teach cadets to fly?

All cadets have the opportunity to fly up to 5  Orientation Flights in a powered aircraft and, if available, 5 flights in a glider.  All cadets learn aviation fundamentals.  Cadets who advance in the program can apply for admission to several programs that can lead to a private pilot license. Admission to these programs is highly competitive and cadets must be motivated and must have good academic credentials in CAP and in school. Recently CAP has started the Wings program which will let qualified cadets earn their private pilots license.

Does CAP offer any scholarships?

Yes, there are academic and flight scholarships available.  In addition, there are scholarships available to CAP cadets from other sources ... check with your admissions or guidance adviser.

How do cadets earn rank in CAP?

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.)  Cadets must be self-motivated to succeed.  CAP rank and other qualifications are earned.  They are not awarded for just showing up.

Can parents be in CAP?

Absolutely!  Some opportunities to share in the CAP experience are:

Cadet Sponsor Member --  

Just like any other youth organization, CAP relies on a cadet's family to support the program.   Cadet parents, grandparents or legal guardians are eligible to join as a Cadet Sponsor.  This membership requires the same FBI background screening process and cadet protection training as the active adult membership.  First year dues are just $30 and renewals are only $20.  As a parent sponsor, you'll be able to help chaperone the cadets, ride or drive in the CAP vehicles, and otherwise help the other adult volunteer members. You will not be required to wear the Air Force-style uniform. 

Senior Member --

If you are more interested in taking a leadership role in the Cadet Program, or want to participate in CAP's aerospace education and emergency services missions, you should join as a senior member.  Talk with your child’s squadron commander about joining as a senior member.  You will need to submit and complete a membership application, fingerprint card and complete an orientation course. Annual membership dues vary by state.   

For further information: Cadet Programs - National Headquarters

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