Cadets from the Albuquerque Heights Composite, or Spirit, Squadron showed off their knowledge of communications, flight, aerospace and drill during a Civil Air Patrol open house at the First Church of the Nazarene Thursday evening.
Aiden Fried, a 16-year-old cadet, explained how science, technology, engineering and mathematics help him to better understand aerospace and rocketry, which are integral to the CAP program. He said cadets not only build rockets, but also have the opportunity to fly in balloons, gliders and planes. “Science and mathematics definitely help me to fly,” Fried said.
Fried said he was flying glider planes at the age of 13 and did his first solo flight at 14. “I was flying solo before I could legally get a driver’s license,” Fried said, adding that he received his glider license just after he turned 16. “It’s really an amazing experience,” he said.
Fried was just one of several cadets from the squadron showcasing what CAP has to offer. Jack Lemelin, a 13-year-old cadet, presented information about communications and how they learn to operate radios. He said communications isn’t his specialty but once he is promoted he may focus on radio operations.
The Civil Air Patrol is an all voluntary program operating as an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, but it is strictly a civilian operation. Individuals can join as young as age 12, while younger siblings can participate through observation but can’t officially join the program until they are 12.
Squadron commander Maj. Mary Fox said the program helps build character, and although similar to the Air Force in terms of rank and structure, is not just for those that want to join the military. She explained how the Civil Air Patrol can be called up to provide assistance in search and rescue and disaster relief efforts.
When asked if they could provide assistance to victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida, she said it is a possibility. “If they need a mission radio operator, I could fly out there right now,” she said, adding that she’d need permission from the wing commander to fly out of state, but that search and rescue is part of the CAP mission.
Fox said in addition to being a radio operator, she is also a scanner, meaning she would be the person looking down from the plane searching for vehicles or individuals in need of assistance. She said one of her missions as a radio operator was to help in the logistics of transporting COVID-19 vaccines at the beginning of the pandemic.
During the open house, Fox explained to the audience the importance of drill while also presiding over the promotion of a young cadet. She said promotions usually take place during the first week of the month, but because it was the cadet’s first promotion, he was able to receive his rank during the open house.
Cadets also demonstrated their proficiency in drill during a contest to see who could best listen and carry out commands correctly. Cadets who made a mistake were elimintated from the contest, leaving just one cadet standing at the end of the contest.
Audience members were also able to experience a flight simulator, build miniature glider planes and learn from cadets presenting an assortment of information from safety and character building to public affairs and drones.
To learn more about Civil Air Patrol and the Spirit Squadron, visit nm083.cap.gov.