NH Civil Air Patrol: NH CAP in NH's North Country. Click here.

NH Civil Air Patrol: NH CAP in NH's North Country.                            

Dream High
By Cindy Dumont

Sam Crosby, a high school senior from Bethlehem NH, is passionate about aviation. "I love everything that aviation has to offer, whether I'm flying or working on airplanes. I know that even if I don't end up becoming a pilot, I'll be happy whatever I end up doing, so long as aviation is involved."

Although access and cost are two major challenges when it comes to aviation, Sam's dream is not just pie in the sky. He found the 'flight path' to NH CAP is seeking opportunities to engage the North Country.achieving his dream through the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). "Civil Air Patrol gives me the opportunity to have free power flight lessons, which is pretty awesome considering the price of flying lessons these days." Members of CAP are eligible to receive 5 free glider lessons, 5 free power flight lessons, and unlimited back seat flights when conditions allow through the cadet orientation flight program, or O-Flight.

Currently, the Civil Air Patrol's only north country presence is in Ossipee so Sam, along with other cadets in the area, must drive to Laconia every week for meetings. Although he says it's worth it, Sam would agree it would be great to have a squadron near-by.

Enter USAF Col (ret) Bill Moran. Where Sam Crosby's passion is aviation, Col Moran's is bringing aviation to Coos County. "The Civil Air Patrol publishes high quality text books and provides training and an aviation and aerospace curriculum for teachers in the public schools. I'd like to provide four $500 grants to those who are interested in enhancing their school's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. All we need is a donation of $2000 from a few area sponsors to get started."

A CAP squadron in Nashua NH serves as a model to others in the state for what can be done when partnering with schools. Nashua NH's Academy of Science and Design is a charter school specializing in aviation and aerospace education. Retired Assistant Professor of Military Science with the Army, and current educator at ADS, Kevin Harbison, leads Cadets at School, an after-school enrichment program of the Civil Air Patrol.

"We're coming up on our first anniversary. The biggest lesson we've learned this year was to be better prepared for the amount of interest this type of program generates. We did not expect the doors to be knocked down the way they were."

Cadets at School received 50 cadets in their first year. This program meets weekly to bring leadership training, aerospace education, physical fitness challenges, and emergency search and rescue skill building to this group of 12-21 year olds. "About 65% of the cadets want to fly, the others are interested in other areas such as ground operation," explains Harbison. For the 18-21 year olds with their eyes to the skies, additional flight time beyond the flying experience already offered in the Cadets at School program is the Holy Grail. "Cadets in the program compete to get a seat in an additional week long extra-curriculum camp, and about half get in," says the squad leader. The elite program is an intensive overnight flight training where cadets eat, sleep, and drink flight. When they're done, cadets have received flight training and 10 hours of flight time that can be applied to getting their pilot's license.

Cadets at School is a self-paced Civil Air Patrol curriculum that promises to assist schools to strengthen discipline, offer alternative to drugs, boost attendance through increased student morale, and provide opportunities for peer mentoring through the leadership and character building components of the program.

Though Moran feels the best place to start learning about the opportunities the Civil Air Patrol has to offer is through a partnership with the educators in the area, for those who want more, the Civil Air Patrol is ready to serve.

Darlene Cray is an involved parent who sees amazing growth in her son as a result of his involvement in CAP. "He was already a good kid, but through the program he learned more responsibility, accountability, and confidence. I really saw it when he went away to the summer encampment program. There, as a 15 year old, he was required to pack his own things, do his laundry, prepare his room for inspection each day, including folding his socks and tee-shirts and making his bed with hospital corners. After only a week, he came back with a better appreciation for these life skills."

As parent volunteer, Darlene shares her perspective. "CAP wants to provide quality supervision for the squads, so parents that want to volunteer have to be fingerprinted, go through an application process and be approved to join. This process is needed to be sure our kids are safe. My husband and I started out as wanting to help provide supervision, but we found that we have become a part of the organization as equally as our son is a part of it."

There's a misconception that leaders and volunteers involved in CAP must have military experience due to some of the customs they share with the cadets such as wearing uniforms and drills during meetings, and its auxiliary association with the Air Force, however Moran states that 90% of the leaders of CAP have no military background. Further, it is not considered a recruitment tool for military service, though some cadets enjoy the benefit of a higher rank due to their involvement in CAP if they are interested in a military career.

"I only wish I had found the Civil Air Patrol sooner," explains Sam Crosby. "My career path is becoming an Air Force officer. So the drill and leadership experience is really valuable to me. It would have been awesome to have moved up to become a jet commander."

Col Robert Shaw, NH Wing Commander for CAP, describes what a small group of interested people can do to bring a squadron to their area. "All it takes is a core of interested people to start a small squadron, otherwise known as a Flight. If there are 3-4 adults and 6 cadets you have what you need. Whitefield Airport is a good location to use as a base." It's important to note, that other north country airports could serve equally well.

Sam is off to college in the fall and there's no doubt he will soar. But for those who may be interested in a greater CAP experience, start early. No dream is too high to reach.

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