It’s About Respect

Have you ever had one of those awkward moments when you are too close to ignore a senior officer but too far away to be within the magic saluting radius? Do you veer toward him? Away? Do you pretend not to see her? Do you just salute when in doubt?

This kind of gray area occupies an absurd amount of time and discussion in cadet programs, and I would like to see if we can kill it in this article. Customs and courtesies are the traditions and etiquette rules we follow in military service to show respect to others.

Unfortunately, you have probably received more conditioning on how to implement those rules from bad military movies than you have from actual training. Bad conditioning leads to bad habits and misconceptions about what is really important.

It is all about respect. When all is said and done, your goal with customs and courtesies is to show respect to everyone around you and to the institutions you work with and represent – when in doubt, show respect, but don’t get so fixated on the rules that you miss the point or place courtesy over the mission.

Continue reading

Surviving Basic Encampment

Anxious about your first encampment? We understand. For many Civil Air Patrol cadets, this week-long training course lays the foundation for their entire cadet life, and it can seem daunting to the new airman. Encampments vary widely in style and activities, but they follow the same basic formula to meet the training standards defined by CAP regulations.

Don’t stress out. We’ve got the lowdown on what you can do to make the most of this fun and valuable training experience!

Continue reading

You Are Only As Sharp As Your Creases

Uniforms are an important, valuable, iconic part of every cadet program. We use uniform wear to instill pride and a sense of belonging; we use uniforms to teach young men and women how to present a professional appearance, how to apply attention to detail, and perhaps most importantly – how to learn, interpret, and apply rules.

AFSOC Airman

Sometimes, you have bigger fish to fry than whether your headgear is authorized…
…but that usually isn’t the case at encampment.

So uniforms rightfully consume a lot of our attention and energy. Yet, many of us involved with different cadet programs have noticed that uniform-related issues get way out of hand. How did we get here? Why do the forums on CadetStuff and CAPTalk have more discussions about ribbons, shoulder cords, and hats than aerospace jobs, college choices, and public speaking?

One of my best friends and mentors believes that this is because young teens are not capable of handling big, abstract ideas. Your little brains are not developed enough to handle anything more than very concrete things like ribbons and regulations. Does that insult you? Good – I think it should. I think this fixation happens because we don’t explain certain things well and we tend to underestimate what young people can handle. In this article, I am going to try to explain to you why there is more to life than merit badges and sharp creases.

Continue reading

A Cadet in an Active-Shooter Incident

Cadets everywhere need to spend time thinking about this subject, as uncomfortable as it may be. Regardless of any other factors, being a cadet makes you a leader. Thinking about this now might well save your life – and the lives of your friends – some day.
 – Tom Rehman, Managing Editor

It is 8:00am on a Tuesday morning and you are in math class dragging yourself through an algebra quiz that you are not prepared for. As you plot a parabola you ask yourself the time-honored question: “When the heck am I ever going to need this?!” Answer: never. But I had to plot parabolas, so now you do too.

You hear a loud, distinct series of pops at a distance. It sounds like fireworks, or maybe a pile of wood dropped on concrete. Whatever. This stupid calculator isn’t giving you the stupid answer to stupid question number four! You keep hearing the pops but then you hear a BANG that shakes the building. You realize something isn’t right. Your phone starts blowing up with texts that don’t make any sense. You hear a PA announcement instructing your teacher to “Shelter the class in place.” Now what?

This scene played out in one form or another at Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and dozens of other populated areas around the country. This might feel like a new phenomenon, but mass violence has been around for a very long time. The first mass school shooting in the United States happened in 1764. These massacres appear to be increasing in frequency and magnitude, and that is driving a number of national policy debates. But this article is not about policy; it is about your survival.

Discussions on this are tricky because we are talking about very real danger and children. Whether I see cadets as children, or whether cadets see themselves as children, most people are uncomfortable about the idea of asking a child to do anything in a dangerous situation. Many would prefer to avoid the discussion altogether. Some are concerned that asking you to take any role in your own survival is, by definition, asking you to take on risk. I think some dialogue on this is worthwhile and I hope to spark some discussion on it, in classrooms and in cadet units. I am going to make suggestions here that may concern parents, leaders of cadets, and teachers. I urge you to make your own decisions, in coordination with your own parents, teachers, and local law enforcement.

Continue reading

The Older Cadet

I am a Civil Air Patrol Cadet Technical Sergeant, and though I have my whole life ahead of me, I will never go on an orientation flight, or earn a flight scholarship. I will never participate in the International Air Cadet Exchange, or National Blue Beret, or participate on a CyberPatriot team. I probably won’t achieve all of the Cadet Program’s milestone awards, like the Eaker and the Spaatz. Why not? Because I am already eighteen years old, and the CAP cadet program ends at age 21.

If you are an older cadet who joined your program at sixteen or seventeen, rest assured that you are not alone. Here are some tips from a cadet in the same boat.

1. Don’t let yourself be devoured by regret.

It’s easy to fall into this trap. When you see much younger cadets at your same level in the program, you realize how many more opportunities and how much more time they have. Don’t let yourself wallow in grief, and don’t blame your friends or parents for not introducing you to the joys of being a cadet sooner. It only makes you miserable, and that doesn’t do you any good. A better way to look at it is by asking yourself, “How can I use the time I have wisely and honorably?” You won’t get anywhere with your remaining time if you don’t have the right attitude.

2. Live life to the fullest before you age out of the cadet program (and join the dark side).

If you want to get the most out of what time you have as a cadet, whether you are limited by your rapidly-approaching twenty-first birthday, or going off to college in some far-flung place where the nearest unit is forty miles away, then get busy. Work on those promotions. You may not have to fit it all within the absolute minimum time-in-rank, and you certainly shouldn’t kick and claw your way to success at the expense of those around you, but don’t be lazy. Go to every squadron event possible. Try to attend a summer encampment, even if you think you will never need it for promotion. Go to every SAREX you can, and politely (but proactively) hound the officers in charge of signing off qualifications. A career does not have to be long to be illustrious.

3. Realize that more is required of you.

As a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old cadet, you will quickly discover one thing: rank is very powerful. You will naturally feel more comfortable mingling with cadets closer to your own age, even if they are cadet officers. This is normal, but it can be dangerous to your professionalism. At the same time, it’s tempting to say, “Well, I’m an airman – I don’t have to be as dignified and mature as Lt Mitchell.” No! If you are 17, and Lt Mitchell is 17, then you should both be serving as models of the Core Values and behavior in the uniform to the younger cadets, even if one of you is wearing stripes and the other is wearing pips.

I hope that this article has helped some of you out there. When I joined CAP, I felt big, old, and foolish, and I didn’t think there was much the cadet leaders could teach me. I had to learn on-the-fly, but my short cadet career is proving to be one of the best decisions of my life. I hope that you also are making the most of your cadet years. Remember, you are only limited by yourself, not your time in uniform.

Alexander the Great: Advice for a new Cadet Commander

Dear Alexander,

I need leadership advice. Our one and only cadet officer has deserted us (!) to go to college, and the responsibilities of Acting Cadet Commander have fallen upon me. I’m certainly old enough to handle the challenge, and our DCC thinks I can do a good job, but I feel woefully inadequate. My Tech Sergeant stripes must weigh a hundred pounds. Help!


C/TSgt Rosa Tiemann
Continue reading

Drummond Island: Declassified – The Mess

Editors Note: Another interesting find here (aren’t they all?): This was recovered as a carbon copy of a letter sent by Hannibal to a squadron commander in Group III. At first, we weren’t sure he’d actually sent it, but a thorough search of the correspondence files of the squadron in question showed that he had. The letter seemed to strike its intended target…

We also had the good fortune to come across some issues of The Flyer, the Group XII Newsletter. A stack of these were recovered in the back of a disused filing cabinet in what had been the Group XII PAO’s office. They had clearly been there for many years: the PAO apparently stored and forgot a six-pack of ‘New Coke’ on top of them! These newsletters were hand-typed and then reproduced using ‘mimeograph’, so while they are legible, they aren’t particularly clear.
Continue reading

Drummond Island: Declassified – The Death March Pt 2

Editors Note: The following appears to be a continuation of last month’s so-called ‘Death March’ after-action report, but it was found separately from the original document and in much worse shape. After the OCR software puked badly several times, we decided not to scan this one, but rather had to retype it by hand (grammatical & spelling errors we’ll blame on Hannibal, since it obviously couldn’t be us). Attached was the hand written note shown on the right.

Also, we’ve included some scans of an issue of the “Drummond Dog,” which we believe was the “official newsletter” of the Drummond Island Search & Rescue School.
Continue reading

Drummond Island: Declassified – The Death March Pt 1

Editors Note: “Death March Part I” is not chronologically the first Drummond Island Declassified document; we have uncovered items concerning previous years. But we felt it was a good starting point for the series anyway.

First, it was this after action report that hinted to us that it might be worth our time to do some digging into the history of the 77th RSU. An old and damaged file copy of this report came to us from a confidential source after it was found with a number of photographs in a box of old Group XII files in a basement in Michigan. Our first idea was to scan in the entire original and just display the images, but since the original document was damaged anyway, it made more sense to run it through the OCR software for plain text display. A lot faster for our readers on dialup modems. The photos have been scanned as well and included with the text.

Another reason this after action report is a good start to this series is that it seems to be the first official document submitted by the Ranger staff member known as “Hannibal”. has received other reports Hannibal submitted and we noticed that this first report was more like a story than his later reports. Hannibal was young and fairly inexperienced at this time and he put a lot of his feelings into it rather than using an official tone.

Finally, there is an intriguing marginal note on this copy of the report. At the top of the first page is the following, written in pen: “Hannibal, I wanted an AAR, not War and Peace. – Col K”. This is clearly visible in the scanned version of the report. Whoever wrote that note was wasting his time; Hannibal never could break his habit of turning in long reports. He also had a habit of saving nearly everything that he sent to or received from the 77th. He became the “keeper of the flame” for the unit after it was dissolved and mostly forgotten. Hannibal was the author of most of the documents managed to uncover – as well as an excellent example of the good work the 77th RSU did in training Cadet leaders.

Continue reading

Drummond Island: Declassified – The Introduction

NOTE: This series was originally published on CadetStuff in 2002. We are re-releasing it on the new site because it still contains oodles of great leadership lessons, and it’s a great story about a bygone era. — Ed.

There are few Civil Air Patrol groups that are surrounded by as much mystery as the Cold War era “77th Ranger Support Unit”. Known to very few people outside of its own ranks, it was based in the wilderness of Drummond Island, Michigan, and conducted its training and developed its methods in seclusion.

Because of the deeply classified nature of its operations, the extent of the unit’s influence and reach is still not fully known. It is known that the 77th’s methods included harsh and realistic training conditions. There are reports that the 77th was involved in creating caches of supplies, food and weapons for use after a nuclear exchange with the Soviets. There also may have been urban environment operations in Pontiac Michigan; and there are persistent rumors of an exercise involving airbase and missile silo infiltrations to help test security at these facilities.

Continue reading