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Cadet Programs

Civil Air Patrol Cadet Programs consists of a series of modules designed to create rounded leaders. The cadet program features leadership, customs & courtesies, character development, aerospace education, and fitness education. Along with these features, cadets have the opportunity to work in the local community through volunteer service and in the emergency services community through Civil Air Patrol's many missions. Disaster Relief and Search and Rescue operations need young, energetic, active participants working side by side with the experienced, educated base staff. Cadets are an excellent fill for this role and can have the opportunity to grow into the command and control positions at mission base and potentially in the air. 


Leadership is the most active modules of the cadet program and is the central thread that connects all the other components. The CAP cadet corps is structured similarly to an Air Force chain of command. Cadets serve as followers and leaders to each other in both direct leadership, with cadets commanding and mentoring other cadets, as well as indirect leadership, where cadets perform executive leadership tasks such as planning. 

Senior members serve as mentors and instructors to the cadet program. Although many of the weekly classes are instructed by senior members, most are instructed by cadets, cultivating cadets' teaching and mentoring skills, as well as presentation skills. 

The cadet program is structured into 4 phases, with each phase building on the skills of the previous

  • Phase 1 consists of CAP structure and the keys to followership. This provides a base for the leadership training that will be built on with the later phases

  • Phase 2, starting with the Wright Brothers award, begins cadets' leadership training with the focus on leadership of people, specifically other cadets. Leading people directly involves a great deal of mentorship skills as well as communication skills. Element Leader is the first of the mentorship duty positions, working up to Flight Sergeant and eventually First Sergeant.

  • Phase 3, starting with the Mitchell award, carries on the direct leadership training and begins working on indirect leadership. These are the skills the leader of leaders needs to know; providing group focus and planning. Flight Commander is the initial duty position of this phase providing a position to instruct and direct up to 12 cadets, including a flight sergeant and 3 element leaders. 

  • Phase 4, starting with the Earhardt award, wraps up the leadership training with a focus on executive leadership. Cadets that make it to this phase begin working on the planning and strategy of running a program. Many duty positions are involved in this phase including, cadet commander, the executive staff positions, and more.  

  • The Spaatz award is the final step of the cadet program. Following the end of Phase 4, the Spaatz consists of a summary test of all cadet knowledge; this test can only be taken 3 times at maximum and cadets must have their unit commanders permission to attempt the test. Named for General Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, cadets work for 4 years at a minimum to achieve this standing. Only .01% of CAP cadets achieve this milestone, and doing so is one of the highest honors a cadet can achieve. All cadets who achieve their Spaatz award earn a place in the Spaatz Association and selection priority on certain cadet programs. Spaatz cadets are expected to serve as role models for junior cadets, and become leaders in their communities as they enter adulthood. The first recipient of the Spaatz Award, Michigan’s Douglas C. Roach, served as a pilot with the Air Force Thunderbirds. 

Customs & Courtesies

Military Customs and Courtesies are a core feature of the cadet program. Along with their military grades, cadets are required to perform standard customs and courtesies. This builds character and a structure for the cadets' leadership program.

Drill and Ceremonies are a feature of customs and courtesies, which forces cadets to work as a team. It breaks down the individual mindset so that we can bring them up as a member of the team. This can be stressful and hard work, but is ultimately very rewarding.

"Customs and courtesies are what separate us from the civilian world (and less professional armies around the world, by the way). They are important because they help to define the very essence of our profession by shaping the expected behaviors of those who choose to join us in military service." West Point 

Character Development

Civil Air Patrol Chaplain corps in coordination with the United States Air Force Academy Chaplains have worked to create a new modern character development program. This program aims to prepare our cadets to make challenging decisions in their own lives, within the CAP program, and in their future careers. 

Cadets are instructed in the CAP core values: Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence, and Respect. People are put into situations everyday where these core values would be challenged, and cadets are equipped to handle these situations better through the experiences in the cadet program and the character forums. 

Aerospace Education

The aerospace mission features heavily in the cadet program. Aerospace education courses at the meetings, STEM kits, model rocketry program, cyberpatriot, and orientation flights come together to create the backbone of the cadet aerospace program. All cadets are required to study and test on aerospace history and sciences for each promotion

STEM kits are available to the cadet program through national headquarters. These kits provide resources not available to most youth, challenging them as a team and individuals to accomplish science based challenges

The model rocketry program is a classic program providing cadets an opportunity to put their rocketry knowledge they learned in the aerospace books to the test. 

Cyberpatriot is an associated program through the Air Force Association. Cadets learn about cyber defense and get to put their skill and knowledge to the test through the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. 

Lastly, cadets get the opportunity to fly in one of CAP's many Cessna aircraft. Each cadet gets 5 up-front flights, where after take-off is complete, they get to take control of the aircraft. Each flight is specifically designed to teach a set of flight skills to the cadet building upon the previous flight. Cadets are also allowed to fly the back seat as many times as they would like. The most important part of the "orientation flight" program is, it's entirely free for cadets under 18 years old. 

  • For additional information on Aerospace Education visit:

Fitness Education

Youth physical fitness is of major importance to the cadet program. Each cadet must take the presidential physical fitness test for each promotion. An academic component features as well, to provide a focus on proper health and diet. 


CAP Cadets in their first year attend the week long training camp known as Encampment. This age appropriate basic training provides significant training for cadets to learn followership, team work, leadership, the importance of aerospace education, and core values of CAP. Cadets who complete encampment have been challenged beyond their expectations. They have fun that is also rewards them with a memory that will last for decades. 

  • For additional information about encampment visit:

National Cadet Special Activities

In the years after encampment, CAP Cadets have a unique opportunity to participate in national activities, many of which focus around aviation related activities and lessons. These activities include powered and glider flight academies, marshaling aircraft at the Oshkosh Airshow, aircraft maintenance academy, ground school, Air Force familiarization traips and tours, and many others. These national activities are usually a week long activity and usually costs several hundred dollars but there are scholarship available for CAP cadets to reduce or eliminate that cost.

  • For additional information about NCSAs visit:


  • How old can a cadet be when joining?

Cadets may join CAP from their 12th birthday through their 19th birthday. At 21, cadets automatically change to Senior Member status. 

  • How much does CAP Cost?

Cadets pay $35 per year, subject to minor additions at the local and state level. 

  • Is there any Military Service Requirement?

Military Service is neither expected nor required of any CAP cadet. We will foster any interest in any professional goals, including military service if that is what the cadet seeks.

  • What is the time requirements?

    Cadets are expected to attend the weekly squadron meeting as well as 1 monthly weekend activity of their choosing. Cadets are also expected to attend a cadet encampment in their first year and are encouraged to attend further encampments in years after. This encampment does not need to be located in the state the cadet resides. Cadets who do not complete the minimum requirements will find their CAP experience lacking in substance.

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