Civil Air Patrol takes a sense of duty and discipline to the next level
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“I just hope that I have a positive impact,” junior Josh Sweeney said. “I hope that doing what I do can help people in whatever shape or form, whether it be training a cadet or helping someone on an actual mission.”
With a passion for helping others and a desire to serve our country, members of CAP, or Civil Air Patrol, make it their mission to give back and assist in the community. As a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP works to prepare members with physical and mental training that will ready them for military tasks, like Homeland Security and humanitarian missions, and even future careers. CAP is divided into three sectors: cadet programs, emergency services (search and rescue missions and disaster relief), and aerospace education (education about aerospace history and engineering). For Josh, his training is leading him toward the emergency services sector.
Some members felt called to this area of duty for their future career whereas others grew to appreciate the useful discipline that will be beneficial in whatever future they choose to pursue. Josh himself always knew that he had a passion and inclination toward service, and that dedication caused him to advanced quickly in leadership to become a flight commander and emergency services officer of CAP in Grand Rapids. This ambition, however, did not originate with Josh, as he comes from generations of those who have also felt that same call.
“My family has a long line of military service, going all the way back to the American Revolution,” Josh said. “I really want to carry on that tradition of honor in my family, and I was very excited to uphold that.”
Honor and feeling connected with others are huge parts of being in the CAP program. Without that sense of pride and a continuous motivation, all of the strenuous training can be both taxing and difficult. On the contrary, junior, cadet deputy commander, and lead course instructor at the Search and Rescue Academy Nolan Block felt that there was plenty of incentive for doing his part.
“From a young age, I felt a call to service,” Nolan said. “I feel that with this country giving us all that we have, it’s kind of our duty to give back no matter how you can. There’s always going to be somebody fighting wars for us, and I just felt that call to duty.”
Nolan always knew that he wanted to serve our country, and he started getting involved in CAP two and a half years ago. Similarly, another junior and flight sergeant Steve Reminga felt that same pull toward military service but after only being in CAP for a short period of time.
“I love being able to help people in the community,” Steve said, “and gaining knowledge that I will use for the rest of my life.”
After their seemingly endless amounts of training, it would be nearly impossible to not come out of the program with a high level of ability and knowledge. However, knowledge isn’t the only thing that members will retain after leaving the CAP program. Because of the long, grueling hours of mental and physical training alongside peers, everyone develops a strong bond that will last a lifetime.
“In some aspects, [being in CAP] can distance you from friends from school, but in other ways, when I go to these events, it’s with my friends within CAP,” Josh said. “It’s a bond that’s much different than normal friends. I can say that with people from school, I’ve had some great times, but I can never say, ‘hey, I’ve been in freezing weather in the middle of a natural shelter for an entire night with this dude.’ There’s a lot of different experiences, and that heightens your friendships with people within the program.”
Nolan and Steve also felt that same way about their peers and superiors. The numerous hours spent helping each other in times of need paid off through friendships, the building of character, and training for discipline and a future.
“[Civil Air Patrol] has made me more serious about my future. It really changed me as a person both physically and mentally,” Josh said. “I was humbled and grateful for the academy and Civil Air Patrol in general for really guiding me through and for giving me a leadership experience, so I’m much more confident as a person.”