Sophomore Josh Sweeney takes part in the Civil Air Patrol


Jon Pearcy, Staff Writer

“I want to go Army, hopefully special operations,” sophomore Josh Sweeney says, excitement and pride filling his voice. “My brother is in special operations, so is my dad. My other brother was just with the Army infantry. I want to go Rangers.”

Sweeney is one of several FHC students who plan on pursuing a career in the military, but unlike many, he’s already gotten started preparing.

Sweeney is a member of the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the United States Air Force. The CAP is staffed by civilians, and has three major missions: emergency services, aerospace education, and the cadet program.

The cadet program was originally created to help train future pilots, but has since expanded. It now provides aerospace education, leadership development, and career training. It is this cadet program that Sweeney is a member of.

“[The cadet program is] to prepare people for cadet life going into the military, and also just to teach people discipline or leadership values. The program helps cadets with leadership skills in civilian life. It also helps going on to the military, just learning all the drill, and basics of living a military life. It especially shows that [military aspect] because we have squadron meetings every week, once a week for a couple hours. You can also go to different encampment and search and rescue academies. You can be certified on ground teams to go help rescue downed planes.”

According to Sweeney these encampments and academies are central to the CAP cadet program. Encampments are military-structured camps, where cadets are put through an experience very similar to basic training in the Air Force. They do rigorous physical training, but also hard mental tasks, which require critical thinking and analysis. Academies tend to be more focused; for example, you might go to an academy to learn specifically about search and rescue or honor guard.

Although the training is mainly based around the Air Force, teaching about aerospace and flying planes, Sweeney says that the cadet program teaches you many life skills, and can help you in any branch of the military.

Civil Air Patrol Seal

“The Civil Air Patrol program offers a lot of military experience,” Sweeney said, “getting basic drill and leadership education and character development. There is aerospace, a lot of aerospace engineering parts of it. Learning about planes and aerodynamics, which is very interesting, not really my field that I want to go into, but it all just improves you getting work done and time management. I view [the aerospace parts] as learning time management, so I have no problem learning it. It really prepares you for military life.”

According to Sweeney the average meeting consists of character development, leadership training, drill time, and aerospace training. In character development and leadership training they’ll be given a situation, such as corruption in the chain of command, and be taught how to fix it, or left to find a way themselves. Through this they learn the importance of a chain of command and how to establish one. At drill time they practice things similar to an honor guard, and at aerospace training they learn about many different aspects of airplanes and aerospace engineering. Cadets are also expected to maintain a certain level of physical ability, which is tested once a month.

Sweeney himself doesn’t plan on going into the Air Force at all, instead planning on joining the Army. Eventually, he would like to become an Army Ranger, a member of the special operations division of the Army. For him, the military is a family thing; both his brothers and his dad have been in the military at some point. Sweeney hopes that his participation in the Civil Air Patrol will better prepare him for that life.

It’s helping me with time management, between it and school and everything. It’s also helping me improve myself physically and mentally, with leadership skills which will definitely go on to help me in the Army, along with my improved physical abilities.”

— Josh Sweeney

“[Becoming a Ranger takes] a lot of determination because it’s a lot more physically demanding and everything,” Sweeney said. “That’s why I thought going into an auxiliary would help me. So when I’m enlisting it’s not just ‘I know the basics,’ it’s ‘I’ve done this before’. I can learn more and more, and I can be one step ahead of everyone else. With these auxiliary programs you go in as a higher rank, I’ll be going in as an E2. Depending on the branch you go in to [you get a different rank], if you go into Air Force you go in as an E3. I’ll be going in as a Private First Class.”


So far, Sweeney thinks the program is preparing him well.


“It’s helping me with time management, between it and school and everything,” Sweeney said. “It’s also helping me improve myself physically and mentally, with leadership skills which will definitely go on to help me in the Army, along with my improved physical abilities.”

Sweeney has considered going to a military academy, as several recent FHC grads have done, but instead has decided to enlist directly.

“I’ve been to academy night sponsored by Justin Amash,” Sweeney said, “and  I’ve thought about it and everything, and my brother wanted to beforehand. I look at that, and it’s a lot of work to get in, and that’s really cool and all, but I’d rather have the enlistment time of being an actual combat soldier for a while, not immediately being in a leadership position once I get out of college. I guess that’s more important to me, doing what my brother did, more combat situations.”

The Civil Air Patrol

Sweeney’s favorite part of the experience so far has been the camaraderie developed between him and his fellow Civil Air Patrol members.

“You’re part of a family,” Sweeney said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. You can suffer, you can go through the physical training, and it can be terrible, but at least there’s someone right next to you, going through it too.”