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Information for Parents

Information for Parents

Thank you for supporting your child’s interest in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program.   CAP is a volunteer, non-profit organization that also serves as the civilian auxiliary to the U.S. Air Force.  Our three missions are to develop youth through a cadet program, educate Americans on the importance of aviation and space, and perform life-saving humanitarian missions. Click Here for Parents Guide to the Civil Air Patrol

The program accepts new cadets who are at least 12 years old and not yet 19 years old.   It is a year-round program with weekly meetings at a local CAP squadron and additional activities on weekends or during the summer.

CAP is not a military or boarding school, but a youth development program that incorporates aviation and military customs and courtesies.  Through their experiences as CAP cadets, young people develop into responsible citizens and become tomorrow’s aerospace leaders. The leadership skills, self-confidence, and discipline cadets gain through CAP prepares them to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves in life.

To fulfill its goal of developing young people into responsible citizens and aerospace leaders, the Cadet Program is developed around five program elements:  Leadership, Character Development, Aerospace Education, Physical Fitness, and Activities.  As cadets participate in these five elements, they advance through a series of achievements, earning honors and increased responsibilities along the way.

Overview of the Cadet Program

To fulfill its goal of developing young people into responsible citizens and aerospace leaders, the Cadet Program is organized around four program elements.


CAP introduces cadets to Air Force perspectives on leadership through classroom instruction, mentoring and hands-on learning. First, cadets learn to follow, but as they progress, they learn how to lead small teams, manage projects, think independently and develop leadership skills they can use in adult life.


CAP inspires in youth a love of aviation, space and technology. Cadets study the fundamentals of aerospace science in the classroom, and experience flight first-hand in CAP aircraft. Summer activities allow cadets to explore aerospace career opportunities.


CAP encourages cadets to develop a lifelong habit of regular exercise. The Cadet Program promotes fitness through calisthenics, hiking, rappelling, volleyball, competitions and other activities.


CAP challenges cadets to live their Core Values. Through character forums, cadets discuss ethical issues relevant to teens. Chaplains often lead the discussions, but the forums are not religious meetings. CAP also encourages cadets to promote a drug-free ethic in their schools and communities.

What Goes On Each Week

Some parents might be wondering what Civil Air Patrol will be doing with their child. This is a general idea of what goes on each week.

  • Arrival- Cadets arrive and sign in.
  • Safety Briefing- A cadet safety officer or member of the cadet executive staff will give a safety briefing on a multitude of topics.
  • Meeting Opens- Cadet executive staff open meeting with Pledge of Allegiance and Cadet Oath.
  • Formation/Inspection- Cadets fall outside for a squadron formation and usually a uniform inspection. During the inspection cadets are graded on their overall appearance according to the Civil Air Patrol uniform manual.
  • Main Activity- Each week we have a main activity that ranges from physical training to knowledge testing to promoting in grade.
  • Secondary Activity- Another activity follows the main activity, which could be anywhere from a class on aerospace to an informal class on CAP history.
  • Drill and Ceremonies- Every week we do drill and ceremonies. This includes marching and doing stationary drill movements.
  • Announcements- Cadet and senior members give announcements such as encampment dates or the uniform for the next meeting.
  • Meeting Closes- Cadet executive staff closes meeting and cadets are dismissed.

Question: I Want To Stay At The Meetings With My Child, Can I Do This?
Quick answer- Yes.

Extended answer- There are a couple ways you can stay at the meetings with your child. You can stay as just a parent, and you will be allowed to watch what the cadets do at every meeting, or you can become a member of CAP. There are two types of adult members in CAP - sponsor member or full-fledged senior member. A sponsor member is an adult member of CAP that is not a full senior member, therefore cannot get all the benefits of being a senior member, but can still chaperon at cadet activities. To learn more about becoming a member of CAP, please visit or speak with a senior member in the cadet office at the next meeting.

Participation & Expectations

We ask cadets to strive to achieve certain basic goals during their first year. While school and family obligations take priority over CAP, cadets make a solemn promise to participate in the program and give it a fair try. It’s okay to be absent sometimes, but here is some background for parents about those expectations and how to support your cadet in the program.

  • Cadets will attend weekly squadron meetings and one special “Saturday” activity per month, if available. It’s important to arrive on time and to let someone know about an absence.
  • Cadets are expected to complete achievements and advance through the cadet program. This requires independently studying leadership and aerospace materials and taking online tests outside of meetings. Many squadrons also communicate through email. Thank you for allowing your cadet sufficient internet access to complete these tasks.
  • Cadets are encouraged to attend encampment, the highlight of a cadet’s first year. An encampment is usually an overnight experience, 1-week in duration, held in the summer or over winter break.
  • If your cadet participates in special activities such as the Cyber Patriot team, color guard, or drill team, they are committing to that team. Discuss the time requirements for participation beforehand with your cadet and local leaders.
  • Many young people participate in multiple after-school activities. Be aware that when other commitments result in the cadet showing up late or missing meetings, that could affect their role in the squadron and eligibility for special activities.



Cadet Orientation Flights: Safe, Fun, Educational

CAP’s volunteer pilots share their love of flying with cadets. Through orientation flights in powered aircraft and gliders, cadets experience flight first-hand. While aloft, cadets handle the controls during the noncritical stages of the flight. CAP’s pilots are licensed by the FAA, follow a syllabus for each flight, and ensure the flight is conducted safely. Cadets may also receive orientation flights in military aircraft. Orientation flights are free to cadets.                    

Annual Dues & Uniforms

Cadets’ annual membership dues in California Wing are $40.  Additionally, cadets may be charged fees to cover meal and lodging costs at special activities.


The Air Force-style uniform is a symbol of the Core Values, inspiring cadets to think of themselves as young leaders. The first required uniform is the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU). Which is pre-purchased new for each cadet, included in the Cadet Great Start program fee (approx. $110). Some additional/extra uniform items may be available for free at the squadron.

Upon completing the Great Start training program and Achievement 1, CAP provides each cadet with a $100 voucher for the dress “blues” uniform. Again, some articles may be available for free at the squadron.

When a cadet outgrows a uniform or leaves CAP, we ask families to turn those items in to the local squadron so other cadets might use them.

Uniforms are most commonly obtained from the official Civil Air Patrol uniform supplier, Vanguard, but items can be obtained from other sources as long as they meet the styles and requirements in CAPM 39-1, Civil Air Patrol Uniform Manual.


Safety & Adult Supervision

CAP is a safe, positive environment where cadets can grow and learn. The Cadet Program uses an age-appropriate, military-style training model that challenges young people. While our program is regimented, we do not tolerate any form of abusive behavior or hazing. Our youth protection strategy was updated in 2015, using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s what you should know about how we keep youth safe:

  • Every CAP adult leader has been fingerprinted and passed a criminal background check.
  • Every CAP adult leader has been trained in how to mentor youth in a positive way, and in how to be alert for signs of inappropriate relationships.
  • Every CAP activity (with a few, rare exceptions) will be supervised by at least two CAP adult leaders.
  • Every CAP adult leader has been fingerprinted and passed a criminal background check.
  • Every CAP adult leader has been trained in how to mentor youth in a positive way, and in how to be alert for signs of inappropriate relationships.
  • Every CAP activity (with a few, rare exceptions) will be supervised by at least two CAP adult leaders.
  • We structure our activities so that opportunities for isolated, one-on-one contact with cadets are minimized.
  • Your local squadron will announce cadet activities via a web calendar, so you can know what events are upcoming.
  • You’ll be given written information each time a special activity is held, and be asked to sign a permission slip.

Our Philosophy for Developing Youth

CAP treats cadets as young adults, not children. The Cadet Program instills a sense of personal responsibility and self-discipline. When cadets use their chain of command to ask questions about cadet life or to get help with a problem, they learn self-reliance. Therefore, the cadet experience works best when cadets —not their parent— take responsibility for preparing their uniforms, navigating their way through promotion and award requirements, registering themselves for special events, and the like.

Freedom to Make Mistakes

CAP is a safe place to learn. Our program is carefully designed to develop your cadet as a leader. An important part of that process is the ability to try a new skill and perhaps be less than fully successful at first. A cadet may be reluctant to “stretch their wings” if parents are watching. Please allow your cadet to grow and develop as they work with their fellow cadets and their adult mentors. Parents who hover too closely often inhibit the very successes they hope to see in their cadets.

Homesick Cadets

At overnight activities, it’s normal for cadets to be homesick at first. Limiting contact between cadets and parents, versus reaching for “the world’s longest umbilical cord,” —the cell phone— helps cadets overcome their initial nervousness. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to make “pick-up” arrangements as a hedge against homesickness because that approach can undermine the cadet’s confidence and independence.

School Comes First

Cadets are required to maintain “satisfactory progress” in school, as determined by their parents or guardian. The self-discipline that CAP builds typically results in improved grades at school. We support cadets by emphasizing that school takes priority over cadet activities.

Addressing Concerns

As a parent, any time you have a question or concern, please contact our squadron commander. CAP takes parents’ concerns very seriously. If our local leaders are unable to resolve an issue to your satisfaction, our Central California Group 6 and California Wing leaders will gladly address your concerns.

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