By Michael W. Bell (Special to the Daily World)
On a cloudy, drizzling day, on the Martin Luther King Holiday, most young people are out of school at home playing video games, or watching TV, or visiting friends. But a small group of dedicated youth volunteered their time to march in the MLK Day parade as part of the Color Guard. If they had not been doing that, they would be taking to the skies flying single engine airplanes just as the Tuskegee Airmen did so long ago. These young people are part of a national organization called the Civil Air Patrol (CAP)
The Civil Air Patrol is a non profit, volunteer organization composed of adults and youths ages 12 through 18. Civil Air patrol is also the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force. CAP has three distinct missions. As the official auxiliary of the Air Force, they are tasked with searching for missing or overdue civilian airplanes. They search by air and by ground. Members are specially trained in search techniques, first aid, and rescue techniques. CAP also helps local authorities in times of disasters such as floods, Hurricanes, and Tornadoes. They may help deliver supplies, or transport dignitaries by air to give them an overall picture of the situation.
Another one of CAP’s missions is conducting workshops for educators in the field of aerospace education. CAP publishes textbooks that teach teachers how to incorporate aerospace into any classroom from English, to history to math and science. Internally, CAP teaches its own members about aerospace and aviation current events such as NASA shuttle launches, new technology in avionics and the overall aviation industry. The youth in CAP have the opportunity to take orientation flights in single engine airplanes with a trained flight instructor. Some youth even get the chance to get their FAA pilots certificate.
The third mission of the Civil Air Patrol is to conduct a youth program. This cadet programs gives young people the chance to learn about leadership, making decisions, and responsibility. The program is structured after the United States Air Force, but in no way encourages young people to join the Armed Forces. They do hold similar leadership type positions like that in the military and they are expected to lead the younger cadets with a little guidance from the adult members. The cadets plan their own meetings, they get the chance to participate in special activities such as attending the real Air Force Pilot school and observing training. They can learn how to save lives at the Emergency Service Academy and they can travel to other countries as part of a student exchange program.
Fulton Composite Squadron is the local unit in the inner Atlanta area. The unit has several pilots and many cadets. The cadets have flown airplanes as well as gliders. They have provided Color Guard details for events such as the MLK Parade and they laid wreaths honoring our fallen veterans at South View cemetery. The unit is located at Fulton County Airport and the adults meet every Thursday night from 7 pm to 9 p.m. The cadets meet every Saturday morning from 9:30 am until 11:30 am.