The Civil Air Patrol or CAP as it is often called, is the United States Air Force Auxiliary. As such, it is tasked with three primary missions: these are the Cadet Program, Emergency Services, and Aerospace Education. Even though CAP is an organization based on a military model and the USAF auxiliary, its members are in no way obligated to join the Armed Forces. The skills, confidence, and leadership developed through membership can be used in all walks of life, not just the military. Rising from its roots in World War II, today CAP is a benevolent, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives, flying counterdrug missions, providing disaster relief, advancing young people, and supporting America's educators.
Today CAP has nearly 61,000 volunteer members - approximately 26,000 cadets and 35,000 senior members. Cadet membership is open to non-married U.S. citizens between the ages of 12-18 but may remain a Cadet until 21 years old. Senior membership is open to adults age 18 and over, who are US citizens and have no criminal record. Non U.S. citizens may join if they are lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Other non-residents may request a waiver of the citizenship requirement through the wing or region commanders. CAP does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion, or disability.
Among the many youth oriented programs in America today, CAP's is unique in that it has aviation as a cornerstone. The program allows young people to progress at their own pace through a 16-step program including aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness, and moral leadership. Cadets compete for academic scholarships as well as flight scholarships. Those cadets who earn cadet officer status may enter the Air Force as an E3 (Airman First Class) rather than E1 (Airman Basic). The Coast Guard also offers this advanced promotion to E-3 and the other Armed Services accept credit on a case-by-case basis.
Whatever your interests - leadership, survival training, flight training, photography, astronomy - there's a place for you in CAP's cadet program. Each year, cadets have the opportunity to participate in special activities at the local, state, regional, and national level. Many cadets will have the opportunity to solo fly an airplane for the first time through a flight encampment or academy. Others will enjoy traveling abroad through the International Air Cadet Exchange Program (IACE). Still others assist at major air shows throughout the nation.