Civil Air Patrol cadet program teaches teens aeronautics, integrity and leadership

The United States’ Civil Air Patrol operates on a lower profile than during its early days. Established Dec. 1, 1941 — six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into World War II — CAP originally patrolled U.S. airspace and watched for German U-boats off American coasts.

In 1948, Congress designated CAP as the official Air Force auxiliary organization, tasked with three missions: emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Elizabeth Irving of Tigard, left, hands off command of the cadet program to West Linn's Kyla Minato on Aug. 6.Those missions are alive and well in Oregon, although many people notice only the organization’s occasional role in emergency services. The adult members of CAP’s local unit, the Aurora Composite Squadron, actively pursue CAP’s lesser-known purpose of educating youth cadets and engaging them in the study of aeronautics. Based at the Aurora State Airport, the squadron draws members from Wilsonville, West Linn, Oregon City, Tigard, Tualatin and surrounding communities.

West Linn resident Marc Minato, a former member of the Air Force and currently a second lieutenant in the CAP, said cadets are “the bulk of the reason why we exist.” His daughter, Kyla, recently assumed cadet command of the Aurora Composite Squadron.

Military precision

The word “composite” indicates that the squadron contains both adults, called seniors, and youth cadets. All are civilian volunteers. Although adult volunteers may or may not have military backgrounds, CAP is run with military funding, precision and traditions.

CAP members are assigned ranks and earning promotions is required. Cadets are issued uniforms, both dress blues and fatigues. They salute superior officers and perform drills. However, the cadet program is focused not on military recruitment but on developing capable young leaders.

“The Air Force goes out of its way to not create the appearance of recruitment,” Minato said. “There is nothing that is funneling (cadets) in that direction. ... Plenty of our cadets have no expectation of going in the military.”

West Linn’s PJ Carr, 15, became interested in CAP because of the program’s focus on aeronautics. At first, he was uncertain about the military aspect, his mother said, but his concerns were laid to rest as he became more involved with CAP.

“He’s getting so much more” than military-style training, Carr said of her son. PJ, known as Cadet/Staff Sgt. Carr, has gained most from the character development, she said.

“Definitely the discipline and respect for authority. We think it’s doing a lot of good for him,” she said.

PJ is getting plenty of aeronautics exposure, too.

“He’s flown a plane out to the coast and back, several times,” Carr said. “They periodically use a flight simulator. ... They also did a national competition called Cyber Patriot. They learned how to detect and eliminate computer viruses.”

PJ wants to design airplanes, and his involvement with CAP may further that goal. Other cadets have gone on to study at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — PJ’s college of choice.

“He’s printed out four years’ worth of courses that he can take there,” Carr said. “It has certainly given him a goal and a focus.”

CAP offers opportunities for personal development, leadership, physical fitness and integrity, including drug resistance.

“We try to use our ability to communicate with cadets to steer them away from classic drugs and alcohol but also energy drinks and things like that that probably aren’t doing them any good,” Minato said.

A change of command

On Aug. 6, two young cadets performed a solemn ceremony, one relinquishing command and the other accepting it.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Elizabeth Irving of Tigard, left, and West Linn's Kyla Minato are both cadet second lieutenants in the Civil Air Patrol's Aurora Composite Squadron.Ending her six-month term was Cadet Second Lt. Elizabeth Irving, 16 and an incoming junior at Tigard High School. Her long-term goals include military service; she is eyeing West Point or may enlist, with the goal of becoming military police and then a military investigator.

She appreciates the way CAP has exposed her to military experiences but she knows not every cadet shares her career ambitions.

“Some people want to use this as academy prep; others want to learn discipline,” she said.

Irving values the personal growth she’s experienced.

“I’ve learned about myself as a leader,” she said. “There was a lot of growing that I’ve done in the squadron.”

The new commander, Cadet Second Lt. Kyla Minato, 15 and an incoming sophomore at West Linn High School, intends to devote her term to monitoring cadets, making sure they have what they need, tracking their progress toward goals and looking for ways to improve.

“I joined to learn self-discipline. I think it’s worked out quite well,” Kyla said. “You can’t really get around the discipline even if you wanted to. You can put as much into it as you want, and it has helped me not only in CAP but in different things” including school and sports.

When she graduates from high school, she plans to study engineering with the goal of becoming a civilian contractor creating prosthetics for the military.

Wilsonville’s Mike Schrock, senior commander of the Aurora Composite Squadron, said he looks forward to working with Kyla.

“One of the things she has done is mentor other leaders in this squadron. I ... believe she will do great things,” he said.

“I think the cadet program is very much focused on the future,” Schrock said. “We provide a lot of opportunities for cadets to learn to lead, to be in leadership positions, to develop their confidence.”

That’s just what Kyla had done, he added.

“When she first joined, she was very shy, a very quiet person,” he said. “And now she is the commander of the squadron.”

Room to grow

Currently, the Aurora Composite Squadron has 20 cadets on the books, with about half that number regularly participating. With the cadets advancing in age and rank, one thing the squadron lacks is younger cadets to mentor and SUBMITTED PHOTO - CAP cadets receive hands-on aeronautics education, learning to fly and maintain aircraft, including washing an airplane on July 16.

“If a whole bunch of folks suddenly showed up at Aurora, we would accommodate them,” Schrock said. “The cadets we have now are fairly senior, and if new cadets came in that would give them opportunities to practice their leadership.”

The squadron has scheduled an open house for 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Aurora State Airport, located in Aurora at 23115 Airport Road NE. For more information, contact the squadron by phone at 971-295-2624 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To learn more about CAP’s history, look online at The local squadron’s website can be found at

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