The Civil Air Patrol not only helps out in disasters, search and rescues, and other emergencies, but its members also play an important role in aerospace/STEM education through its cadet programs. The program is helping many young people reach new heights.
Less than a week after graduating from Billings Senior High School, Jackson Murphy was pinned with the rank of cadet second lieutenant Thursday night after earning the General Billy Mitchell Award, which honors the late Brigadier General Billy Mitchell - aviation pioneer, advocate, and staunch supporter of an independent Air Force for America.
Murphy has been in the Air Civil Patrol cadet program since 2017 and is one of the few with the Montana Wing’s Beartooth squadron to earn that honor. It will make him eligible for advanced placement in the Air Force after he completes college at Montana State University. “I really wanted to go into the Air Force, and this is a good way for me to introduce myself to the Air Force,” Murphy says.
The program is open to young people starting at the age of 12.
“One thing that attracts people is flying planes, which is probably the most exciting part. Another thing we do is search and rescue exercises, where we go out in the woods with some backpacks and take some people and put them in certain leadership positions and send them out to find clues where somebody could be,” says Murphy.
Capt. Phillip Schmidt, a captain in the Civil Air Patrol and commander of the Beartooth Squadron, says that the program is all about building the future leaders of tomorrow in aerospace on both the civilian side and the military side.
While Murphy eventually plans to enlist in the Air Force, another cadet receiving a promotion has his sights on becoming a missionary pilot. Seventeen-year old Cadet Master Sergeant Diego Murga says he has learned a lot in his four years in the CAP cadet program.
“You learn to lead by watching the other leaders. We have material that you walk through how to lead and it builds up from working with a team to leading a team so as you get through the ranks you are leading the other cadets,” says Murga.
Both Murga and Murphy encourage other young people to come out and give the program a try.
Al Nash, public affairs officer for the Montana Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, says there is also a need for adult volunteers to take part in the program: “It takes adult leaders to be able to develop these cadets, so we are always looking for those who have that heart for helping young people. That’s an important part of what we do. And then Civil Air Patrol is historically known for its role in search and rescue and disaster assistance. You don’t need to be a pilot to be in Civil Air Patrol, we just need people who have a heart of service,” Nash says.