For several years, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) has helped put “wings” on teenagers seeking to learn more about aviation with an emphasis on leadership. At the same time both cadet and command squadrons have assisted authorities in emergency situations, such as search and rescue events.
DeSoto County has had one command squadron and cadet squadron operating from the Pleasant Hill fire station in Olive Branch, but recently a new cadet squadron has been added.
The new group is “taking flight,” you might say, from its meeting space at First Baptist Church in Nesbit, 1651 Highway 51.
Major Bill Reinhardt is the squadron commander for the new cadet squadron, which meets the first and third Saturday mornings each month from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Reinhardt has had experience leading CAP cadet squadrons before and is looking forward to starting the new group in the Nesbit area.
“I am the former squadron commander in Batesville a couple of years ago, but we shut it down,” Reinhardt said. “I am a member of First Baptist Church in Nesbit where we are meeting. The church is not sponsoring us but it is letting us meet there to help us start a squadron in this part of the county.”
Reinhardt speaks as much about leadership as he does about aviation when describing the benefits of being involved in the Civil Air Patrol.
“Learning how to lead is one of the most important things that the cadets learn,” Reinhardt noted. “We emphasize that the leadership we teach could lead to management in a company or future organizations that they lead.”
Flying remains one of the major interests of any youngster involved in the Civil Air Patrol program, however, and Reinhardt said cadets will get plenty of opportunities to do that.
“As soon as they sign up, one of the things we ask them is to get a uniform, which is the A-4 Air Force battle dress uniform,” Reinhardt said. “Once they’ve got that, they can take an orientational flight with an instructor and they actually get hands-on on the controls. They go around for about an hour. They come back excited and enthusiastic.”
The Civil Air Patrol has similarities to the Air Force, since it is a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force started during World War II about the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
“We are not recruiting for the Air Force, but many of our cadets have that already in mind,” Reinhardt said. “It’s like a door for them to get ready for the Air Force. The program develops them to become officers in the Air Force with a rank.”
Beyond meetings, drill and flying, the Civil Air Patrol members train to provide a valuable service in times of disaster and in search and rescue support.
“The Civil Air Patrol does 90 percent of the missing aircraft search and rescue operations for the Air Force because of the budget and because we have the small aircraft,” said Reinhardt. “If there is a small aircraft missing in this area, they will contact the squadron closest to the area where they have a search-and-rescue already qualified. We accept the mission and they give us some areas we can start searching with instruments that are provided to us. When requested by the county and state, we also assist in disasters with traffic control, providing food and anything else that we can assist in.”
Another area Reinhardt was pleased to be offering through the CAP cadet program is something called CyberPatriot, “which is like an IT competition, where we teach solving and securing systems and preventing hacking and things like that,” he said.
CyberPatriot is done through the Air Force Association and inspires students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
Reinhardt said the main requirements are an interest in leadership and aviation, be between the ages of 12-19 and be in school, either established schools or homeschool.
“If they are interested in things like aerospace education, leadership and being in a good crowd where they learn leadership and integrity, excellence in service, this is the best environment for that,” Reinhardt said.
To learn more about the Civil Air Patrol cadet squadron in Nesbit, contact Reinhardt at 662-401-4700 or email email@example.com.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.