New Civil Air Patrol squadron seeking youth cadets, adult volunteers

New Civil Air Patrol squadron seeking youth cadets, adult volunteers

Civil Air Patrol cadets march in the graduation ceremony for the 2018 RI Wing encampment at Camp Varnum in Narragansett. A new CAP squadron will hold its first meeting at the Boys and Girls Club in Woonsocket on Thursday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m.

WOONSOCKET – Adults and teenagers interested in learning more about the aerospace industry and disaster relief will soon have a new outlet to get involved through a U.S. Air Force program that begins meeting at the Boys & Girls Club next week.

The Civil Air Patrol, the all-volunteer auxiliary program of the U.S. Air Force, is founding a new squadron in northern Rhode Island. The squadron will meet every Thursday evening from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club, 72 Kendrick Ave., and focus on CAP’s three missions of aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services. The unit is actively seeking new members age 12 and older.

While much of CAP’s activities around the state are focused on its cadet program for teens, Capt. Chase Boni, director of recruiting and retention for the Rhode Island wing, emphasized the program is not just for youth. CAP also accepts adult volunteers age 18 and older to serve in both mentoring roles and in other positions in the squadron. The group’s headquarters unit at Quonset Point, he said, consists almost entirely of adult volunteers who participate in roles that mirror their professional experience and training.

“We have some who are pilots who fly our airplanes, we have ones who focus entirely on emergency services and doing search and rescues, we have some doing administrative work,” he said.

Both youth and adult participants will have the opportunity to receive search and rescue training and participate in leadership classes, color guard training, physical fitness and community events. In the case of a natural disaster, CAP works with state and federal agencies to coordinate volunteers. CAP squadrons around the country operate a fleet of 560 aircraft and perform about 90 percent continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

“Let’s say a natural disaster happens, if you’re a qualified and trained member of the Civil Air Patrol, if you’ve completed the necessary training to assist, you can choose to come and be deployed, so to speak, to activity,” said Boni.

The Woonsocket squadron, which is currently under the leadership of interim commander Lt. Col. Robert Gubala, will be the sixth CAP squadron in the state along with the headquarters unit at Quonset Point and four other squadrons based in Pawtucket, Westerly, West Warwick and North Kingstown. The program was founded in 1941, one week before Pearl Harbor, to serve as the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. According to Boni, the program, and a similar one hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard, are the only military auxiliary forces in the country open to both youth and adult participants.

Membership typically costs $60 for adults and $35 for youth annually, though Boni noted youth participants can currently join for free, and grants are available to fund uniforms and other costs. In addition to regular meetings, youth cadets can participate in a new national initiative called the cadet wings program that offers funding for cadets to get their private pilot’s license as young as age 17. Cadets can also apply for weeklong summer programs at locations around the country on career-related topics, including aircraft and search and rescue.

“These are really great opportunities for cadets to learn sort of what’s out there, what they can do later on in life,” said Boni.

The first meeting for the Woonsocket squadron takes place next Thursday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. For more information on the Civil Air Patrol in Rhode Island, visit www.riwg.cap.gov .