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Civil Air Patrol experiences ANG mission firsthand

PEORIA, Ill. --

Civil Air Patrol experiences ANG mission firsthand

Twenty-four Civil Air Patrol cadets from Peoria and McLean County got a taste of the Air National Guard when they toured the 182nd Airlift Wing on drill weekend May 2.

The cadets visited the Civil Engineer Squadron fire department, Security Forces and the Aircrew Flight Equipment shop before taking an orientation flight on a C-130H3 Hercules. Airmen from each unit took time to explain the gear they use and how it relates to accomplishing the wing's air mobility mission.

As it turns out, the mission of the CAP and the ANG are not too far apart.

With its roots dating back to the 1930s, President Harry Truman incorporated the CAP as the United States Air Force auxiliary in 1948. Its purpose focuses on aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services, such as disaster relief and humanitarian aid. CAP members also train to support the Air Force in transportation, communication and search and rescue.

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The Peoria ANG base has hosted a CAP squadron since the early 1950s. Col. Cory Reid, the 182nd Mission Support Group commander, spent five years of his youth in the CAP.

He took part in what he still considers great opportunities, such as flight training programs and an international exchange during his senior year of high school.

"Their cadet curriculum provides young men and women education on leadership, discipline and aviation," the commander said. "It's mutually beneficial, as the cadets have access to some of our training facilities and we can positively influence the young men and women involved with the program."

The Peoria CAP squadron meets on the installation during the evening, so the tour meant a rare look at the wing's daytime operations. Cadet Master Sgt. Jacob Dilts, 14, the Peoria squadron's first sergeant, was one of the cadets touring the base.

"I came here to fly on the C-130, and I don't know that much about the base itself, so I came to learn a little bit more also," he said.

Some of the skills Dilts' has learned during his two-year CAP career align with leadership qualities within the Air Force.

"What I like about the military environment is it taught me discipline," he said. "I think it will help me make better decisions quicker and more decisive."

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Cadets are typically 12 to 18 years of age, while senior members are 18 and older. The ranking system models the Air Force's, with more duties and responsibilities appointed to the cadets as they mature in the ranks. A typical training session at a Peoria CAP meeting could include drill and ceremony, facing movements, marching, radio operations and search and rescue.

"We do a lot of training, actually. We do a lot of aerospace training - where we kind of review basic stuff - or more advanced, depending on what you want to do," Dilts said.

Especially dedicated cadets can gain such advanced training that they earn their pilot's license. Dilts said that he has found his CAP experience quite rewarding so far.

"I learned a lot of aviation things in here. I learned a lot of military discipline in here," he said. "And I kind of feel a little more patriotic, if you will. I'm not necessarily going overseas and helping people, but I'm still making a difference, I feel like."

More information about the Air Force auxiliary can be found at www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com. Information about the Air National Guard can be found at www.GoANG.com.