by Capt. Jacob Gerstein, CAP
CLARKSVILLE, MD–During a banquet held on February 3, 2013, Civil Air Patrol’s Maryland Wing recognized 27 cadets who completed the Squadron Operations and Administration Retreat held that weekend. SOAR, a Maryland Wing program, allows cadets to develop leadership and administrative abilities that they will bring back to their home squadrons, boosting their efficiency.
Students at SOAR “learn positive practices for their squadron” while preparing themselves to take on future leadership positions “and push their squadron forward,” said Cadet Capt. Megan Bassett, the activity’s Cadet Commander. This was accomplished through numerous short seminars that alternated with hands-on activities, allowing immediate practical application of the knowledge gained.
Lt. Col. Wes LaPre observed that there is often a leadership vacuum in squadrons when high school seniors graduate and become less active while attending college. SOAR was developed to train the future leaders of squadrons, giving a squadron’s adults time to begin working with promising mid-level cadets before they take on more senior leadership roles. SOAR teaches specific skills such as how to bring new members into a squadron, get them interested in the various CAP activities, and implement training programs. Cadet 2nd Lt. Kyle Higgins said, “SOAR bridges the gap between Great Start and Learn to Lead,” two other CAP leadership training programs.
SOAR students complete a practical exercise for every key module of the course. They take these completed activities back to their home squadrons, where they can be used as examples. Lt. Col. LaPre noted that this builds confidence in completing administrative procedures, such as completing applications, award requests, or Operational Risk Management assessments. The ORM training is particularly important, as it forms good safety habits at the grass roots level, helping improve Maryland Wing’s safety culture.
Cadet 1st Lt. Joni Taylor, the activity’s Cadet Vice Commander, observed that the more that students put into SOAR, the more they got out of it. “I like to see cadets with initiative attend this course and strongly improve their management skills. I hope future cadets will take the advantage of this knowledge-filled course to become the next leaders of their squadrons, wings, and nation.”
The activity closed with a banquet, during which individual awards were presented. The criteria for these were developed as an activity during SOAR. Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Sarah Butler was named Honor Cadet Romeo Flight, Cadet Staff Sgt. Tianna Benoit was named Honor Cadet Sierra Flight, Cadet Master Sgt. Eugene Nash received the Good Character Cadet of the Retreat award, and Cadet Airman 1st Class Bryce Dillard was named Honor Cadet of the Retreat. The winners of the quiz bowl activity were also recognized for their success, and Cadet Lt. Col. Jeffery Williams and Cadet Col. Jason LaPre received Wing Commander’s Commendation Awards for their contributions to the 2011 SOAR.
Maryland Wing Commander Col. John Knowles spoke at the banquet, pointing out that the word “cadet” means “student” and members of CAP’s Cadet Program learn about leadership skills, character development, and aerospace education. He reminded the attendees that SOAR is also a networking opportunity, asking the students to maintain “the friendships that you’ve developed here when you go back to your squadron” and use those connections to help solve problems. Finally, he praised Maryland Wing for having the “award winning, best cadet program in the Middle East Region” for four of the past five years, and thanked the cadet and senior member staff for contributing to this through their efforts in putting SOAR together.
The students are not the only ones who learn something at SOAR. Cadet Capt. Bassett noted that the staff gains a great leadership experience through their participation. As students come from throughout the wing, the cadet staff has to relate a younger audience that they don’t know very well as they “teach the cadets in a way that communicates the message to them.” This lets the flight leaders and lecture instructors “figure out different ways to get to an end result, which will help them throughout their CAP career.”
Maj Terri Taylor served as Commander for this course, which was the fourth time the SOAR program has been run. Cadet Capt. Bassett led the cadet staff, the majority of whom are current or prior CAC members. She has been in CAP for three years and is the current Maryland Wing CAC Chair.
Lt. Col. LaPre designed and implemented SOAR during his tenure as Group III Commander. With the Group III Cadet Advisory Council members as instructors, it was piloted at the group level in 2009 then offered again in 2010. SOAR was held at the wing level for the first time in 2011, building inter-squadron relationships and increasing esprit-de-corps amongst Maryland’s CAP cadets.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its volunteer professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief, and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to nearly 27,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 71 years. Visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com for more information.
Nearly 1,600 members of CAP serve in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 29 search and rescue missions and were credited with 13 finds saving three lives. Maryland Wing flew over 160 missions for the State of Maryland resulting in 2,222 hours flown. Volunteers contributed services estimated at $4.2 million. For more information contact the Maryland Wing at www.mdcap.org.