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What's encampment?

Just a little background about this encampment thing I've been talking about since I've added quite a few new LJ friends this past year.

I'm a member of Civil Air Patrol (aka, CAP). This is an auxiliary of the United States Air Force. We are under the DoD (Department of Defense), but membership is completely civilian and volunteer. Our three primary missions are Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs (12-18) and Emergency Services (air search/rescue and disaster relief). We've also been getting more involved in Homeland Security initiatives. Because we're under the USAF we wear their uniform, but we also have alternate uniforms for those who don't want to look so military or they don't meet the weight standards for the official uniform. I choose to stay with the primary uniform (no beards allowed) as it looks better and the cadets respect it much more (no alternate uniform for them).

I'm heavily involved with Cadet Programs--always have. I was a cadet as well and made it all the way up to 2nd Lt. There is a chain of command and numerous leadership opportunities available to cadets. Cadets must be at 12 years old or enrolled in the 6th grade. Male, female, gay, lesbian, bi..., it does not matter unlike the Boy Scouts. You could say it's like JROTC, but it's completely civilian with no obligation to join the military (but an excellent stepping stone to it).

In order for a cadet to become an officer they must attend what's called a Type A encampment. These encampments are typically hosted by the state at a local military base. It's intended to expose cadets to a variety of military careers available and provide some in depth training on customs and courtesies; and drill and ceremonies. Encampment is NOT A BOOT CAMP! Yes, we get up at "OMG it's early", they wear their uniform, they salute all officers and colors, they have to listen to commands, etc. However, hazing is strictly forbidden. It does not work with a 12 year old. Any physical activity as punishment is also strictly forbidden.

The North Carolina Encampment is typically at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station (near the coast) or at Fort Bragg/Pope AFB. We like to alternate it, but billeting has been a real problem at Bragg due to the ongoing Iraq war and hope to get back there soon. This year we have about 120 cadets and another 20 senior members (18+) who manage the encampment. There is a full cadet staff with their own chain of command. For this year, since I'm Commandant of Cadets, that chain reports directly to me. This cadet staff is selected, but it's an excellent learning experience for them as well.

New cadets arrive on day 1 very intimated with all of the sergeants and officers giving directions at every turn. After they get into the routine things flow quite nicely..., sometimes. At the end the cadet has gone through some amazing changes. They learned to get a lot with a lot of people, they were exposed to call sort of things they never knew about and they take all of this knowledge and apply it back to their home squadron. I'm always overwhelmed as they transition from this little guy who is terrified of approaching me the first day to shaking my hand and expressing his gratitude with a big smile on his face on graduation day. This makes it all worth the hard effort. It's not all pretty though. It's hot almost all of the time, accommodations are far less than hotel conditions, there are cadet issues at every turn that need to be addressed, toes get stepped on, the schedule changes constantly, minor injuries happen..., the list goes on.

The senior members who take time out to do this are truly dedicated to the Cadet Program. Many of us (like me) are fortunate to work for employers who recognize CAP and will give us paid time off without deducting from our personal vacation time. That's another advantage of working for the state for me.

So, yeah, this is what I'm getting ready for. I think this will be my 12th time as a senior member (14th including my time as a cadet). I've held just about every position, but Commandant of Cadets is the coolest as their is a great deal of responsibility in molding how the staff take on leadership. It's also the busiest position. Every position has its pros and cons.

Any questions? :)

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
djmadadam
Jun. 19th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
No questions. Just the comment that this is a rather unusual and interesting facet to your life. I think that you're only one of two gay men I know who is active in some sort of military or paramilitary operation.
snowboardjoe
Jun. 20th, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
CAP seems like such a secret and that's what hurts us most. The people who are in CAP comes from all walks of life. Some are rich, some are dirt poor, some arr just parents, some are lawyers..., it's all over the place. It's volunteerism that brings us together.

Yep, it is military, but it's still civilian with no money.
kazmat
Jun. 20th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
Since you asked if there were questions... :}

How did you get involved in CAP in the first place? Are/were you in the military? Are/were you a pilot (I never hear you talk about flying)? Does being gay occasionally/sometimes/often come up as an issue, or perhaps you're not open about it when you're doing CAP work? What sorts of CAP efforts have you been involved with besides the education/cadet portion? Have you done any SAR or Homeland Security stuff? Does one get to pick and choose?
snowboardjoe
Jun. 20th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
How did you get involved in CAP in the first place?

Friends in middle school were in it and invited me out. It was attractive because it was a very grown-up thing to do and had good friends in it.

Are/were you in the military?

Nope. I did look at the Air Force for awhile, but wanted no part of the don't ask, don't tell policy. I'll admit it--basic training terrified me too. :p CAP is a good trade-off.

Are/were you a pilot (I never hear you talk about flying)?

CAP gets its name from flying in WWII off the east coast scanning for German U-boats (and actually sinking two of them). There is a great deal of flying opportunity for pilots, but I never too to it. I love to fly, but that was another expensive hobby and I already had too many (like snowboarding). I have flown on missions though.

Does being gay occasionally/sometimes/often come up as an issue, or perhaps you're not open about it when you're doing CAP work?

Nah, not really. Around cadets it's not mentioned since it has no place there period. If someone asked I could answer honestly. There are several in CAP who know and it's a non-issue. If I started to have issues I would walk away.

What sorts of CAP efforts have you been involved with besides the education/cadet portion? Have you done any SAR or Homeland Security stuff?

I used to do a great deal of Emergency Services. I was a Ground Team Leader for many years going on on missions trying to find ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitters) and did quite a few Disaster Relief missions in the wake of hurricanes. It's a challenge now to keep up with the qualifications and it ended up taking a back seat while I work and try to keep up with Cadet Programs.

Does one get to pick and choose?

Yes. While you are nudged to help out in areas that lack resources, you do pick what you want to do. This is mainly because of the volunteer nature of the organization. If people don't like it, they walk away (and sometimes don't come back). As a Commander it's hard to balance using people to get the job done vs. trying to just keep them interested in CAP.

Excellent questions!

Edited at 2008-06-20 01:16 am (UTC)
kazmat
Jun. 20th, 2008 01:47 am (UTC)
Friends in middle school were in it and invited me out. It was attractive because it was a very grown-up thing to do and had good friends in it.

Interesting route into CAP. I asked because my cousin's sons are all involved, but I know they got into it because their grandfather (my uncle) is a bit of a religious right winger. They're good, decent, caring people, but their world view is nothing like my own.
snowboardjoe
Jun. 20th, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)
The people I know here in CAP are pretty diverse. Probably a few more left leaning liberals compared to the right-wingers, but fairly balanced.
geometrician
Jun. 20th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)

El Comandente!
snowboardjoe
Jun. 20th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
Yes, you could say that. :)
texwriterbear
Jun. 20th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
That's awesome. Thanks for sharing!!
paterson_si
Jun. 22nd, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
That's interesting. Mr. Morris :)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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