Civil Air Patrol cadets gathered on Nov. 7, as they do every Tuesday evening at 18:30 sharp — or 6:30 p.m. — within the U.S. Army Reserve Center. They are part of the Northshore Composite Squadron, one of 25 squadrons in Washington.
The cadets, who range in age from 12-18, typically participate in leadership training, character development, aerospace education or physical training during their weekly meetings. But this night, Lt. Col. Mike Murray, who commands the squadron, led a promotion ceremony for the cadets as their families observed with proud smiles.
“It’s neat to see them grow,” Murray said. “You have a 12-year-old who comes in and they’re really not sure of themselves and just trying to figure out what life is all about. Then you see this teenager grow into a young adult, taking in more responsibility, maturing and growing.”
Some of the cadets join the squadron interested in the military, aviation or just want to be a part of something. But regardless of why they join, Murray said the youths always find a tight camaraderie among their fellow cadets as they learn and grow together.
This cadet program is only a small part of the squadron’s operations. Located in Bothell but serving the greater Northshore area, it is one of a number of CAP squadrons across the nation that are official auxiliaries to the U.S. Air Force.
The squadron has an extensive background within the community and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The squadron was founded in a community pilot’s basement on Oct. 21, 1967 and eventually had more than 750 members come and go according to Murray.
CAP squadrons provide emergency services, including search and rescue patrols for missing aircraft as the air force charters CAP squadrons and their planes for missions.
“It saves the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money,” Murray said. “A Cessna 182 doesn’t use as much fuel as a military aircraft, so it’s just a more efficient way for the air force to provide that service for the nation.”
Additionally, CAP squadrons assist in disaster relief and were involved in the support effort after Hurricane Harvey. According to Murray, local squadron members were also asked to assist if they could fly down.
While these missions are important to CAP, the 20 adult members at Northshore are able to mostly focus on their 45 cadets and aerospace education.
Bradley Johnson, the squadron’s 17-year-old cadet flight commander, joined the squadron at 12 after his older brother joined.
“I wanted to follow in his footsteps and do what he did,” he said. “For the most part I have, I’ve done most of the stuff he got to do.”
Johnson mentors the flight sergeant, who then mentors and leads the other cadets during meetings. He said he plans to enlist in the U.S. Army after his senior year of high school and eventually move into a position that handles dogs.
Some cadets, like Johnson, are interested in the military aspect of the CAP, but nearly all of the cadets are aerospace and aviation focused, Murray said.
Anthony Eaton, the aerospace education officer, has no military background, but loves sharing his aerospace knowledge with the cadets.
“This is absolutely a passion of mine,” he said. “Here at the Civil Air Patrol, I have a great opportunity to share my passion with the next generation.”
The squadron has always had a heavy focus on education, Murray said. Originally named the Bothell Squadron of Civil Air Patrol, the organization changed its name to what it is now to attract students from the Northshore School District.
“They’re a really sharp group of kids, which makes my job really easy,” Eaton said. “They absolutely have a drive to learn more and better themselves in general, being able to help focus that energy is a fantastic thing.”
The cadets are supervised and taught by the adult staff, but they have their own chain of command and run their own meeting independent of the adults.
“This really is their show,” Eaton said. “We enable them, we get them the materials and resources to help them achieve what they want to. But we absolutely spur them on to take on great challenges and do great things.”
CAP offers unique opportunities adult staff and cadets, according to Murray. The air force will give them a look behind the scenes and many aviation companies are more likely to give them tours because of their aerospace focus.
“Our program is very unique in the types of things we do,” Murray said. “Typically there’s something here for everybody.”