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FAQs for Parents

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents

Thank you for supporting your child's interest in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program. CAP is a volunteer, non-profit organization that also serves as the civilian auxiliary to the U.S. Air Force. Our three missions are to develop youth through a cadet program, educate Americans on the importance of aviation and space, and perform live-saving humanitarian missions.

The program accepts new cadets who are at least 12 years old and not yet 19 years old. It is a year-round program with weekly meetings at our local CAP squadron and additional activities on weekends or during the summer.

CAP is not a military or boarding school, but a youth development program that incorporates aviation and military customs and courtesies. Through their experiences as CAP cadets, young people develop into responsible citizens and become tomorrow's aerospace leaders. The leadership skills, self-confidence, and discipline cadets gain through CAP prepares them to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves in life.

To fulfill its goal of developing young people into responsible citizens and aerospace leaders, the Cadet Program is developed around five program elements: Leadership, Character Development, Aerospace Education, Physical Fitness, and Activities. As cadets participate in these five elements, they advance through a series of achievements, earning honors and increased responsibilities along the way.


How old do I have to be to join?

Youth members must be at least 12 years old and not yet 19 years old. 


Are non U.S. citizens allowed to join?

Aliens admitted for permanent residence are eligible.  Other non-citizens who are legally admitted to the country must request a waiver of the citizenship requirement through the unit they are joining.  


Can I join if I have a medical condition or disability?

Civil Air Patrol does not preclude membership due to medical conditions or disabilities and is committed to doing everything we reasonably can to help cadets succeed.   Keep in mind that participation in certain activities may be limited for his or her safety depending on the cadet's condition, illness or disability.   Read more about Cadets with Special Needs.


Do cadets need to maintain a certain GPA to participate in CAP?

School should always come first for the cadets. CAP expects cadets to maintain "satisfactory performance" at school, as defined by the cadet's parents. Because CAP emphasizes self-discipline, it's not uncommon for parents to see their son's or daughter's grades increase as a result of their participation in the Cadet Program.


Do cadets have to join the military?

No, you do not have to join the military, but many choose to do so. Cadets who earn the Billy Mitchell Award may enter the Air Force at an advanced grade (E-3) if they choose to enlist. The service academies and ROTC also look favorably on CAP experience. Approximately 10% of the USAF Academy cadet corps got their start in CAP.  But no matter what career you choose, the skills you learn in CAP will be invaluable.


How often do cadets meet?

To get the most out of the cadet program you should participate regularly.  Like any other activity, you’ll get out of CAP only what you put into it.  Most squadrons meet weekly for about 2 1/2 hours, and offer special activities on the weekends and during the summer. 


Who leads and supervises the cadets?

CAP takes its responsibility to safeguard youth very seriously. The adult volunteers who interact with cadets (known as CAP senior members or cadet sponsors) have been fingerprinted and screened by the FBI. All adult members also take a Cadet Protection course as part of their initial training.  Visit this page for more information on cadet protection.


What uniforms do cadets wear?

New cadets need one uniform to get started.  Eventually, the cadet will want to have both the camouflage utility uniform (ABU or BDU) and the Air Force-style blue uniform. 

Upon completing Achievement 1 and becoming a Cadet Airman, cadets qualify for the Curry Blues Voucher, which covers some of the costs of the Air Force-style blue uniform. Therefore, we suggest you obtain BDUs or ABUs first, and then use the Curry Blues Voucher to obtain your “blues.”      


How do cadets obtain uniforms?

Uniform items may be purchased through a variety of sources. The official source for CAP insignia and uniforms is Vanguard. Shop with them at vanguardmil.com, (800)221-1264. If you’re near an Air Force base, you can buy uniform garments (but not CAP insignia) at the Exchange or base thrift store.   

Speak to your squadron leaders about local options, too. Sometimes the squadron has a “supply closet,” and military surplus stores could be another option.

If the "supply closet" does not have any uniform items in your size, the ABU (Airman Battle Uniform) uniform costs between $135-$224, depending on the type of boots purchased.  The Blues uniform costs approximately $80 after receiving a $100 voucher towards the uniform.  


Does CAP teach cadets to fly?

CAP doesn't provide primary flight training, but cadets have the opportunity to fly in a CAP plane in an Orientation Flight, as well as, pursue a private pilots license.  


Does CAP offer any scholarships?

Yes, there are academic and flight scholarships available.  


How do cadets earn rank in CAP?

Cadets advance at their own pace through self-study and group study. To progress, cadets must (1) participate actively; (2) pass a written leadership test; (3) pass a written aerospace test; (4) pass a physical fitness test; (5) participate in character development forums; and most of all (6) demonstrate they have the maturity to accept increased responsibility. (In some stages of the Cadet Program, these requirements differ slightly.)


Can parents be in CAP?

Absolutely!  Some opportunities to share in the CAP experience are:

Cadet Sponsor Member - Just like any other youth organization, CAP relies on a cadet's family to support the program.   Cadet parents, grandparents or legal guardians are eligible to join as a Cadet Sponsor.  This membership requires the same FBI background screening process and cadet protection training as the active adult membership.  Dues are $30 / year.  As a parent sponsor, you'll be able to help chaperone the kids, ride or drive in the CAP vehicles, and otherwise help the other adult volunteer members. You will not be required to wear the Air Force-style uniform. 


Senior Member - If you are more interested in taking a leadership role in the Cadet Program, or want to participate in CAP's aerospace education and emergency services missions, you should join as a senior member.  Talk with your child’s squadron commander about joining as a senior member.  You will need to submit and complete a membership application, fingerprint card and complete an orientation course. Annual membership dues vary by state. 

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