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While there are many youth oriented programs in America today, CAP’s Cadet Program is unique in that it uses aviation as a cornerstone. Thousands of young people from 12 years through age 21 are introduced to aviation through CAP’s cadet program.

The program allows young people to progress at their own pace through a 16-step program including aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness and moral leadership. Cadets compete for academic scholarships to further their studies in fields such as engineering, science, aircraft mechanics, aerospace medicine, meteorology, as well as many others. Those cadets who earn cadet officer status may enter the Air Force as an E3 (airman first class) rather than an E1 (airman basic).

Whatever your interests – survival training, flight training, photography, astronomy – there’s a place for you in CAP’s cadet program.

Each year, cadets have the opportunity to participate in special activities at the local, state, regional or national level. Many cadets will have the opportunity to solo fly an airplane for the first time through a flight encampment or academy. Others will enjoy traveling abroad through the International Air Cadet Exchange Program. Still others assist at major air shows throughout the nation.


The Aerospace Education (AE) mission is to educate, inspire, and instill an understanding of the importance of aerospace in today’s world. AE efforts support STEM programs in local schools and provide curriculum support to teachers.

Civil Air Patrol’s aerospace education efforts focus on two different audiences: volunteer CAP members and the general public. The programs ensure that all CAP members (seniors and cadets) have an appreciation for and knowledge of aerospace issues. To advance within the organization, members are required to participate in the educational program.


CAP develops young people into leaders. Through classroom instruction, self-paced study, and a laboratory of hands-on learning, cadets develop leadership skills. New cadets first learn to follow, while advanced cadets learn to lead the team. Cadet officers take great pride in having a sense of ownership over their program as they mentor junior cadets. Air Force traditions such as the uniform, the salute, and drill and ceremonies challenge cadets to emulate the professionalism of Air Force officers.

CAP offers a special activity related to leadership called Cadet Officer School at Maxwell AFB in Alabama.


The goal is the Cadet Program’s moral leadership element is to develop in cadets a commitment to live CAP’s Core Values, and the ability to think critically about moral and ethical issues.

CAP challenges cadets to live their Core Values of integrity, volunteer service, excellence, and respect. Through character development forums, cadets wrestle with ethical issues relevant to teens, with the overall goal being that they develop moral reasoning skills. Mentoring programs connect new cadets to experienced cadets, CAP senior members, and Air Force Reservists. Finally, through Drug Demand Reduction activities, CAP challenges cadets to be ambassadors of a drug-free lifestyle.


CAP encourages cadets to develop a lifelong habit of regular exercise. The Cadet Program promotes fitness through calisthenics, hiking, rappelling, volleyball, and more. At a time when many youth are obese, cadets discover the connection between staying fit and having the energy needed to achieve their goals. Their commitment to fitness is measured through a performance test modeled on “The President’s Challenge.”

For more information on these topics, see CAPR 52-16, Section 1-2 Program Elements.