Sunnyside's Daybreak Rotary Club learned the ins and outs of the Yakima Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol this past Wednesday morning courtesy of First Lieutenant Norm Kautz and mission pilot Jack Parker.
The two men explained the Civil Air Patrol is a United States Armed Forces Auxiliary for people ages 12 to 99 that promotes aerospace education, provides emergency services and has a cadet program.
What's interesting is that the organization is a 501 (c) (3) that operates through donations and volunteerism. The Air Force provides an airplane and gas for missions, as well as five hours of flight time per cadet.
Kautz said some people express concern that joining his organization means they have to join the military. That's not true. He did note cadets who pass through the ranks and pass the Mitchell test can go into any branch of the military as an E-3. "We've had three cadets that went into the military."
"Most of the time, the biggest thing (the Civil Air Patrol does) is air searches," explained Kautz.
It's not limited to that, though.
Cadets work in tandem with adult officers. They undergo extensive training in order to handle administrative duties while Civil Air Patrolmen are up in the air.
"Some of these kids that do communication are 14 to 16-years-old. It's amazing what these cadets can do," Kautz said. After the meeting, Kautz noted a cadet with training and a compass could be dropped in a remote area with no map, roads or landmarks and make it out safely. Simply put, said Kautz, "They learn the same things pilots do."
Parker said, "Some of these cadets are so smart, they blow your mind away."
Last year, the Yakima squadron assisted with a program here in Sunnyside that offered free flights for kids. All told, 95 kids took a flight, getting a hands-on experience in aerospace education.
Kautz and Parker are quick to note that the Yakima squadron welcomes members from Selah to Tri-Cities, including the Lower Yakima Valley.
The group meets every Monday night from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the National Guard Armory in Yakima.
"You don't have to be a pilot to be a part of the program," Kautz said.
Kautz joined the Civil Air Patrol when his son wanted to become a cadet. Now at 16-years-old his son is the Squadron's Cadet Commander.
Those interested in becoming involved are encouraged to attend three meetings before applying, he said, adding they must be fingerprinted and have a background check from the FBI, too. One can become an officer in four to six weeks. And, he added, the program welcomes members of both genders. "Forty percent of cadets are female."
He said because Sunnyside has an airport, it could start its own chapter. With the assistance of the Yakima squadron, only three youths and one adult would be necessary to start that process.
For more information about the Civil Air Patrol, call 509-952-3479. Or, as Parker says welcomingly, "Just come to a meeting. Everyone's welcome."