A Little History
The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was founded on December 1, 1941 – just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Throughout World War II, the members of the Civil Air Patrol performed many services, including coastal patrols, transportation of supplies, training, and other important missions. Assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Corps, CAP logged more than 500,000 flying hours, sinking two enemy submarines, and saving hundreds of crash victims during World War II. In 1946, Congress granted a charter to Civil Air Patrol, charging its members with three missions. First, CAP was to promote aviation. As years passed, that mission expanded to include aerospace education as well. Second, CAP was to provide a training program to support the nation’s youth in contributing to society and preparing for successful adult lives. Finally, CAP was to continue its emergency services, the work for which CAP is still best known today……..
Today’s Civil Air Patrol
The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. CAP is a non-profit all-volunteer organization with an aviation-minded membership that includes people from all backgrounds and occupations. Adult (“Senior”) members are age 18 and up. CAP continues to perform its three congressionally assigned key missions: emergency services, which includes search and rescue (by air and ground) and disaster relief operations; aerospace education for youth and the general public; and cadet programs for youth ages 12 – 21. All members wear uniforms while performing their duties.
The organization is headed by the National Headquarters followed by eight regional commands and 52 wings (each of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico). Each wing supervises the individual groups and squadrons that comprise the basic operational unit of the organization.
Many join CAP because of an interest in aviation. Nationwide, CAP is a major operator of single-engine general aviation aircraft, used in the execution of its various missions, including orientation flights for cadets and the provision of significant emergency services capabilities. Because of these extensive flying opportunities, many CAP members are or become licensed pilots. CAP also reaches out to the general public through a special program for teachers at all grade levels. Through this program, CAP provides free classroom materials and lesson plans for aerospace education.
CAP’s cadet program trains young men and women in teamwork, moral leadership, aerospace education, technical skills to support emergency services, and military history and customs. Through leadership encampments, career academies and other activities during the summer, a college and flight training scholarship program, and the International Air Cadet Exchange, CAP cadets broaden their horizons, learn to assume responsibility, gain confidence and set goals for their lives.
Perhaps best known for its search-and-rescue efforts, CAP flies around 85 percent of all federal inland search-and-rescue missions, directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. CAP is expanding its role in the 21st century to include an increasing number of homeland security operations and exercises. CAP also performs counterdrug reconnaissance missions at the request of law enforcement agencies and performs aerial damage assessment after natural disasters. CAP members undergo rigorous training to perform these missions safely and cost-effectively.
CAP in Virginia
The Virginia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol consists of 24 local units (squadrons and flights) that vary in membership from 10 to 130 members. The Virginia Wing has more than 750 adult (“Senior”) members, and more than 700 cadet members, ages 12 – 21. At present, the Virginia Wing has 11 aircraft assigned to it (Cessna 172s and 182s) and 24 corporate vehicles (mostly vans).
To learn more, please use our squadron locator to contact the unit nearest you.