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Cadets get flying - and life - lessons with Redmond Civil Air Patrol squadron

Cadet Capt. Joanna Aponte of Kirkland holds the blue guidon flag at basic training encampment for new cadets at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord. It is an honor to be selected to carry the guidon flag. - Courtesy photo
Cadet Capt. Joanna Aponte of Kirkland holds the blue guidon flag at basic training encampment for new cadets at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord. It is an honor to be selected to carry the guidon flag.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed a law that incorporated the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).

The nonprofit was born after more than 150,000 volunteers argued in the late 1930s for a way to put their flying skills and aircrafts to use in defense of the country. The group had been formed a week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and when the United States entered World War II, thousands of volunteer CAP members answered the call to service by accepting and performing critical wartime missions, according to the national CAP website.

On May 26, 1948, CAP was established as the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and since then, chapters have been established throughout the country, including in Redmond.

The Overlake Composite Squadron (OCS) is the CAP chapter that meets in Redmond and serves the greater Eastside.

The organization focuses on three primary mission areas: emergency services, aerospace education and cadet programs.

Maj. Mike Holliday, public affairs officer for the squadron, said they have a large fleet of single-engine Cessna aircrafts and a trained crew that goes on various missions. Recently, he said they had planes up at Oso to help take aerial photos to help with the mudslide-relief efforts.

“We get involved in all kinds of stuff,” Holliday said.

For the aerospace education portion of CAP’s mission, he said they offer internal classes for members as well as classes for the community.

LEARNING TO FLY

A large part of the OCS is its cadet program, which Holliday said is the biggest in the state with 27 squadrons. There are about 80 members who range from 12-18 years old, and about 14 adult members, Holliday said.

Through these programs, teens have the opportunity to learn how to fly both gliders (no engine) and powered (with an engine) aircrafts.

With a pilot father, Christine Shoemaker has always wanted to learn how to fly. But joining the OCS was never on her list of things to do. When her father suggested she attend an OCS meeting, the 17-year-old Bellevue resident — who was a freshman in high school at the time — admitted that she didn’t want to go. Shoemaker said one of the reasons for this was because prior to this, she’d never been exposed to the type of environment in which people come together so uniformly for a common purpose. She’d also never had any exposure to any sort of military training, which CAP introduces cadets to.

At her first OCS meeting, she was surprised by the experience.

“I was kind of confused because I had a good time,” said Shoemaker, who is now a second lieutenant with OCS.

Shoemaker, who graduated from Forest Ridge High School last month, earned her private pilot glider license this year. She said she enjoys flying gliders more than powered aircrafts.

PRE-MILITARY EXPERIENCE

While Shoemaker joined the OCS because of her interest in flying, others joined the organization because they were interested in joining the military and saw this as an introduction into that.

Philip Trubee, an 18-year-old Redmond resident and senior master sergeant with OCS, comes from a family with a military background. Both his father and brother are pararescue specialists for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Air Combat Command (ACC).

Trubee, who graduated from The Overlake School last month, said he initially joined OCS three years ago because he wanted to fly, but as time went on, he decided to follow in his father and brother’s footsteps and attended a pararescue orientation course in Tuscon, Ariz.

“It took a lot of physical training,” Trubee said about the eight-day program. “It was very physically intense.”

The pararescue orientation course is just one of the programs CAP offers cadets. Another one cadets can participate in is the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) program, which gives the teens the opportunity to travel to other countries. They meet with teens from other countries who are in their countries’ equivalents to CAP to promote goodwill and fellowship through the common interest of aviation, according to the IACE website. This year’s trip will be from July 20 through Aug. 6 and Matthew Skelton of Kirkland, a 2014 Lake Washington High School graduate, will be one of the United States’ representatives.

Skelton, 18, will be traveling to the United Kingdom and said he is excited for the opportunity.

“I’ve never been further (from the Pacific Northwest) than Nevada,” he said.

Skelton said during the two-week trip, he and his fellow cadets will get to tour England and visit sites such as the London Eye and a lord and lady’s castle, but as this is an aviation program, there will be planes involved.

“Of course we get to go flying in some of their aircrafts,” he said.

SKILLS FOR LIFE

Like Shoemaker, Trubee and Skelton, Alec Lindsey joined the OCS while in high school. After graduating in 2008, he left the program for the University of North Dakota, but upon returning to Redmond, he has rejoined the OCS as a senior member and a squadron orientation flight coordinator. The 24-year-old said he initially joined the OCS because he was interested in becoming a pilot and had some interest in the military. Lindsey was even part of Air Force ROTC for a few years in college. He rejoined the OCS after college because he was interested in flying search-and-rescue missions and saw it as a great service to provide for the community as a whole.

While Lindsey and the three cadets joined the OCS for their own reasons, they each said they have gained skills that will help them in other areas of life.

For some like Trubee, the skills are technical. He said the most important thing he learned through the OCS was first-aid and CPR training, which came in handy when he was involved in a car accident in Bellevue. He said he was able to perform CPR on someone who had overdosed on heroin.

“He ended up living,” Trubee said.

Lindsey said through his experiences as a senior OCS member, he has observed how different leadership styles affect different groups, and through it all, he said there is one common theme.

“Communication is the key to basically everything,” he said.

And while Shoemaker developed leadership skills through her OCS experiences, she said being one of only a few female cadets in the program has had an impact on her, as well. She said one of the things that helped was having a female flight sergeant when she first started and seeing another young woman in a leadership position.

“She was great. She taught me a lot,” she said. “It’s really cool to be a part of that.”

Holliday added that while being part of the OCS and CAP is great for girls to step out and away from the more stereotypical female roles, it is also great for the boys, who get to see girls being in charge.

“I love that part of the program,” he said. “Some of our best cadet leaders have been girls.”

The OCS meets at 6:45 p.m. Tuesdays at the Washington Army National Guard’s Redmond Armory at 17230 N.E. 95th St. on Education Hill. For more information, visit www.overlakeCAP.org.

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