The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program for Parents

Cadet Flying on a CAP Orientation Lesson

Cadet Flying on a CAP Orientation Lesson

Civil Air Patrol’s Cadet Program is a non-profit, year-round youth leadership and aerospace education organization for students ages 12 to 20.  Chartered by U.S. Congress and tasked with creating tomorrow’s leaders, Civil Air Patrol has been mentoring teens and helping them succeed since 1941.  Cadets progress through our self-paced education and military-style-advancement structure and wear Air Force-style uniforms but are not obligated to join the Armed Forces; this is not a recruiting program.

Our Cadet Program focuses on mentoring teens in several key areas including:


Cadets are taught how to be a successful leader, no matter what they do in life.  The program is a hands-on leadership laboratory, and cadets are given lots of opportunities to lead fellow cadets, teach formal classes and give informal lessons to others, build self-discipline and motivation, and more.

Cadets Taking Exams

Cadets Taking Tests to Promote

Leadership training is also academic: cadets progress through their leadership textbooks in order to promote and advance within the program.

Aerospace Education

Cadets learn about aviation and aerospace from the fundamentals through to career exploration.  Cadets have the opportunity to fly in Civil Air Patrol aircraft and receive introductory lessons at the controls (“Orientation Flights”), build model rockets from scratch and launch them, receive occasional familiarization rides aboard military aircraft or simulators, and go on group tours of airports, museums, military bases, and airshows with knowledgeable guides.  Just like with our Leadership component, Cadets also work through Aerospace Education textbooks as part of advancing in the program.

Physical Fitness

Cadets Doing Pushups

Cadets Actively Engage in Physical Fitness

We promote life-long healthy habits in Civil Air Patrol Cadets through physical fitness activities, regular physical fitness testing, and health and fitness education.  Cadets participate in physical fitness activities at the unit and in order to advance in CAP and promote, must meet certain standards in the CAP Cadet Physical Fitness Test (CPFT — which comprises of a mile run, a shuttle run, pushups, sit-ups, and a sit-and-reach flexibility test).  As cadets get older and advance in the program, the fitness standards are gradually increased to keep challenging them.  Cadets also research topics related to health and fitness and present their findings to fellow cadets.

Character Development

Cadets also participate in character development and ethical leadership discussions, where they may be presented with difficult theoretical scenarios or case studies designed to challenge the cadets to find ways of solving problems and exploring their own values.

Cadet Jackson Uses a Flight Simulator

CAP Cadets Get Unique Opportunities & Activities

Civil Air Patrol’s core values are integrity, respect, volunteer service, and excellence.

How CAP’s Cadet Program Works

Cadets join and begin the process of working through Civil Air Patrol’s 16 achievements (or “levels”) by participating in weekly meetings on Thursday evenings at the Army National Guard Armory in Concord, NH (or at another local squadron).  They also can and must participate in periodical weekend activities.  As cadets advance through the achievements and are promoted to higher ranks, they have increasing opportunities to take on bigger and more important leadership roles at the unit, state and national levels.

Cadets receive a set of leadership and aerospace textbooks and study them on their own time outside of Civil Air Patrol meetings.  They take their tests to advance and promote online, on their own time, through our secure national testing website.

Civil Air Patrol Cadets Serve their Communities

Civil Air Patrol Cadets Serve their Communities

Cadets are authorized to wear Air Force uniforms (both dress uniforms and field uniforms) with special CAP Cadet insignia.  As part of the values the program instills (including self-discipline, attention to detail, setting the example, and personal responsibility) Cadets are expected to maintain their uniforms (clean and iron them, shine their boots & shoes, and place their insignia correctly) and maintain CAP grooming standards (appropriate haircuts and shaving, for example).  Civil Air Patrol provides much of their uniforms (their dress blues and ABUs or field uniform), but parents are usually responsible for buying certain personal items such as insignia, boots and shoes, and some accessories.

Costs & Minimum Requirements

Initial Costs:

Civil Air Patrol works hard to minimize the cost of participating in the program to cadets.

Cadets earn promotions & additional opportunities when they advance

Cadets earn promotions & additional opportunities when they advance

They receive issued dress and field uniforms, a full binder and set of textbooks, attendance at a full year’s worth of weekly meetings, and coverage by CAP liability insurance (when participating in CAP) as part of their annual membership fee.

  • Annual National Cadet Membership Fee: $38
  • Uniform Accessory Package for New Members: $65

There are additional training opportunities, including weekend activities and longer summer camps and training opportunities that will have fees associated with them. Civil Air Patrol strives to keep the cost as low as possible for cadets and in some instances, needs-based or merit-based scholarships are available.

Minimum Cadet Requirements:

  • Civil Air Patrol Cadets Aboard a Helicopter

    Civil Air Patrol Cadets Aboard a Helicopter

    Age: Be at least 12 years old, but not yet 19.

  • Have satisfactory grades in school
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Be willing to meet CAP standards (haircut, shaving, wearing uniforms properly and maintaining them, attending meetings regularly, etc.).
  • Be drug, tobacco, and alcohol free.

How to Get Your Son or Daughter Involved

The first step is to visit a weekly Civil Air Patrol meeting (Thursday evenings, 6:30 – 9 p.m. at the NH Army National Guard Armory in Concord, NH). Contact our Squadron to schedule a visit and have your questions answered.  The Concord Squadron takes on new members at several points during the fall, winter & spring months, usually as part of our Open House & Membership Nights, but you can come at any time to find out more about Civil Air Patrol. During your visit, a member of the squadron staff will review the steps to becoming a Cadet in the Civil Air Patrol!    In the meantime, read the CAP Parent’s Guide and visit our National Headquarters website.