Sunday, October 25, 2015

Civil Air Patrol members aid in searches, gain training

Williamsport, Pennsylvania --  Samantha Thompson, of Hughesville, smiles while her high school classmates discuss their trips to the mall or the movies over the weekend, knowing she had the experience of flying a plane over their everyday lives.

As a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, the 15-year-old, who is not old enough for a driver's license, has gone flying twice as part of her training with the auxiliary of the Air Force, and will have more opportunities to do so.

Though not often spoken of, the Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer service made up of 60,000 U.S. citizens. It strives to maintain the country's superiority in aerospace and cyberspace technology, cultivates the development of strong values and character in its cadets and aids in search-and-rescue missions, disaster relief and counterdrug missions.

You might have seen the CAP color guard walking in a local parade between floats, or glanced over the words Civil Air Patrol in a list of responders to the scene of a disaster without thinking twice about who its members are.

But the Civil Air Patrol saves an average of 70 lives a year and offsets over $155 million in Air Force costs while aiding in finding missing people and aircraft, assessing damage and bringing aid after natural disasters, as well as playing a role in military training and preparedness, according to CAP's website.

In recent north central Pennsylvania history, the CAP has popped up quite a few times, whether in search and rescues or after plane crashes.

According to a Sun-Gazette report from 2009, members of the Williamsport Civil Air Patrol division aided in looking for a missing helicopter that was found crashed in New York near the Pennsylvania border, the pilot deceased.

When 92-year-old hiker Fred Atwood went missing last year in Tioga State Forest, CAP joined the search with emergency responders and volunteers, utilizing drone technology. The search came to a tragic end when Atwood was found dead, according to a Sun-Gazette report from October 2014.

More recently, several members of the Williamsport Composite Squadron 401 participated in searching for a lost dementia patient in August.

They conducted a grid search in conjunction with local law enforcement K-9 and SCUBA units, as well as state forestry personnel.

Alfred Turshman, 81, was found alive in the woods eight days after going missing about a mile from his residence.

Thompson was one of the search-and-rescue volunteers combing the area in New York where Turshman lived.

"I was one of the many people out searching, walking the woods in a line search to look for signs," she said, using emergency service training she has acquired through the Civil Air Patrol.

Thompson aspires to someday attend the Air Force Academy and go on to be a lawyer. She said CAP was the perfect place to start her ambitious future.

"It teaches you such useful skills like leadership, public speaking, how to handle yourself. There are so many amazing opportunities I'll get through the program," she said.

Cadets qualify for scholarships, and after attending the Air Force Academy as a pre-law student, Thompson said the military will pay for her to attend law school.

"An education in aerodynamics, as well as flying experience, gives our cadets a great pace of what to expect if they go into the military," said Matt Hutchinson, public affairs and cadet activities officer. "There are also a lot of chances for advancement. If you're in Civil Air Patrol and make it to a certain rank, you can go into the Air Force with an increase in pay and rank."

CAP is not just for young adults who plan to join the military. Those who want to build leadership skills, learn how to work in a team to accomplish tasks and gain an education in aerospace and cyberspace technology for their future career, can accomplish these things through the Air Force volunteer auxiliary.

Those wishing to serve their community, comfort survivors and victims of disasters or grow personally and professionally can accomplish it as a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol.

For now, members of Squadron 401, a small CAP unit, are trying to get the word out, and show people that they not only exist, but also can benefit the community in many ways.

"We're out here and open for kids 12 to 18, so please join. It's such a great opportunity," Thompson said.

"You have all these doors opened that most kids our age don't have. Take advantage and enjoy it because you'll never get a chance like it again."

Orignal article can be found here:

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