Socorro’s Civil Air Patrol squadron celebrated the promotion of one cadet Thursday.
The Civil Air Patrol is a program open to kids and adult members that includes leadership training and learning about aerospace. Members can go up in powered aircraft and gliders, where they can take the controls and get used to aviation. There are also different summer camps youth participants can attend, including flight academies, space technology camps and an international exchange program.
Cadet David Hines was awarded the Mitchell Award and promoted to cadet officer status, something only 15 percent of the organization’s cadets achieve, said Lt. Col. David Finley.
Hines joined CAP in 2018 after his family moved from Montana to New Mexico. The 17-year-old said the award helps him know that he’s actually progressing in the program. One of his favorite parts of CAP has been ground team training and training to do emergency services.
“He’s very self-motivated,” said his mom Amy Hines. “It’s fun to watch him.”
Amy Hines said CAP has been a great organization to join.
The award is named after General Billy Mitchell, an army officer in WWI who promoted aviation. Mitchell is considered the father of the independent air force, said Finley. The achievements cadets get are all named for aviators through history.
“There were people 100 years ago who didn’t believe aviation had a future,” said Finley.
Mitchell tried to convince his superiors of the importance of aviation with a demonstration of a plane sinking a surplus ship. He was posthumously awarded a gold medal by Congress.
Promotions require cadets to pass written tests on aerospace and leadership, to pass drill tests, physical fitness tests and to demonstrate character. The aerospace tests cover a wide range of knowledge, including aeronautics, space technology, aeronautics history and meteorology.
The promotion entails more responsibility for Hines, and he will be expected to help lead and mentor younger cadets. Finley said he believes the training in leadership that cadets receive can carry over into civilian life or in the military.
During the pandemic, the New Mexico Wing of CAP volunteered to help transport test kits, PPE and vaccines by air to communities throughout New Mexico, said Wing Commander Annette Peters. As a result, state agencies have begun to reach out to the organization, said Peters, and ask them for help with additional projects, like taking aerial photographs of flooding in Roswell in June.
The Socorro squadron has been in operation since 2007, said Finley, and has been heavily involved in emergency services. The organization is a good opportunity for kids and adult members, because both receive training on leadership and management, he said. While not everyone is a licensed pilot, at least two other people go up in a plane with the pilot, an observer and scanner and there is a whole team of people on the ground for every flight, said Finley.
The group currently has nine cadets and 10 adult members. Cadets can join beginning at age 12.