CAP Cadet History Project

You never know what you'll see at encampment.

Columbus AFB, 1990

Cadet Staff with one senior member at PA Wing Encampment, 1961
Note the shoulder boards.  See also the topic history's mysteries in the encyclopedia.

Couldn't do this today...
This image is from the 1956 CA Wing encampment yearbook.  This was in a series of "first day" photos, where cadets in-processed, received haircuts, etc. 
The cadets were not identified.

Doing what must be done... PA Wing encampment KP, 1961

In modern times and in the simplest terms, an encampment is 7-9 days of living on a military base (typically Army/Navy/Air Force base).  Encampments can be held at the Wing, Region, or National level.  They are usually held once or twice a year, mostly in the Summer.  Earned cadet grade carries over to the encampment.  The position they hold at the activity does not always complement their grade, that is, you could easily see a C/CMSgt as a squad leader.

    The main purpose is to give cadets a taste of structured military life.  First time cadets have very little control over their daily activities.  The encampment is planned down to the minute: cadets eat, sleep, and participate in activities when they are told.  Despite how it sounds, most cadets find it fun and challenging.  Encampments allow cadets to apply everything CAP is teaching them: self-discipline, initiative, teamwork, and motivation.  They interact with more cadets than they encounter at their home squadron.  They see and do more than the typical "kid."  For some, it is their first time away from home, and it is a lesson in quick adjustment.  

    Activities include: tours of base museums, rappelling, obstacle courses,  tours of military schools/training facilities, and flights in military aircraft.
If the encampment is held at a base that conducts Basic Training, cadets can find themselves temporarily under the command of Drill Sergeants/TIs.

    Some Wings have separate training levels at the same encampment: Basic Training for new cadets who are under the supervision of proven cadet leaders, and advanced training for cadets who have attended at least one encampment.  Some even hold leadership schools within the encampment. 

    However, encampments are regulated, and to receive credit cadets must receive classes in specific subjects, for a predetermined number of hours.

    Encampment is the ultimate leadership lab.  For mid-level cadets, the encampment is a chance to put their leadership skills to use.  For the most senior cadets, it is a chance to mold the future of the cadet program, and pass on all they have learned.

    The mission of the encampment can also vary.  Some Wings use encampments for emergency services and search and rescue training.  Others count intensive drill team practice as an encampment.

    Encampments are so important that completion of one is a requirement for the Mitchell Award.  The Mitchell Award takes about 1 1/2 to 2 years to reach, and is the point where cadets become officers.  The Mitchell Award makes cadets eligible for advanced grade in some military branches. 

Encampments have been part of the cadet program since the summer of 1944.  Encampments through the 1940s-60s lasted two weeks, and featured activities exactly like those held today: living in barracks, base tours, military aircraft flights, classes, and lots of marching.  Since cadet grade was dependent on home squadron position, cadets either removed or had their grade removed upon arrival.  Encampment activity books from the 1950s and early 60s show cadets moving through a line where their chevrons were removed with razor blades.  Cadets who held positions at the activity wore either the standard insignia, or used shoulder boards as indicators.  Similar shoulder boards are also commonly seen in photos of Air Cadet, Navigator Cadet, and other military cadet/training programs.  From 1949-57 cadets took the Certificate of Proficiency exam at an encampment.  The move toward one week encampments was made in the 1960s - I do not know exactly when.  It could coincide with the escalation of the Vietnam war.