The 1975 cadet program was revised and modified.  The easiest way to explain it is visually.  1998 Cadet Program Chart

- Of note one grade was removed (C/FO), C/Sergeant was renamed C/Senior Airman,  "Super NCO" grades added, discretionary cadet officer grades were removed

- Speech/writing assignments were added to the Goddard achievement and the Eaker award.  

- The Armstrong achievement was added.  Addition of the Eaker award as a milestone. 

- Previously only one achievement, the Curry, was in Phase I.  Phases were realigned from the fourth generation, including expansion of the Phase I (from 1 to 3 achievements) and IV achievements, with subsequent reduction of Phase II and III. 

In short, this program had 16 achievements, four milestones, and a certificate for completion of Phase I. 

Another noteworthy change was to the leadership pillar of the cadet program.  From 1964 until 1992 the cadet program used a manual called the Leadership Laboratory.  A good deal of this manual focused on drill and ceremonies since CAP did not have a separate D&C manual.  The program viewed the drill field as the leadership lab - a place to develop requisite leadership traits in cadets.  In 1993 the leadership manuals became entirely devoted to leadership.  This continued in the fifth generation.

Revisions 2003 to Present:

The cadet program was further revised in 2003, 2009, and 2011.

2003: The Feik achievement was added.  The Wright Brothers achievement was changed to an award/milestone.  The Armstrong achievement resulted in no grade advancement.

2009: Moral leadership was renamed character development.

2011: Drill tests were added to achievement 1 through 8

In summary the modern cadet program has 16 achievements with 5 milestones.

1964, Sorenson Cadet Program:

This photo provides a good visual example of how achievements did not always result in grade.  At this time, the late 1950s, a cadet had to complete achievements AND hold a position within their squadron.  The cadet on the right has completed most of the cadet program as you can tell by his red, white and blue achievement ribbons, each with a clasp, yet holds no position and no grade.  From PA Wing archives.

The high points:

In 1964 an all new cadet program was introduced that featured 15 achievements, in 4 phases of increasing responsibility. 

Enlisted grade cadets could promote almost entirely at will, without regard to position or squadron size.  Advancement became a requirement for membership.

Cadet officer grades were briefly restricted:

From 1964-67 promotion beyond C/1st Lt depended on the cadet's position in the squadron.  From 1967-75 C/Maj and C/Lt Col were discretionary grades and awarded by the squadron commander.  After 1975, cadets could be "locally promoted" to C/Lt Col without holding a position that called for that grade.  C/Col could always be earned by passing the Spaatz exam.


The details:

As they say, no plan survives first contact.  The transition was not a smooth one from the 1957 program to the Sorenson program.  There was a lot of pushback from members when the program was released in 1964.  The program was tweaked nearly to death from 1964-68.  Cadets who joined under the 1957 program also had to be transitioned in the new.  I do not have documentation of the exact details of the very early tweaks, but two former cadets from the earliest years report that the Mitchell exam resulted in promotion to C/1st Lt, and the test itself covered Aerospace Education and Moral Leadership.  So far, I can't find anything that discussed what happened "in the field."  Is it possible that some Wings went along with the new program while others didn't?  Consequently, the slide show presented below is based on stacks of manuals, newspapers, regulations, etc. that I do have.  

To fully understand cadet promotions during this period, here's a slide show that explains the original program as designed by Mr. Sorenson, and the many changes that were implemented from 1964-75.  In the end, the promotion requirements are almost the same from 1975-98. Most of the documents discussed in the series are available on this website.

Here's the short version if you don't want to read the slides (but it's worth the time if you want detail!): to a point the table of organization was eliminated.  Enlisted cadets could be promoted without the encumbrance of the table of organization. 

The original written plan was this:
1964-67: Recommended reading is CAPP 36, in Misc Documents.  Cadets were promoted by one stripe per achievement in Phase II.  Cadets were promoted to C/MSgt upon achieving the Mitchell Award.  C/2nd Lt was earned by passing the Cadet Leadership Exam and completing any Phase III achievement.  Cadets could be freely promoted to C/1st Lt either by merit or by achieving the Earhart Award - commanders were encouraged to merit promote as many cadets as possible to C/1st Lt.  At this point, the Earhart was awarded upon completion of any four Phase III achievements.  For promotion to C/Capt and beyond, cadets only had to be a C/2nd Lt and hold a position that called for the grade - they could not be "earned" solely by completing achievements.  The Spaatz Award was awarded upon completion of the entire cadet program.

-In 1967 cadets were promoted to C/1st Lt either as a merit promotion or earned by completing three Phase III achievements.  Cadets had to earn C/1st Lt before being promoted to C/Capt.  C/Capt became discretionary or automatic - an automatic promotion was earned by completing five achievements and passing the Field Grade Qualifying Exam.  For cadets to be given the discretionary promotion they had to earn the Earhart Award and hold a position that called for the grade of C/Capt.  The Earhart Award was still earned by completion of four Phase III achievements.  C/Maj and C/Lt Col were both considered "discretionary grades" awarded by the Squadron Commander after the cadet earned C/Capt.  As before, no amount of achievement completion could "earn" those grades. 

-1968 cadets were promoted (one stripe) upon completion of Phase I for the first time in the history of the cadet program.  The grade of C/Warrant Officer was added, and was awarded upon achieving the Mitchell award.

-1970 the cadet program gained a lot more structure.  Each achievement was given a specific goal, title, and order.  C/2nd Lt was earned by completing the first Phase III achievement.  C/1st Lt was earned by completing three achievements.  The grade of C/Capt was earned upon completing four achievements and by passing the Earhart Exam, which covered leadership.  C/Maj and C/Lt Col remained discretionary.

-In 1975 cadets could be promoted to C/Lt Col, by completing specific achievements in order, without holding a position that called for the grade.  The cadet program remained largely unchanged until 1998.

Retyped excerpt from the 1954 Cadet Handbook about cadet promotion:

The high points:

Promotions in grade were nationally standardized.  The cadet program was structured into 3 phases, 9 achievements.

Completion of the achievements made cadets eligible for promotion, one stripe per achievement, but did not guarantee promotion.  Grade followed promotion into a position, still regulated by the table of organization.  Cadets had to complete the achievements to actually wear the grade - they were encouraged to complete the achievements as fast as possible.

Completed Achievements + Position Held = Grade Worn

​Maximum grade: C/Maj

Very temporary:

From the 1964 CAPP 36, found in Misc Documents. Note that C/1st Lt throught C/Lt Col were "awarded at discretion & authority of Squadron Commander."  To be promoted above C/1st Lt you had to hold a position that called for that grade.  It is conceivable a cadet could have gone from C/2nd Lt to C/Col.  This was the original plan.

​The high points:

​Cadets were promoted based solely on leadership ability within the confines of the table of organization.  Cadets had to be promoted to a position, then grade accompanied the promotion.  Training and promotion were not linked. 

Promotions were not nationally standardized.  Wing commanders established cadet promotion criteria.

While command experience was part of the cadet program, it was only a benefit for a select few cadets.

1942-45 maximum grade: C/1st Sgt

1945-57 maximum grade: C/Capt

  National Headquarters has not established specific policies in regard to individual qualifications for appointment or promotion of either Cadet commissioned or noncommissioned officers.  Most wings have prepared directives on promotions that apply within the wing and your squadron officers will furnish you this information upon request.

  In general, most wings use variations of the following outline in their wing cadet appointment and promotion directives:

     CADET PRIVATE: Automatic upon acceptance of prospective cadet by  Squadron Commandant of Cadets.

     CADET PRIVATE FIRST CLASS: Upon completion of phase one,   provided the cadet is proficient in the wearing of the uniform, is familiar with military courtesy and discipline to the point that public appearance in uniform will not bring discredit to CAP.

     CORPORAL: After a minimum of 6 months' service as private first class.  Cadet Corporals should possess sufficient leadership potential so as to assume the responsibilities of a Cadet Sergeant when required.

     CADET SERGEANT: A minimum of 3 to 6 months as a Cadet Corporal.  This highest NCO grade is earned only by demonstrated ability.

     CADET 2D LIEUTENANT: Normal progression through the NCO grades and a minimum of 12 months as a CAP Cadet.

     CADET 1ST LIEUTENANT: Three months as Cadet 2d Lieutenant and a minimum of 15 months as a CAP Cadet.

     CADET CAPTAIN: Three months as a Cadet 1st Lieutenant and a minimum of 18 to 24 months as a CAP Cadet.

  Cadet officers, for the most part, will have earned the respect of their subordinates by working up through the ranks and having demonstrated their fitness for the grade and position held.

  Cadet officers and noncommissioned officers may be selected by the Commandant of Cadets according to their individual merit and leadership abilities or as a result of a cadet unit election.  Cadet officer appointments must be confirmed by the Wing Commander.  The Commandant of Cadets has final authority as to the Cadet noncommissioned officer appointments.

Eaker Award, 1995:

 From 1964 to 1995 there was no formal recognition of completion of Phase IV of the cadet program, other than promotion to C/Lt Col.  Starting in the early 1990s, cadets added a silver triangular clasp to the Earhart ribbon to signify completion.  CAP introduced the Eaker Award in 1995 for cadets who had completed the cadet program, but had not achieved the Spaatz award.  It was not considered a milestone until 1998.


In the early generations of the CAP cadet program, the organization was run by Wing Commanders, and they did as they pleased when it came to regulations.  National HQ did not exactly rule with an iron fist, and only seemed to establish some control in 1957.  This is evident in membership, promotions, uniforms, insignia, etc..

Until 1964 cadets could not earn and then hold a grade indefinitely.  Also, remember it was only in the fourth generation that promotion was required for satisfactory membership.
Recommended reading: "
table of organization" and grade insignia.

1957-64: Recommended reading is the 1959 Cadet Logbook.

CAP Cadet History Project

The Details:

From 1942-45, the highest grade a cadet could officially hold was C/First Sergeant.  Six grades were available for cadets: Private, Private First Class, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, and First Sergeant.  (Although, some cadets were promoted to officer grades, notably in Minnesota.  See the interview with Harlan Petersburg under Cadet Stories.)  Also during this time period, cadets had to have three months of membership and fifty hours of training to be promoted above Private.  These requirements could be waived if the cadet was a member of the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve.

Officer grades were first introduced in 1945, Cadet 2nd Lieutenant to Cadet Captain. 

Enlisted cadet grades were reduced to five possible grades in 1949: Private, Private First Class, Corporal, Sergeant, and First Sergeant.  Modern cadet officer grades were illustrated in the 1949 Civil Air Patrol Manual, Cadet 2nd Lieutenant through Colonel - although no regulation was given to promote cadets beyond C/Capt.  Some Wings violated this rule.  In the October 18, 1955 edition of Contact, a CAP newsletter, members were sternly admonished: "Several Wings have recently submitted for publication in CAP News stories which indicated serious violations of CAP regulations... Two such stories told of cadets who have attained the rank of Major.  CAP Regulation 20-1... authorizes a maximum grade of cadet captain for CAP cadets... there is no legal basis for a CAP cadet to have a rank above cadet captain."  See Misc Documents for orders from NY Wing which document the promotion of cadets to C/Maj and C/Lt Col.  

The Certificate of Proficiency was introduced in 1949, and first awarded in 1950.  Achieving the COP did not automatically confer higher grade to the cadet. 

The details:

CAP introduced a new cadet program in 1957.  The reason for the change was explained in the 1956 Annual Report to Congress:  "While a three phase program existed prior to 1956 for CAP's teenage cadets, it left the establishment of criteria for advancement largely up to local unit commanders.  The result was a program almost totally without standardization.  Only the criteria for the award of the Certificate of Proficiency were standardized - completion of the National Examination and attendance at one summer encampment at an Air Force base."  Promotion in grade was now nationally standardized.  Cadet training was divided into three phases and nine achievements.  Completion of these achievements made cadets eligible for promotion, one stripe per achievement, but it did not guarantee promotion.  Still adhering to the table of organization, cadets had to hold a position that called for higher grade.  Conversely, a cadet could be appointed to Cadet First Sergeant, but could not wear the chevrons until he completed the achievements for C/1st Sgt.  Cadets were encouraged to complete the achievements as fast as possible.

To put it yet another way: If the cadet completed achievements, but held no position, it meant the cadet could only be a Private First Class.  Private First Class was the only "automatic" promotion.  Any grade above it required the cadet hold a position.  If the cadet held a position, but not enough achievements for the grade of that position, it meant the cadet could only wear the highest grade conferred by his achievement level.

The COP was made a step in the training program and was required for promotion to the officer grades, but nothing guaranteed promotion. 

The maximum grade a cadet could permanently hold was C/Maj.  C/Lt Col and C/Col were temporary grades reserved for large events such as encampments.

A new cadet log book was released in 1959.  The major difference is that in the 1957 program "aviation education" was not required for the first achievement.  In 1958 a new aviation education book was added to the first six Aviation Education Courses .  In 1959 the first seven achievements required one course.