From the 1964 CAPP 36, CIVIL AIR PATROL presents... THE CADET PROGRAM!

Cadets were taught required subjects in the classroom until the cadet program became self-study in 1968.


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.


The 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 of C/Maj and C/Lt Col 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 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. 

A noteworthy improvement was to the leadership pillar of the cadet program.  From 1964 until 1992 the cadet program used a manual called the Leadership Laboratory Manual.  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.

Cadets in Phases III and IV were also required to continue studying Aerospace Education.  This had never before been required. 

In 2000 the single Aerospace manual was split into 6 modules which covered Phases I and II, and Phase III and IV cadets had an additional textbook.

1957-64: "Educate for the aerospace age - and do it better than the Soviet Union."

The 1957 program was similar to the 1964 Sorenson program in that it was based on multiple achievements instead of large blocks of training.  Each achievement had specific requirements.  While training continued to focus on aviation, cadets were now required to attend classes on moral leadership, etiquette, and citizenship for each achievement.  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."  During a national conference in 1956, leaders resolved to make the cadet program "the largest youth aviation program in the world" by making CAP available to every boy and girl in the nation.

In 1957 the Aviation Study Manual was replaced by a manual series called the Aviation Education Courses.   Cadets took one course of their choice per achievement.  Originally, six volumes were released: Aviation and You, Power for Aircraft, Aircraft in Flight, Airports Airways and Electronics, Navigation and Weather, Problems of Airpower.  Teaching aids were also released including filmstrips, workbooks, and instructor guides.  When the USSR launched Sputnik in 1957, the world was shoved from the "aviation age" to the "aerospace age."  Consequently, CAP released a seventh volume in 1958: The Dawning Space Age.

See the early manuals topic.

CAP introduced the Cadet Log Book.  This was the military education manual and informal personal record.  It covered topics including promotion, customs & courtesies, and drill & ceremonies.  In 1957 it was a single volume.  It was divided into two parts in 1959, log book and manual.  Another single volume edition was published in 1961.  The 1961 version did not have a log book.  Cadets were advised to consult CAPF 66, CAP Cadet Master Record.

The program was divided into three phases, and is outlined in the Cadet Log Book:

Phase one was the primary phase.  Completion resulted in the grade of C/Basic. 

Phase two was the basic phase with six achievements.  Completion of achievements made cadets eligible for promotion, one stripe per achievement, C/Third Class to C/MSgt.  It ended with completion of the COP. 

Phase three was the advanced phase with three achievements.  Completion of achievement seven made cadets eligible for promotion to any officer grade.

For the first time training and grade were linked.

Instead of hinging on one test, the COP was reached by completing multiple achievements and one encampment.

1949-57: "Prepare for the air age."

CAP introduced a new cadet program in 1949.  It focused heavily on aviation topics and was considered a program that cadets could complete.   CAP published a three manual series for training and regulation.  Book I was the Civil Air Patrol Manual.  Book II was the Aviation Study Manual and was the basis for cadet training.  Book III was the instructor guide for Book II.  The series was commonly called the "Brown Books" due to their plain brown covers.

The purpose of the Cadet Program according to the 1949 Civil Air Patrol Manual was to produce "a reservoir of preflight trained young men available for the Air Force in the event of war."  The manual covered a large variety of topics from missions, military administration, and history.

This program introduced the Certificate of Proficiency (COP).  Cadets could earn this by taking a National Exam (one exam until 1957) and by attending an encampment.  See the topic COP for more.

The Aviation Study Manual was the primary textbook for cadets, and covered topics from aerodynamics to weather.  The Aviation Study Manual was also used in high schools as a textbook for aviation classes and was the forerunner for Air Force Junior ROTC texts.  The lengthy test for the Certificate of Proficiency was based off this manual. 

Cadet training was based on 80 hours per year of training, two hours per meeting for 40 meetings, for three years (ages 15-18).  It had three phases described this way:

NOTE:  Based on CAP publications from before 1949 I believe the word "phase" carried a different meaning.  In context, it seems that "phase" meant aspect, facet, or component rather than what we currently think of as a phase. (Phase meaning one training period, when completed, is followed by another.)  The three phases as presented in 1949 are analogous to the modern day pillars of the cadet program.

- Phase I (academic) constitutes the minimum requirements of the CAP Cadet Program, and is based upon CAP Book II, the Aviation Study Manual.  Material in phase one is divided into three series:

        1) Basic - red
        2) Secondary - white
        3) Advanced - blue

-  Phase II (activities) embraces the function, missions, and the many related activities of CAP in which CAP cadets may participate.  In addition to periodic drills, which are required, cadets are encouraged to take part in all senior activities except those that involve flying under hazardous conditions.

-  Phase III (encampments) is one of the most important phases of the program.  Attendance at one encampment is required for cadets in the advanced course...

The cadet program was modified and clarified in 1954, and the word "phase" is used in the current sense:

The basic cadet program emphasizes five separate, although related, areas of cadet endeavor.  They include "Leadership, Drill, and Exercise of Command," "Aviation Education," "Orientation [to] CAP and the Air Force," "Flight Orientation," and "Encampments at Air Force Bases."

Phase one,  "Cadet Indoctrination Activities," gives a new member, or prospective member, information about his organization, its relationship with the USAF, and enough drill to properly assemble and march with a group of cadets.  The time spent in this phase is flexible and may vary from one meeting night to twelve weeks. 

Phase two, the main portion of the cadet program is accomplished in phase two, "Cadet Training Activities."  Over an 18 month period a cadet receives instruction and experience in all of the five areas of endeavor listed...  It is important to understand that the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program is not attempting to train qualified pilots, engineers... etc.  The aviation education portions is designed to give a cadet "general" aviation knowledge plus an introductory knowledge to what are commonly termed "Preflight Subjects."

Phase three, "Cadet Elective Training Activities," is an individual project. A cadet may discover an interest in communications as a result of experiences in phase two.  A communications study course has been developed to help this cadet.  Phase three is primarily an area of activity for those cadets  who have completed phase one and two.  Suitable awards are under study and will be announced in official publications.

Training and grade were not linked.

1964: "Develop dynamic Americans and aerospace leaders."
The modern cadet program was introduced.  It is sometimes called the Jack Sorenson program, after the man who developed the program at NHQ.  The goal was "to develop dynamic Americans and aerospace leaders."  The training program was based on four pillars: aerospace education, leadership laboratory, moral leadership, and physical fitness.  The promotion topic covers this program extensively in a four part series.

Cadets progressed through four phases of increasing responsibility:

Phase One - Orientation
Phase Two - Aerospace Education
Phase Three - CAP Leadership
Phase Four - Aerospace Leadership

Most of the 15 achievements were named for prominent figures in aviation history.  The focus of aerospace education for each achievement was significant to the person it was named after:

Curry - Introduction to Aerospace
Wright Brothers - Aircraft in Flight
Rickenbacker - Power for Aircraft
Doolittle - Airports, Airways, and Electronics
Lindbergh - Navigation and Weather
Arnold - The Problems of Aerospace Power
Goddard - The Dawning Space Age


Mitchell - initially the Mitchell award test was from Operation Countdown, the moral leadership manual.  It was made a comprehensive Aerospace Education test in 1970.
Earhart - criteria for the Earhart varied from 1964-70.  Recommended reading is the promotion topic.
Spaatz - completion of the cadet program, and comprehensive tests based on all material presented.
Falcon - cadets had to achieve the Spaatz and either go on to become a senior member, or complete two years at a US military academy or in ROTC.  This award was discontinued in 1979.

This program had 15 achievements, in four phases, until 1998.

This generation saw an explosion in special activities.  This program reached beyond aviation into other aspects of military and civilian service.

Cadets also had a library of manuals: Leadership Laboratory Manual, cadet handbook, Operation Countdown (moral leadership), physical fitness, and the aviation courses.  The Leadership Laboratory Manual presented only a little actual leadership.  It was in large part a drill and ceremonies manual.  It viewed drill as an ideal way to develop requisite leadership traits in cadets.  The leadership lab was discontinued and CAP introduced manuals that focused entirely on leadership in 1993.  In 1975 CAP published the first single voume aerospace education manual.  The leadership lab became two volumes in 1975.

The table of contents from the Aviation Study Manual.

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.

1942-49: "Do your part to win the war!"

The CAP Cadet program rapidly formed under war-time urgency and intense national patriotism - so fast, in fact, there wasn't time to develop cadet-specific training or publish a cadet training manual.  Without their own curriculum and manuals, the ideal situation was for cadets to take the same training as the Senior Members, with the same standards and testing.  Qualified cadets could be used as instructors.  Very early cadet training focused on military drill, interior guard, and panel signalling, in addition to topics in aviation. 

CAP became the official Army Air Force Auxiliary on April 29th, 1943, and the AAF looked at the cadet program with new interest.  Yes, CAP could train cadets to serve on the homefront or in any military branch, but it especially wanted to improve graduation rates from AAF pilot, navigator, and bombardier training.  To achieve this, the AAF used CAP to train enlistees in the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve or ACER.  He is an excerpt from the "In the Beginning" topic:

"The Army Air Force wanted a constant pool of 54,000 qualified men waiting in reserve.  But everyone needed men - thousands of them, too.  The AAF faced competition from civilian industry, the draft, and especially the Navy.  The qualification standards were even lowered to ensure the quotas were filled - but the standards were still high, and supplies were finite.  The AAF established the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve (ACER) in April 1942, as a way to recruit men directly into the AAF, circumventing the selective service, and hold them in an inactive status until they were called up to fill training quotas.  This way recruits were snared before anyone else could get them.    

In January 1943 a change in US law forced the AAF to shift its focus onto seventeen year olds.  For them ACER became a delayed entry program for aviation specialties.  Seventeen year olds who met the requirements for the AAF were enlisted in a reserve aviation cadet grade, and their branch preference was secured.  On their eighteenth birthday they were called to active duty.  While waiting for active duty the ACER enlistees could be given preflight classes and training through CAP to improve graduation rates for the aviation specialties, and put young men into their specialty of choice.  ACER enlistees were given priority for training, promotions, and special insignia.  In some regions CAP senior members administered the psychological screening for the ACER enlistees.  ACER was successful in providing the needed pool of reservists and was suspended in March 1944."

The first training manual, the Preflight Study Manual, also known as the "Blue Book," was released August 1944.  The curriculum included preflight skills such as meteorology, first aid, Morse code, and physical fitness.  The manual stated the "present purpose of the CAPC program is to extend pre-aviation training to young men and women of high school age who are planning on pursuing aviation careers of one kind or another.  In carrying out this purpose, CAPC aims to give you rock-bottom knowledge upon which you may build more specialized learning."  A training guide  with schedules was published in January 1945.  (Both can be found the library under manuals.)

Outside of preflight training, another objective was to prepare young men and women for service during wartime - military or civilian.  Cadets joined CAPC for several reasons.  Some because they wanted to secure a job in aviation.  Others wanted to "do their part to win the war" in any way possible.  Many cadets were promoted straight out of basic training, or selected for officer training, due to their CAPC training.    The CAP cadet program also prepared young men and women to become adult volunteers in CAP.  Over time, CAPC filled a variety of needs. 

The AAF recognized other benefits to the CAPC program:

- In a world where aviation technology was growing exponentially, careers in the "air age" would require more math, science, and aviation education.  CAPC required cadets to take courses in physics, chemistry, and math.
- Aviation proponents also knew "air-minded youth" were the future advocates and leaders for aviation progress and funding.

Training and grade were not linked.

CAP Cadet History Project

Cadet sign up for the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve, circa 1943

Seattle cadets using the portable coordination trainer, 13 July 1944.
Army Signal Corps photo.

Cadets had to build three model aircraft to complete achievement one of Phase II.