FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Kansas Wing Civil Air Patrol held their winter encampment at Fort Riley for the second year in a row Dec. 26. The cadets completed the week-long program and graduated Jan. 1.

The CAP is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and it has a three-fold mission, according to Col. Linette Lahan, Kansas Wing Headquarters Squadron commander out of Salina, Kansas. The first mission is aerospace education and the advancement and encouragement of the aviation industry. The second is emergency services and disaster-relief search and rescue.

"The third mission, (and) what we are here for this week, is our cadet programs," Lahan said. "(The winter encampment) is a portion of the cadet programs as (cadets) go through leadership, physical fitness and aerospace education training. The best way to describe it is like a basic training of leadership and knowledge that they need to advance their education through the Civil Air Patrol cadet programs."

Fort Riley was selected to host this year's winter encampment again because it is a secured facility, Lahan said. Ninety five cadets' ages 12 to 18 years old came from Kansas, Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.

"Having this number of youth with us, everybody is trusting us with their children," Lahan said. "We know we can control the environment."

In addition to the confidence in safety of being on post, Flight Officer Cole Oakland, Kansas Wing assistant public affairs officer, said Fort Riley is one of the very few Army installations around that has facilities that are beneficial to the encampment curriculum.
"Not every encampment has access to an aviation brigade," Oakland said. "Especially at Fort Riley, having the 'Big Red One' headquarters here, it's really helpful if we needed support from the division and that's always something we can look into."

The CAP used to do their encampments at Fort Riley several decades ago, but then switch to Salina. Lahan said matters of transportation and resources while conducting the program in Salina became an issue in recent years. To address these roadblocks, Oakland said the encampments are now held at Fort Riley because of the quality and convenience of facilities needed to accommodate the program.

"The facilities here are really nice," Oakland said. "Not a lot of encampments you're going to find this nice of barracks. We have classrooms and (dining facilities), and it's all very close. And if (we need anything else), we are just driving across post. Whereas some encampments, we have to go across town. So this is a really great place to have our activity."

The winter encampment is the only encampment Kansas Wing offers because a lot of its cadets participate in a program called National Cadet Special Activities. The reason the encampment is held at this time of year is because the self-nomination period for attending NCSA is Dec. 1 to Jan. 15.

"One of the requirements for the cadets to attend (NCSA) is an encampment to get that foundational leadership experience," she said. "With us doing the encampment at this time of the year, it allows the cadets to get the required encampment in before the period closes and it helps with their selection … if they don't have that encampment it would bring them to the bottom of the selection pool."

Upon graduation, the skills the cadets acquired from encampment will equip them with the maturity to take on challenges they might face in whatever path they choose in military or government service.

"What it does is that it makes them problem-solve, it helps communicate and it helps them with confidence," Lahan said. "It's life experience and it's a really good way to challenge the cadets to take on a little bit more and see what they can do."

There are a few organizations at the installation with which CAP worked to make this program a success, such as U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley and Directorate of Emergency Services, according to Lahan. Several CAP representatives met with Col. John D. Lawrence, Fort Riley garrison commander, Mark Dombrowski, Security Branch chief at DES, and Will Paskow, DES police chief to plan the event.

"We brought to them what we wanted to do and how we want to work with the cadets and teach them leadership as part of their program and Col. Lawrence was very supportive of it," Lahan said.

Cadet Airman Jared Vernon, 14, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, said he enjoyed his first immersion into all things military. He plans on getting as far as he can in the CAP cadet program before he graduates high school.

"I plan on going into the Air Force," Vernon said. "(Encampment) is pretty good compared to what they described it: military lifestyle, strict, military setting. I like it a lot."

Cadet Staff Sgt. Davis Iskiyan, 15, from Denver, agrees with Vernon and feels the same way about the program.

"I just want to advance through the cadet program through different ranks," Iskayan said.

After graduating high school, he too plans on joining the Air Force.