Fort Riley was home to nearly 50 youth from five states as the Civil Air Patrol held its winter encampment at Camp Funston.

The basic course for the cadets, aged 12 to 18, was an introductory one said 1st Lt. Cole Oakland, Public Affairs Officer, Kansas Wing, CAP.

"The Kansas Wing Civil Air Patrol is doing a leadership exercise with our cadets," he said. "They are here for a week and they will learn some leadership stuff, customs and courtesies, character development and aerospace."

On Dec. 27, Soldiers from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, showcased their helicopters to the cadets. The cadets learned about the Chinook, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters before getting into the Chinook and Black Hawk.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matt Brown, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div., said he was excited to see the youth interested in his Chinook.

"It's always nice to get new people informed on what the Chinook can do -- it's capabilities and getting them more information on the aircraft," he said. The Civil Air Patrol does a great job getting kids interested in things other than video games and sitting around. It's good to get them out and see what the Army has to offer."

For Otto Hill, Kansas City, this was his second time at Fort Riley for encampment. He said he hopes the other cadets take away from the experience more about aviation and CAP.

"I think it's an excellent time for cadets to learn something," the Air Force hopeful said. "It's always improving, slightly better than it was last year -- in my opinion. I would say that (it's good) if they are able to learn something about leadership or a simple fact about aircraft and apply it to whatever they do in life or the Civil Air Patrol."

The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the Air Force and is charged with three main functions, Oakland said.

"We have three congressional missions; aerospace education both with our people and the public. Congress wants us to educate the public about aerospace and our people about it," he said. "Cadet programs, which is what you are seeing now -- that leadership, character development, customs and courtesies … where we are building up tomorrow's leaders with that information that they are going to need at a young age. Our last mission is emergency services -- in the state of Kansas, we do blood runs for the Red Cross. When an (Emergency Locator Transmitter) goes off whenever an airplane lands hard or crashes or has an emergency we can go locate those. We do disaster relief -- we went down to Moore, Oklahoma, when they had their tornado in 2012.

"We do quite a bit," he said. "People like to joke that we are America's best kept secret. But, we don't want to be. We have a lot of stuff we could provide for both youth and adults that's a great value."

Anyone is eligible to join CAP as long as they are a U.S. citizen, Oakland said. Youth can join at 12 years old. At 18, they move to the senior cadet ranks and adults are leaders, generally given officer rank.

"We do run background checks on our adults, they do get finger-printed so they cannot have any issues like that," Oakland said. "Basically, it's open to everyone."
As an auxiliary of the Air Force, the CAP can be activated by the Secretary of the Air Force for any non-combative mission deemed essential.

They can also assist the Drug Enforcement Agency with drug intervention missions, "see and report," Oakland said.

The CAP has begun a new initiative, Oakland said, to help kids obtain their pilot license.

"With the aerospace program, we are focused on if they want to be a pilot or they want to do something air related -- we want to give them the means to do that," he said.

Oakland said the partnership between the CAP and Fort Riley has been a benefit for them to conduct their training in a secure place.

"It's been a great time, this is our third year on Fort Riley," he said. "We stay down at (Camp) Funston, which is a great facility. The barracks are nice; they are clean and warm. We come from doing it in Salina, (Kansas), where we had to bus to do everything -- food was at a different location than sleep, which was at a different location than classes. It was a constant moving machine. Now, we are in one spot. It's very secure.

"To me it feels like we are getting a lot of support not only for the garrison but from the "Big Red One" guys," he said. "They are really supporting us in all we need. You don't see a bunch of kids getting to tour military aircraft, we are very thankful for that partnership we have with them."