By Sam Campbell (Leonard Wood)July 26, 2019
The Civil Air Patrol Composite Squadron MO-153 brought cadets from Missouri and six other states across the country to Fort Leonard Wood for Encampment, its centerpiece training event.
Cadets from the ages of 12 to 18 must pass the physical, professional and mental tasks of the one-week team-building event to reach the commissioned officer ranks of the U.S. Air Force civilian auxiliary.
"I went through Encampment going on four years ago, and ever since then I've been coming in as cadet staff trying to help others," said Cadet Col. Justin Smith, who will attend college in the fall and ship off to basic training through the Army National Guard in January. He is assigned to be a combat medic.
"The hardest part was honestly getting to work with the team," he said.
Civil Air Patrol Public Affairs Officer Jeremy Darling said this time is trying for cadets emotionally as well. During Encampment, they are not allowed access to cell phones or have contact with their parents, barring an emergency.
"I was still young then -- that was my first time really being away from home," Smith said. "So, I'm getting put into a group of 15 individuals I've never met in my life and spending 18 hours a day with them."
According to the CAP website, Encampment is designed to inspire cadets to develop leadership skills, commit to a habit of regular exercise, live the organization's core values and learn about aviation, space and technology.
From July 22 to 27, cadets took up residence in the barracks and participated under drill sergeant guidance in the Engagement Skills Trainer, the Team Development Course, Confidence Tower, the Physical Endurance Course and several classroom-based lessons.
They were graded on drill performance, teamwork and uniform and room inspections by their own Standards and Evaluation team.
Darling said the greatest challenge cadets face is acclimating to the new intense climate within the one day of arrival.
"Year after year, I would have to say the first 24 hours, where we bring them in and we push it up quite a bit, (is challenging)" he said. "The staff knows how to put pressure on them."
Cadet Tech. Sgt. Conor Buchanan, 14, of Manhattan, Kansas, said the Team Development Course stations improved his confidence and taught him what he is truly capable of.
"The last station we were doing, we were on a rope course and you had to pull yourself back, and when I first got up there, I thought to myself, 'I'm never going to be able to do this,' but my teammates really encouraged me," he said. "Even though I didn't get all the way there, I got way farther than I ever thought I would."
Civil Air Patrol cadre are scheduled to host an awards ceremony 8 a.m. Friday on Gammon Field for the cadets finishing Encampment.
CAP Major Jennifer Smith, Encampment commander, encouraged parents to come for the Pass in Review ceremony to be held Saturday morning.
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