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What is CAP


The Civil Air Patrol, or CAP as it is often called, is the United States Air Force Auxiliary. As such, it is tasked with three primary missions: these are the Cadet Program, Emergency Services, and Aerospace Education. Even though CAP is an organization based on a military model and the USAF auxiliary, its members are in no way obligated to join the Armed Forces. The skills, confidence, and leadership developed through membership can be used in all walks of life, not just the military. Rising from its roots in World War II, today CAP is a benevolent, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives, flying counterdrug missions, providing disaster relief, advancing young people, and supporting America's educators.



Today CAP has nearly 61,000 volunteer members - approximately 26,000 cadets and 35,000 senior members. Cadet membership is open to non-married U.S. citizens between the ages of 12-18 but may remain a Cadet until 21 years old. Senior membership is open to adults age 18 and over, who are US citizens and have no criminal record. Non U.S. citizens may join if they are lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Other non-residents may request a waiver of the citizenship requirement through the wing or region commanders. CAP does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion, or disability. 



As a volunteer, awards are not monetary, but are as tangible as money in the bank.



There are countless benefits of Civil Air Patrol membership, but here are just a few.


CAP offers aerospace education, leadership, and technical training, including Air Force correspondence courses for all members. Special Training is also conducted for those participating in search and rescue as mission pilots, observers, or ground team members. Communications training is highly specialized and presents unique opportunities to network with other communicators from around the country.



Cadets earning their first promotion receive a voucher to use towards a basic cadet Air Force style uniform, with savings of approximately $90. Senior members are also authorized to wear the Air Force-style uniform with distinguishing CAP insignia if they meet weight and grooming standards. Those not meeting weight and height standards have a number of CAP distinctive uniforms available. Used uniforms are available to issue to members, but are limited to available sizes.



CAP has many conferences and activities held around the country that provide a wide array of training opportunities.



Through the International Air Cadet Exchange Program, a limited number of Cadets and senior escorts travel to several foreign countries for a few weeks each year to foster international goodwill and understanding. Some of these countries are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.



As a federally chartered nonprofit organization, CAP is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. This enables members to claim various expenses as charitable contributions to the extent allowable by law. These include:

  • Membership Dues
  • Expenses for uniforms and training materials
  • Out of pocket expenses while participating in CAP activities
  • Mileage on personal vehicles
  • Travel and living expenses while participating in CAP activities



CAP's resources and assets include, but are not limited to, 550 corporate owned aircraft, more than 1000 ground vehicles, and the most extensive communications system in the world. Most importantly, though, are the volunteers who put all of it to use.



CAP members participate at many different levels and capacities. CAP will train each member to help them fulfill his/her volunteer "job". These "jobs" range in a wide spectrum of activities to meet almost every individual's needs and interest and include:

  • Flight Instruction
  • Communication
  • Administration
  • Chaplain
  • Historian
  • Operations
  • Aerospace Education 
  • Personnel
  • Legal
  • Leadership Training
  • Safety
  • Search & Rescue
  • Logistics
  • Medical 
  • Supply
  • Public Affairs
  • Inspections
  • Counter-drug
  • Transportation
  • Finance
  • Disaster Relief

If you don't see a job here that fulfills your desires, the local unit can probably provide you with one.



In the late 1930's, more than 150,000 volunteers with a love of aviation argued for an organization to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country. As a result, the Civil Air Patrol was born one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of volunteer members answered America's call to national service and sacrifice by accepting and performing critical wartime missions. Assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Corps, the contributions of Civil Air Patrol, including logging more than 500,000 flying hours, attacking enemy submarines, and saving hundreds of crash victims during World War II, are well documented.

After the war, a thankful nation understood that Civil Air Patrol could continue providing valuable services to both local and national agencies. On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 incorporating CAP as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. On May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law 557 permanently establishing CAP as the auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force. Three primary missions were set forth at that time: aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency services.

Civil Air Patrol members were awarded the first two Air Medals of World War II.




This mission focuses on two different audiences: volunteer CAP members and the general public. The programs ensure that all CAP members have an appreciation for and knowledge of aerospace issues. To advance within the organization, members are required to participate in the educational program. CAP's external aerospace education programs are conducted through our nation's educational system. Each year, CAP sponsors more than 100 workshops in colleges and universities across the nation, reaching more than 3,000 educators and thereby hundreds of thousands of young people. These workshops highlight basic aerospace knowledge and focus on advances in aerospace technology. CAP's aerospace education members receive more than 33 free teaching aids, as well as lesson plans and other classroom materials.


Among the many youth oriented programs in America today, CAP's is unique in that it has aviation as a cornerstone. The program allows young people to progress at their own pace through a 16-step program including aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness, and moral leadership. Cadets compete for academic scholarships as well as flight scholarships. Those cadets who earn cadet officer status may enter the Air Force as an E3 (Airman First Class) rather than E1 (Airman Basic). The Coast Guard also offers this advanced promotion to E-3 and the other Armed Services accept credit on a case-by-case basis.

Whatever your interests - leadership, survival training, flight training, photography, astronomy - there's a place for you in CAP's cadet program. Each year, cadets have the opportunity to participate in special activities at the local, state, regional, and national level. Many cadets will have the opportunity to solo fly an airplane for the first time through a flight encampment or academy. Others will enjoy traveling abroad through the International Air Cadet Exchange Program (IACE). Still others assist at major air shows throughout the nation.


Growing from its World War II experience, the Civil Air Patrol has continued to save lives and alleviate human suffering through a myriad of emergency services and operational missions.

  • SEARCH AND RESCUE - Perhaps best known for its search and rescue efforts, CAP flies more than 90% of all federal inland search and rescue missions directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Outside the continental United States, CAP supports the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Just how effective are the CAP missions? Nearly 100 people are saved each year by CAP members.
  • DISASTER RELIEF - Another important service CAP performs is disaster relief operations. CAP provides air and ground transportation and an extensive communications network. Volunteer members fly disaster relief officials to remote locations and provide manpower and leadership to local, state, and national disaster relief organizations.

CAP has formal agreements with many government and humanitarian relief agencies including the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

  • HUMANITARIAN SERVICES - CAP flies humanitarian missions - usually in support of the Red Cross - transporting time-sensitive medical materials including blood and human tissue, in situations where other means of transportation are not available.
  • AIR FORCE SUPPORT - It's hardly surprising that CAP performs several missions in direct support of the U.S. Air Force. Specifically, CAP conducts light transport, Communications support, low-altitude route surveys, supporting fighter intercept training, and flying "Surrogate Predator" missions to give our nation's ground forces experience working with UAV's before entering combat. CAP also provides orientation flights for AFROTC cadets. Joint U.S. Air Force and CAP search and rescue exercises provide realistic training for missions.
  • COUNTERDRUG - CAP joined the "war on drugs" in 1986 when, pursuant to congressional authorization, CAP signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Customs Service offering CAP resources to help stem the flow of drugs into and within the United States.
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