2018-08-12 / News

CAP’s Lapeer Composite Squadron joins Wing Encampment at training center in Alpena

ALPENA — During the first week of July, temperatures were near 100 degrees, severe storms rolled through the northern part of the state, our nation celebrated its birthday and eight cadets from the Civil Air Patrol’s (CAP) Lapeer Composite Squadron joined close to 300 others to experience the 2018 Michigan Wing Encampment at the Michigan Air National Guard’s Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) in Alpena.

“Encampment is a one-week in-depth training course teaching the fundamentals of what it means to be a cadet,” said Maj. Luke Rondeau, commander of the Lapeer squadron.

Encampment is, in ways, like a mini boot camp, Rondeau said. The basic cadets eat, sleep and drink everything Civil Air Patrol for the week. They are constantly in uniform, they march everywhere, sleep in barracks, undergo daily inspections and are active from sunup to sundown. Everything is done by-the-book, and for many of them, it’s the first time they’ve been away from home for that long.

“The way we describe it, it’s their first time in an environment where they don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Rondeau. “It’s a very interactive, hands-on leadership experience for everyone involved.”

Each state does its encampment a little differently, Rondeau said. The Michigan encampment is very focused on academics, for example, while there is more of a military feel to the Pennsylvania encampment.

The experience began as soon as the cadets arrived at the CRTC. There was no time for goodbyes, as they were quickly assimilated, signed in, assigned to flights and introduced to the new lifestyle they’d be living for the next week. Parents were able to send correspondence via email, but received none in return. However, the Michigan Wing posted plenty of photos each day of what the kids were experiencing. There, parents could see the barracks, the meals, physical training, flights, ceremonies, drills and more that their cadets were experiencing. And while many of the photos showed serious faces, there were plenty of smiles as well.

When cadets are heading to encampment, parents are warned that their son or daughter might come home acting a little different, and it’s true. They come home with a noticeable increase in personal confidence, stand a little taller and speak with respect. In short, they grow up a lot over that week, and if anything is proof of the positive benefits of Civil Air Patrol, it’s that.

What’s more is the brotherhood and sisterhood that comes out of encampment. Cadets are generally placed into different flights than the others from their home squadron on purpose. It forces them out of their comfort zone, and they quickly form bonds with the others in their flight. That’s apparent on the last day when, after the parade and graduation, there are a lot of hugs, smiles and goodbyes, while the cadets — reunited with their phones after a week — immediately begin locating their new-found friends on social media so they can remain connected.

“You do meet a lot of people that you will stay in touch with for 10 to 20 years or even longer,” said Rondeau, who met his wife, Jill at encampment in 2010.

Cadets are treated to presentations from various branches of the military, law enforcement, emergency services and aviation. They get the opportunity to take the controls in powered Cessna flights, and ride in a glider — not the most fun activity when temperatures are in the high 90s. And while there is a very strict no-hazing policy, there are also aspects of the encampment experience that cadets keep to themselves, accessible only to those who attend.

Civil Air Patrol and participating in encampment give the cadets plenty of opportunities to become confident and comfortable with who they are, take responsibility for leading others, and experience things they wouldn’t be able to anywhere else. To find out more about joining CAP, visit www.mi276.miwg.cap.gov/

— Krystal Moralee

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