Gastonia Composite Squadron
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Info for Parents

How do we get started?

We meet every Tuesday from 6:30-9:00 pm and meetings are open to the public. For the first-time visitor, the best experience will be on a night other than PT Night, unless your child really likes athletics. Email, call, or text to check if it's PT night.

What's the time commitment? Will my cadet need to attend every meeting?

We meet weekly and try to have at least one weekend day activity per month. We encourage cadets to attend as many meetings and activities as their schedule allows.

Our meetings and activities include various aspects of training, some of which are required for promotions. However, the primary responsibility of cadets is to do their best at school. Academic assignments must be given priority over attendance at squadron meetings. If a cadet has a test the next day and is not prepared, then he or she should stay home and study.

What goes on at the weekly meetings?

Cadets get hands-on training in leadership, aerospace education, emergency services, physical training, and Air Force drill.

1st Tuesday of the month is Aerospace Night. The emphasis activity is aerospace education, with secondary activities of the Monthly Safety Briefing, drill and ceremonies, milestone testing, and review boards/feedback sessions.

2nd Tuesday of the month is Emergency Services and Leadership Night. The emphasis activities are emergency services training and leadership classes/activities, and the secondary activities are drill and ceremonies, milestone tests, and review boards/feedback sessions. In ES training, cadets learn how to use basic survival equipment such as compasses, maps, radios, etc. This forms the basis for more specialized out-of-squadron ES training where cadets can earn qualifications to go on real search and rescue missions.

3rd Tuesday of the month is PT (physical training) Night. Think gym class. The emphasis activity is physical training, a fitness/health-oriented class, and PT Testing, with drill and ceremonies as the secondary activity.

4th Tuesday of the month is Promotions and Character Development Night. Cadets who have completed the requirements for promotion will be pinned with their new ranks and receive their certificate in a brief ceremony. The CAP-prescribed monthly, facilitated character forum will also be conducted. Milestone testing and review boards/feedback sessions might also be held. Cadets might also practice drill and ceremonies, time permitting.

5th Tuesday of the month (if one) is Fun Night. The evening will be usually spent in team-building exercises and fun activities unless we have some catching up to do.

Here’s a general outline of a Tuesday night:

6:15-6:30 p.m. — Cadets begin arriving and sign-in.

6:30-7:10 p.m. — Cadets and senior members form up outside for roll call and other preliminaries. There might be a short safety briefing on a seasonal topic or specific to the night’s activities. Cadets will drill for 30 minutes and then go inside for the evening’s activities


Main Activity: Each week we have a main activity such as a training class or presentation, team building activity, physical training, etc.

Secondary Activity: There might be a second activity after the main activity, such testing, another class, or a promotion ceremony.

While the cadets are doing their activities, senior members meet in a different area.

8:45 p.m. — Announcements are made — such as about upcoming events.

8:55 p.m. — Members reform outside, cadets are dismissed, and after returning the room to its original condition they may leave.

Can I stay at the meetings with my child?

Absolutely. Parents and visitors are always welcome to attend meetings and stay and watch what the cadets do.

What's expected of me?

Get your child to meetings and activities on time.

Ensure your child has a proper uniform and meets the grooming requirements.

Help your child complete required paperwork, such as permission forms.

What's expected of my child?

This is best expressed in the Cadet Oath:

I pledge to serve faithfully in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program and that I will attend meetings regularly, participate actively in unit activities, obey my officers, wear my uniform properly and advance my education and training rapidly to prepare myself to be of service to my community, state and nation.

Here's what we'd like to see in your cadet's first year, to get them started strong:

  • Attend weekly squadron meetings and at least 1 Saturday activity per month

  • Make their first promotion, the Curry Achievement, within 8 weeks of joining

  • Attend a week-long summer encampment

  • Earn the Wright Brothers Award within the first year

What about Flying?

Cadets are eligible for up to 10 free orientation flights (O-rides, five powered and five glider). O-rides take place in CAP-owned, single-engine planes flown by licensed CAP pilots, typically at the Gastonia Municipal Airport. During these flights, cadets learn the mechanics of the plane, how it operates, and are even given a chance to fly once in the air.

O-rides are a chance for cadets to experience flight hands-on and gain a better understanding of aviation. This is a fun experience that helps cadets learn the parts of an airplane, get the chance to fly, and often has a lasting impact on their love of aerospace.

What is Encampment?

During the summer cadets can go to a week-long, overnight “encampment, which is CAP's version of "boot camp.” New cadets attend as students, veteran cadets can attend as staff. Encampment is an immersion into a regimented environment and is the highlight of a cadet’s first year. Cadets learn and develop leadership skills, explore STEM and military careers, challenge themselves on obstacle courses, make friends, and have fun.

Graduating from encampment is required before a cadet can apply for other out-of-squadron activities that are offered each year.

North Carolina’s encampment is usually held at the Stanly County Air National Guard base near Albemarle, but cadets can apply to encampments held in other states. The cost for encampment is $100-$300, depending on the state, and financial assistance is usually available. For 2021, NC encampment is $250 and SC is $100.

How much is participating in CAP going to cost?

Annual dues are $40. The biggest initial expense is uniforms, and there are 2, but, the cadet doesn’t need both right away, and we might have pants, blouses, and other items in our supply closet. If you have to buy everything new for both uniforms, it can cost about $300. Boots are probably the most costly uniform expense.

The costs for weekend activities vary, depending on what we're doing. Many are no cost. If we're going somewhere we might ask for gas money, and your cadet will need money for food when we stop to eat.

Your cadet will eventually need a “24-hour pack” — a backpack of hiking/preparedness gear needed to survive in the wilderness for 24 hours. Even though a cadet might never go on a search and rescue mission, cadets undergo a lot of emergency services and search and rescue training, and the 24-hour pack is a key element of that. Cost is about $100.

How do cadets earn rank and get promoted?

The following is a simplified list, but basically, for each rank/promotion, cadets must:

  • Pass 1 or 2 online, open-book tests
  • Pass a drill (marching) test
  • Participate in a physical fitness “test” (there is no pass or fail for the first 3 promotions)
  • Participate actively in unit activities
  • 8 weeks (56 days) elapsed since previous promotion

If the above are met, the cadet gets promoted.

Safety and Supervision

We take safety very seriously and do not tolerate any form of abusive behavior or hazing. We have very detailed cadet supervision, safety, and risk management regulations. All adult members undergo FBI fingerprinting and background screenings and complete training in cadet protection and safety. Cadets complete a safety training course before they can earn their first stripe, and our squadron is regularly inspected for regulatory compliance by HQ.

What if I want to help or get more involved?

There are a few options.

  • If you want to participate in CAP activities with your cadet, consider joining as a Cadet Sponsor Member. You can chaperone, provide transportation, or supervise cadets during squadron activities, and can wear a CAP uniform if you want. You will have no official duties and won't earn rank. Some online training is required before you can participate in activities with cadets.
  • If you are interested in participating more fully, consider joining as a Senior Member. Senior members perform official CAP duties, participate in the activities of the unit, wear CAP uniforms, and earn rank.
  • A third choice is to become a Patron member. Patron members support CAP by paying annual dues, but they don't wear a CAP uniform or participate in CAP activities. They can attend meetings, CAP conferences, and squadron social functions.

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