Cadet Program FAQ

How old do I have to be?

Cadets can join at 12 years old, but must join before their 19th birthday and may stay a cadet until their 21st birthday.

What are the expectations after I join?


The squadron has weekly meetings on Tuesday nights. We expect Cadets to attend regularly, but we understand that CAP isn't a Cadet's only priority. That's why we ask that if you're not going to attend a meeting, you communicate that with your Cadet leadership through your chain-of-command.


Cadets are expected to progress through the Cadet grade structure as they participate in the program. Progression through the Cadet grades will come with gradual increases in responsibility for other Cadets and projects. The program is designed to be self-paced, and Cadets should target their senior year of high school for completion of their promotion goals, and must complete at least two Cadet achievements per year.

Communication and Email

Cadets are expected to communicate with their leadership, and do so promptly and respectfully. A very important part of this is simply answering phone calls and emails, which come from leaders trying to help Cadets or give them opportunities and information. Reading emails, returning phone calls, and following through don't sound exciting, but it's what enables the program to function.

Uniform and Grooming Standards

CAP Cadets have the privilege of wearing the same uniform as the United States Air Force. This privilege was earned during CAP's service in World War II, and continues to this day. CAP Cadets are expected to wear the uniform properly at all times. This means ironing shirts, shining shoes, tying ties, and maintaining insignia. In addition, Cadets must meet grooming standards while in uniform. Males must be clean-shaven and their hair must be tapered, and may not touch their ears or have excessive bulk.

Do Cadets need to have a high-and-tight haircut? No, but they must maintain a professional appearance in uniform. Females may wear their hair in a neat bun or may wear their hair down if it does not touch their collar.

Military Customs and Courtesies

Cadets observe proper military customs and courtesies while in uniform. This means speaking to superiors respectfully and proudly, and means saluting and referring to other members by their appropriate title. This same level of respect is extended down from higher ranking members as well.

Core Values

Finally, but most importantly, CAP Members are expected to abide by CAP's core values of Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence, and Respect. These basic tenets form the backbone of our organization.

How much does membership cost?

There are two sets of annual dues for members of McChord Composite Squadron.


$33 for national Cadet dues, payable to CAP NHQ

Senior Members

$65 for national Senior Member dues, payable to CAP NHQ

How does a Cadet get a Uniform?

Once you join, you'll want to get into uniform as quickly as possible.

CAP has a uniform program where cadets receive a voucher to receive up to $100 in free merchandise from Vanguard, CAP's uniform and insignia provider. This program helps provide many uniform items, but sometimes not all of them. Whenever possible, our squadron will provide utility uniforms (such as ABUs) from supplied donated to the squadron from military members.

Other sources for uniform items include online surplus retailers, the McChord Thrift Store, and the Air Force Clothing Sales Department at the McChord Base Exchange.

Can I learn to fly in CAP?

Civil Air Patrol Cadets can earn up to a solo pilot rating in Civil Air Patrol gliders and powered aircraft, with CAP instructors. Scholarships are available for cadets to earn powered private-pilot instruction beyond this level. Cadets may also meet up with flight instructors through CAP and work toward becoming a private pilot at significantly reduced cost.

Instruction up to private glider pilot can be given in CAP gliders. There is also a national balloon pilot activity at which Cadets can learn to fly hot air balloons (primarily in the Southwestern United States). Cadets won't usually begin this level of flight instruction immediately. Slots at flight training activities are competitive, so Cadets need to progress in the Cadet Program and must meet the minimum age requirements of 14 for gliders and 16 for powered aircraft. However, cadets are encouraged to start glider and powered orientation flights as soon as they join, with no minimum age.

I'm not interested in flying, is CAP really for me?

CAP is a great organization for young people with a wide variety of aspirations. Many CAP Cadets have limited or no interest in flying, but have equally rewarding Cadet careers because of the range of activities available to them.

I've heard that CAP is chartered by the US Congress and part of the US Air Force, what is CAP's purpose?

What you've heard is true, CAP has an interesting relationship with Congress and the US Air Force. Civil Air Patrol is a Congressionally-chartered 501c3 corporation. We are also considered an auxiliary of the United States Air Force, when performing certain specific Air Force assigned missions. Most of the time, though, CAP operates as a private organization, not as an extension of the Air Force. We do, however, have the privileges of wearing the Air Force uniform, mirroring the Air Force grade structure, and utilizing military training facilities and resources.

Do I have to stay at the meeting with my Cadet?

Parents are always welcome to stay and observe meetings and activities, but it's absolutely not required. We have a team of FBI-screened volunteer professionals who ensure the Cadets are properly supervised during CAP activities.

How can I support the Cadet in my family?

Families play an important role in a Cadet's success in CAP. These are some things you can do to help your Cadet succeed:

The first and foremost thing you can do is learn a bit about the program by reading the Parent's Guide to CAP and orienting yourself with the New Cadet Guideand Stripes to Diamonds, which lays out the basic structure of the Cadet Program and promotion system. It's critical that a Cadet tackles all of their promotion requirements, uniform preparation, and testing on their own so that they develop a sense of pride and ownership in their successes, but it can be very helpful for younger, new Cadets to have someone at home who knows what they're supposed to be working on between meetings. Their Cadet leaders will also be keeping track of their progress.

Parents can also help reinforce good communication and our chain of command. Most Cadets will be accustomed to the way things work at their school: they'll go immediately to a parent or adult if they have a question or need to take care of an administrative item. Though our adult members are happy to help Cadets, every Cadet has another Cadet as a supervisor who they should be using as their first point of contact for almost everything. Many new Cadets aren't yet comfortable trusting people near their own age to take care of these things, and would rather have their parent solve their issue by talking to an adult in the unit. Likewise, some parents will want to get answers to their Cadets' questions from another adult, thinking it will get them the best and fastest answer. However, we want to ensure that our younger Cadets are learning good communication skills, and that their Cadet leaders have the chance to handle Cadet questions and other leadership responsibilities. In fact, there are many things that Cadets will be more expert with than the unit's adults. If a Cadet is going to miss a meeting, has a question, or needs help, parents should encourage them to contact their Cadet Element Leader or Cadet Flight Sergeant, who will be capable and glad to help.

Because CAP is a non-profit organization, funding for day-to-day unit activities is raised by each local unit. This funding goes towards facility rental, activity scholarships, activity materials, and office supplies. Local CAP units gladly accept donations to help fund our operations, and in-kind donations of certain kinds of supplies. You can talk to the Squadron Commander for more information about donations.

Last, but certainly not least, parents who have time to contribute may want to consider Senior or Sponsor Membership in Civil Air Patrol. You can read more about this in the Adult Membership section above.