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Helping dreams take wing

July 03, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Ashley Wilson has sky-high dreams.

The Jefferson High School student hopes to enroll in the United State Air Force Academy, obtain her pilot's license and become an emergency doctor while serving her country for at least eight years in the Air Force.

Wilson, 17, said she joined the local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) unit in part because it offered her a chance to fly.

Wilson and the other members of the local CAP unit were the subject of a proclamation unanimously approved by the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday, making July 4-11 Civil Air Patrol Cadet Week. Along with 24 young cadets like Wilson, the unit has 47 senior members.

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Since attending her first meeting more than three years ago, Wilson said she has flown in the CAP's single-engine Cessna plane several times, and in a glider once.

"It's a feeling like no other to be out in the air," she said.

Wilson said the unit makes its members more rounded and teaches leadership skills, which she said she obtained teaching younger cadets how to march.

Wilson also enjoys the support system she has found and the camaraderie, saying that she and other friends she has made sometimes get together even when the group is not meeting.

"I've pretty much enjoyed every minute of it," Wilson said.

Nationally, the CAP was founded in December 1941, days before Pearl Harbor was attacked, with the local chapter formed in 1943. CAP's mission during World War II was to keep an eye on the nation's coastlines, and CAP pilots are credited with sinking two German submarines off the coast, said Russell G. Voelker, a second lieutenant with the local CAP unit.

A civilian auxiliary branch of the Air Force, CAP has searched for possible downed planes, and assists with search and rescue operations for missing people.

"The Civil Air Patrol members serve our nation through grass-roots volunteerism, provide emergency services, mentor young people and educate the public right in their own communities, and devote their time and resources to make each of our communities - and ultimately our nation - better places to live and work and raise our families," part of the resolution reads.

Cadets learn the importance of personal integrity, accountability, self-discipline and respect for others, Voelker said.

CAP members pick up trash along Paynes Ford Road as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program and help at the annual Berkeley County Youth Fair. This September, cadets likely will assist with an air show scheduled to be held at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

"They learn how to respect each other," Voelker said. "They work together as a team. They learn all kinds of information about emerging technology."

Work is supplemented with fun.

Cadets learn to launch small rockets and take field trips. The 167th Airlift Wing recently took a group to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio aboard a C-130 cargo plane.

Several finished an encampment on Saturday at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, W.Va.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Voelker was a member of the local CAP unit, followed by a four-year stint with the Air Force. He said fond memories of his time as a cadet prompted him to resume his involvement as a volunteer senior member.

The CAP unit meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing base.

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