Teen takes flight with Civil Air Patrol


Flying planes, landing planes (watch for deer on the runway), searching for downed planes, rescuing pilots ...

No, it isn't a new video game. This is what one teen has experienced in the Civil Air Patrol.

Alex Keefe, 15, of Martinsburg, W.Va., has been a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol for more than a year.

Meeting him for the first time, Alex seems different from other 15-year-olds. He has an air of confidence about him and is polite. Alex says he credits the CAP for many of his attributes

"The CAP has helped me to develop self-discipline," he says, "and gives me a chance to become a professional at what I do."

Helping the Air Force

The Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, according to 2nd Lt. Russell Voelker, public affairs officer with Martinsburg Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.


"It is a nonprofit organization with more than 57,000 members nationwide," Voelker says. "CAP volunteers perform 95 percent of U.S. inland search and rescue missions. (And) there's no military obligation involved."

But each year, Voelker says, 10 percent of the freshman class at the U.S. Air Force Academy is made up of former CAP cadets.

Cadets - young CAP members - take part in aviation, aerospace and rescue activities and training, including survival training and leadership training.

"We usually meet once a week, sometimes doing trips like going to the aerospace museum," Alex says.

This is fun, but Alex also likes the people he meets.

"I like the Civil Air Patrol because it gives me a chance to meet new people who also love aviation," he says.

There are also other benefits, according to Voelker.

Hallmarks of the Civil Air Patrol are scholarships - more than $100,000 annually - for training and flying.

A chance to fly

Although Alex doesn't have a driver's license for a car, he has flown planes.

"(Private instructors) just took me up and I started off doing turns in the air," he says. "I have flown a Cessna 182 out of Martinsburg Regional Airport. I love to fly!"

Alex said one of his scariest moments almost resulted in a collision.

"I was practicing landing, and right when we were about to touch down, there was a deer right in front of us, right in the middle of the runway!" he says. "We were going about 80 miles an hour, and I had to put the plane in full throttle and pull up quickly to start again."

Proud to serve

Alex helped design the squadron patch for cadets' battle dress uniforms, the cadets' camouflage U.S. Air Force uniform.

"It is a patch that represents the Martinsburg Civil Air Patrol," he said. "I like the fact that I am wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force and I am able to serve my country."

Meetings open to teens

According to 2nd Lt. Russell Voelker, interested people must be between the ages of 12 and 21 to become a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. Voelker encourages teens to come to a couple of weekly meetings before applying. The application must be signed by a parent or legal guardian and be accompanied by a signed physician's certificate. Annual dues for the program are $25.

Contact Voelker at 1-304-267-6403 or e-mail him at For information on the Hagerstown CAP unit, contact Lt. Col. Barry McNew at 1-717-762-2962.

Information also is available on the CAP Web site at

The Herald-Mail Articles