Lessons learned at (military-style) summer camp

Civil Air Patrol's encampment teaches teens how to push themselves

July 20, 2010|By RACHAEL JOHNSON / Pulse correspondent

"Semper Vigilans" is the motto of the Civil Air Patrol. It means, in Latin, "Always Vigilant."

This motto played an important role in the West Virginia Wing Summer Encampment at Camp Dawson, because some of the activities can be quite dangerous.

After all, Camp Dawson, located near Kingwood, W.Va., is the training base for the West Virginia National Guard and Army Special Forces.

I'm a member of the Martinsburg Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol (CAP), based in Martinsburg, W.Va., since May. I currently hold the rank of cadet basic and plan to be promoted soon to cadet airman.


I want to go into the Air Force when I graduate from high school. So I joined CAP, which is an aviation-oriented volunteer organization for young men and women.

The encampment ran from June 25 through July 3. The encampment kicked off with a meeting on operation risk management. Then it was time for fun. Cadets learned how to tie a Swiss seat, which is a rope harness, and they used the harness to climb across a rope bridge in a relay.

On Monday, we learned about rocketry and built our own rockets. That same day a Black Hawk helicopter flew in to give the cadets an experience of a lifetime. They actually got a chance to ride in the helicopter. The day ended with a trip to the gun range on the base for a target-shooting competition.

The next day, the cadets also learned about teamwork on the Leadership Response Course (LRC). The LRC is a set of obstacles that require problem solving as well as physical strength. Some students braved a 60-foot descent from the top of a rappeling tower. Students weren't forced to rappel. Only volunteers were taken up.

I volunteered to rappel. The first step down from the top was the hardest because I had to trust the person at the bottom of the rope to hold it and keep me from falling. Then it was just one step at a time to get down.

One of our favorite activities was the Electronic Simulation Training (EST). It's kind of an electric gun range where cadets are put in different scenarios and you have to work as a team. Cadets went through combat missions and learned what is meant to have somebody's back.

Near the end of the training, the cadets went through an Army obstacle coarse. It took dedication to go from one obstacle to the next.

Cadets learned how to survive on land with little equipment. And we also learned how to survive in a life raft in the water with nearly 30 kids. Cadets had to jump out of the life raft and swim back to land.

The final day, cadets had a graduation from the encampment and marched in a parade where they were reviewed by the staff of the encampment.

It was a good learning experience and a chance to make new friends. We learned life lessons about teamwork, which we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

If you go ...

To learn more about Civil Air Patrol go to http://www.martinsburg Meetings are held from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at the 167th Air National Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va. For directions or more information, call 304-267-6403.

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