News: Civil Air Patrol cadets experience growth spurt at encampment
Story by 2nd Lt. Christian Venhuizen
CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. – Lt. Col. Heather Gould, of Sheridan, Wyo., is closing in on retirement from her duties in the Civil Air Patrol.
For the past two years, she commanded CAP cadets during the Wyoming Wing’s summer encampment, a week-long basic training program used by the CAP, at the Wyoming National Guard’s Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center.
“It’s always a thrill to see a bunch of scrappy looking 12-year-olds come in, and then leave here looking squared away, with more leadership potential than what they came with,” Gould said, from her operations center at the camp.
For the past six years, she’s worn the battle dress uniform with blue name tapes, trained to assist when disaster strikes.
“I always tell people, ‘If you can succeed in the CAP, you can succeed in just about anything,’” she said.
In the fall, she will enter the University of Wyoming as a freshman, studying on an U.S. Air Force ROTC scholarship.
Gould is a cadet lieutenant colonel. She graduated from high school just a few months before. Like the cadets she’s helping to mentor, Gould began as a scruffy 12-year-old.
“When I was 12, I just needed something to do,” she said, her posture and mannerisms similar to the soldiers and airmen training at the base. “I went to my basic encampment in 2005 and since then, I’ve been to one every summer.”
In the CAP, the summer encampment represents a mixture of basic training and summer camp for its cadet program, ages 12-18-years-old. This particular encampment began Aug. 2.
The first trip through the encampment teaches basic drill and ceremony, physical fitness, leadership, followership, and more. Subsequent encampments allow cadets to develop their abilities by serving as cadet staff members.
“It’s a chance to let [the cadets] know what CAP is all about,” Maj. BJ Carlson, the adult encampment supervisor, said. “They’re fun, the ones that are really dedicated are so much fun to teach because they are interested in absorbing the knowledge.”
Cadet Senior Airmen Mark Gruschka, 15, came to the Wyoming encampment from Belmont, Calif. This encampment is his first, marking the end of his first year in the CAP. He said he wanted to have the best experience, so he did some research online.
“I looked at the dates and Wyoming seemed to have a very good reputation,” Gruschka said, noting the C-130 Hercules and military helicopter orientation flights helped convince him. “So far, it’s excellent.”
The first-year cadet joined CAP because of his interest in the aerospace component of the program and his aspirations for an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. In the mean time, he said he will recruit more California cadets to come to Wyoming.
“I’m going to tell them, if anyone has the ability to make it out [to Camp Guernsey], they should definitely try out this encampment,” he said.
The Wyoming Wing utilizes the military training facilities, barracks and dining halls the soldiers and airmen use. That includes using computerized marksmanship training, and flying in aircraft at the Guernsey Army Airfield.
Cadet Tech. Sgt. Shelby Sterling has also been in for just over a year. Unlike Gruschka, Camp Guernsey is just 30 minutes away from the 16-year-old’s Wheatland, Wyo., home.
While she said she would like to travel the world someday, Sterling smiled when she talked about the fun she’s having, learning about the Civil Air Patrol.
Team-building games, mixed with physical training and positive classroom environments are positives for her. “They’re all kind of goofy,” she said of her instructors. “It’s like having them give the class, but they’re trying to make it fun.”
Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Cromer, of Wellington, Colo., is in his second year in the CAP. The 17-year-old high school senior said he’ll likely remain with the organization, entering into the search and rescue division while in college.
“I enjoy the physical fitness. I enjoy learning new things. I enjoy doing something most other kids my age don’t do or don’t know about,” Cromer said.
As for the encampment, his goals included becoming more proficient at drill and ceremony, running squadron meetings and developing a better sense of respect for senior officers. “And this [encampment] is teaching me. Now I know how to drill my flight more accurately.”
Cromer also said he loves the food served by the dining facility at the encampment, despite not being allowed to eat the pastries. “The Wyoming encampment has been a very good learning experience and I think more people should come.”