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Become a Cadet (Ages 12-18)

Civil Air Patrol cadets participate in a year-round program that focuses on leadership, aerospace education, fitness, and character development. Cadet members advance through a series of achievements, earning honors and increased responsibilities along the way. 

Cadets are better prepared to achieve their life and career goals through the leadership skills, self-confidence, and discipline they gain as CAP members.

Cadets are not obligated to join the military. However, wearing Air Force-style uniforms, observing military customs and courtesies, and learning drill and ceremonies are important features of the cadet experience that contribute to the enjoyment. For young people considering joining the military, joining CAP will help advance a military career (by entering at a higher grade) and can help with admissions to a military academy. Nearly 10% of each freshman class at the U.S. Air Force Academy is made up of Civil Air Patrol cadets.

Civil Air Patrol’s approach weaves the organization’s core values of integrity, volunteer service, excellence, and respect into cadet training programs. Adult leaders serve as role models, but cadets plan and manage activities and take on more leadership responsibility as they progress.

Youth may remain in the cadet program until their 21st birthday. They also have the option to transition to adult membership at age 18.

How to Join

Here are the easy steps to join the Civil Air Patrol cadet program:

1. Use the unit locator to find a local cadet or composite squadron. There may be more than one near you.

2. Contact the squadron and arrange to visit a meeting with your parents. Visit more than one squadron if you wish. 

3. Attend at least three weekly meetings.

4. Complete the application or ask your squadron if you are eligible to submit an online application. Payment options and the mailing address are listed on the last page of the application.

Some of the requirements to become a cadet member of Civil Air Patrol are:

  • Be at least 12 and not yet 19 years of age. 
  • Be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. (A lawfully admitted noncitizen residing in the U.S. may have this waived by National Headquarters.)
  • Attend at least three squadron meetings.
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