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Civil Air Patrol has rich history of selfless public service to communities

By Amy Millhorn Leonard • May 12, 2017 at 10:30 AM

In November 2016, a devastating fire traveled through the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg. Following that fire, many groups were on the ground cleaning up debris and sorting and distributing clothing and supplies to many of the affected families. One of those groups from the Tri-Cities was the Civil Air Patrol Unit SER-TN-004; a Composite Squadron based out of the Tri-Cities Airport.

Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary group of the United States Air Force made up of young men and women from ages 12 to 18 as cadets and seniors above the age of 18. Presently, this unit has almost 50 members. Required to wear two different uniforms, each member is subject to inspections and drills at meetings.

What else does the Civil Air Patrol do? They learn about aeronautics, aeronautical engineering, space travel and aviation including flying in planes and even training to be pilots themselves. Recently, they had the opportunity to fly on a KC135 refueling plane out of Knoxville and witness first-hand the in-air refueling of F-22 and F-15E fighter jets. Civil Air Patrol members can get a discounted, accelerated pilot training program.

Not only do Civil Air Patrol cadets learn leadership and other skills, they participate in exciting missions and events. The primary focus of the Civil Air Patrol is search and rescue missions. They are trained to be one of the first groups on-site after an aviation accident and are responsible for retrieving the black box of a downed aircraft for examination. Civil Air Patrol cadets are trained in survival and search and rescue. They are called upon in the search and rescue of lost or injured hikers in our mountainous areas and are trained to survive up to 72 hours in the wilderness themselves. Through the local health department and Red Cross, cadets receive first aid and CPR training and are on call to serve as ground-team support in disasters.

How would you fend off a cyber attack? Civil Air Patrol trains cadets and gives them the abilities in technology to protect themselves against cyber attacks and hacking. Once trained, they participate in competitions. Soon C.A.P. will incorporate drones and will have a certified drone instructor train cadets on how to fly and operate them.

Commander Lt. Col. Cory Siffring got involved with the Civil Air Patrol four years ago after one of his sons entered the program. He sought to help to instill leadership, self-worth and self-discipline into teens to expand their life direction and world mission. He feels strongly that, “This is the best leadership training school that exists with a real-world mission and training for it.” Presently, his sons are Cadet Commanders. He has been the Unit Commander for the last two years.

“The program instills self-sufficiency and self-discipline. Fifteen-year-olds train 12-year-olds how to take care of themselves and instead of achieving levels on a video game, cadets achieve real-life goals to help them in the future,” says the commander. Lt. Col. Siffring retired after 22 years in the Army Reserves, served three tours in Afghanistan and is a Level 1 trauma surgeon. He has seven children, two of whom are in C.A.P.

The unit raises funds annually by selling Christmas wreaths and placing them on the graves of soldiers at the V.A. Mountain Home. Cost of those wreaths are $15. Funds raised help them not only in the operations of the unit, but also with their yearly trips. Last year, the group visited Washington D.C., including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. They recently returned from a weekend trip to the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Awards and achievements in Civil Air Patrol include priority consideration for the Air Force Academy or other military academies. Scholarships are available for those who reach 1st and 2nd Lieutenant rank. Spaatz Cadet is the highest rank achievement and guarantees a spot at a military academy. During the summer, cadets can go to a training camp called Hawk Mountain Ranger Training School, located in Pennsylvania. There are nearly 100 different opportunities and all types and skill levels.

Civil Air Patrol SER-TN-004 meets on Mondays from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the main building room C2203 at Northeast State Community College. Their headquarters is in an adjacent hanger at Tri-Cities Airport. If this sounds like a program you would like to join, please visit a meeting or contact Deputy Commander 2nd Lt. Scott Foster at 423-741-9934 or email [email protected] You can also learn more about Civil Air Patrol online by visiting www.gocivilairpatrol.com/.

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