Civil Air Patrol cadets get their wings

Civil Air Patrol Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Cole Pinther speaks with fellow cadets at a recent meeting at Minden Tahoe Airport.
Civil Air Patrol Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Cole Pinther speaks with fellow cadets at a recent meeting at Minden Tahoe Airport.

by Joey Crandall,

Commonly, the Civil Air Patrol, Air Force Auxiliary is known for its efforts in search and rescue missions.

What many don’t know is that the nationwide organization is three-fold in its purpose. Yes, search and rescue is a primary mission.  But Civil Air Patrol is also based on cadet programs and aerospace education.

Locally, the Douglas County squadron of Civil Air Patrol Nevada Wing is a composite unit – meaning it combines adult senior members and teen cadets, who can range in age from 12 to 21.

This year two local cadet officers have been quite busy on a number of fronts.

Carson Valley residents Cole Pinther, 16, and Grant Swift, 16, both recently earned their pilot’s wings, successfully testing for glider certification. They also both attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

The cadet program allows participants to embark on a 16-step process that includes aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness and moral leadership.

Cadets compete for academic scholarships to further studies in fields such as engineering, science, aircraft mechanics, aerospace medicine, meteorology, as well as many others. Cadets who earn cadet officer status may enter the Air Force as an E3 (airman first class) rather than an E1 (airman basic).

“What drew me to Civil Air Patrol was what I want to do in my career, which is applying to the Naval Academy and pushing that direction,” Pinther, a junior at Douglas High, said. “CAP was a more unique way to approach it, I thought, than something like a JROTC program at the high school.

“I thought it had some good practical uses.”

Similarly, Swift is aiming for a service academy down the road. He was introduced to the Air Force Academy last summer, thanks to a week-long Civil Air Patrol special activity.

2nd Lieutenant Grant Swift teaches a lesson on creative thinking during a recent Civil Air Patrol meeting at the Minden Tahoe Airport.
2nd Lieutenant Grant Swift teaches a lesson on creative thinking during a recent Civil Air Patrol meeting at the Minden Tahoe Airport.

“I want to go to the Air Force Academy,” he said. “They took us around Colorado Springs, and I was able to attend what they call the advanced technologies academy. They taught us about some cool technologies and I was just able to experience so many cool things that I wouldn’t have been able to experience anywhere else.”

Swift said he first joined Civil Air Patrol because he thought it would help further his aspirations of one day becoming a paramedic.

“I wanted to do search and rescue, and my dad works for the fire department and he knew of this program,” Swift said. “I joined up and absolutely loved it. But, as I progressed, I realized it wasn’t at all just about search and rescue. It was about leadership and character development and aerospace education.”

He wound up obtaining his glider certification through Soaring Nevada.

“It’s long and it is a very hard process, but it is definitely attainable if you really want to accomplish it,” he said. “I was completely hooked from my first glider ride.”

Swift said he had his first solo flight essentially sprung on him at the last minute.

“My instructor hooked the glider up to the tow plane and shut the canopy and didn’t get back in,” Swift said. “I was really surprised and asked if I was going solo. He said yes.

“Everything about that flight was flawless. It was an amazing feeling. The takeoff, the tow, the release, the landing, it was all crisp and smooth. I loved it. I’ve done about seven flights since and have more than 25 hours in the air. There’s a lot left to learn still.”

Pinter said he was similarly awed by his first flight.

“The first one, that was just about the scariest thing ever,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve always really liked airplanes, and my dad has flown me around. With gliders, you are really able to hone your skills. I was super nervous the first time I got in. Once we were off and I started to fly all around, I knew this was for me. It was definitely a really fun experience.”

Pinther said he has about 20 hours in the air and close to 100 flights.

Both officer said the path to 2nd Lieutenant was long and difficult. Both had to complete a battery of tests in a variety of disciplines along the way and culminated with a comprehensive testing session.

Civil Air Patrol meets every Tuesday night at the Minden Tahoe Airport from 6:30 to 8:3o p.m.

Currently, the Douglas County squadron has 35 senior members and 19 cadets. Anyone potential cadets interested in joining can just show up to a weekly meeting.

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