Zophia Raleigh, 15, and Ryan Malcomi, 17, know there are kids in their schools who use drugs. Raleigh can tell by the way they are acting when they come in on a Monday morning.
A group of 39 cadets from eight different Civil Air Patrol squadrons camped out at Blaine City Hall from the evening of Nov. 16 through the morning of Nov. 17 to become more educated on what is out there and the dangers of drug use, according Capt. George Supan, a public affairs officer for the Anoka County squadron.
The Civil Air Patrol’s cadets program is for those who are between the ages of 12 and 21, so many are middle school and high school students and have to handle peer pressure, said Malcomi, who lives in Woodbury and is a cadet first lieutenant in the St. Croix (Wis.) Composite Squadron’s cadets program.
“This is about bettering ourselves and making sure we make the best choices,” said Raleigh, who lives in Blaine and is a cadet second lieutenant in the Anoka County Composite Squadron’s cadets program.
The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The Anoka County squadron is one of 22 throughout the state and the largest as well, according to Supan.
Anoka County’s squadron has 113 members, which includes the senior and cadet members. There are 1,400 members statewide in this volunteer program.
If a plane goes down, the Air Force provides a van and plane to the local squadron so it can assist in the recovery and rescue efforts. Various educational programs held at the local airport are part of the educational duties local squadrons take on, according to Maj. Shelly Supan of the Anoka County Composite Squadron.
The third component of the Civil Air Patrol is its cadets program where young people are introduced to aviation through a 16-step program that includes aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness and moral leadership.
Cadets are also able to compete for academic scholarships as they further their studies in fields such as engineering, science, aircraft mechanics, aerospace medicine and meteorology.
The drug demand reduction (DDR) program that was held overnight at Blaine City Hall is just one of the programs cadets go through to become stronger people and thus stronger leaders.
A drug enforcement officer gave the cadets the cold, hard facts about what is out there and the dangers of drug use. He showed pictures of people who are methamphetamine addicts to show how decrepit their bodies become.
Maj. Supan said some cadets have dreams of joining the Air Force. Those who earn cadet officer status may enter the Air Force as an E3 (airman first class) rather than an E1 (airman basic), which means higher pay.
The cadets program provides young students an opportunity to decide if military service is right for them before they sign on the dotted line.
“A lot of cadets who think about the military like to come to us because we’re a volunteer organization so you can leave at any time,” Maj. Supan said.
Others may want to work in law enforcement, so this drug education program would have been a good opportunity for them to find out what some police officers do. A Blaine police officer conducted a fake arrest of a cadet member to show the others what happens when someone is placed under arrest. The officer brought the cadet to the city jail, fingerprinted him and briefly locked him up.
Some cadets sign up for the adventure and social experience and have no plans to join the Air Force or become a police officer, Maj. Supan said. Parents are encouraged to be involved, and there are some instances where full families are participating in the training.
According to Maj. Supan, the DDR evening was organized by herself, Raleigh and Jim Schilling, who is a Civil Air Patrol first lieutenant and a detective with the Blaine Police Department. Their goal was to make the event as enjoyable as possible and not just lecture the cadets.
For one activity, cadets had to put on goggles that blurred their vision and made them feel like they were drunk or on drugs. They rode a tricycle around a group of cones. Of course, their vision was compromised so many did a poor job completing this challenge.
The joy of opening up a Hershey’s Kisses piece of candy was taken away when they had to wear winter gloves to accomplish this task. This activity was meant to illustrate how motor skills diminish when a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Raleigh said.
The senior Civil Air Patrol members at one point in the evening were called out for a real emergency, according to Maj. Supan. An emergency local transmitter (ELT) was going off and had to be located.
Maj. Supan said they went to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport whßere the Anoka County squadron’s plane is located, but were ordered to stand-by before they took off because another plane had located the source of the signal.
Maj. Supan said ELTs can be set off if the plane crashes, if the landing is rough or if the plane owner did not replace low batteries. There was thankfully no crash in this case. They later returned to Blaine City Hall to rejoin the cadets.
How to join the cadets
The Anoka County cadets meet every Tuesday evening and there are training opportunities most weekends, Maj. Supan said, but everyone can choose to be as involved as they want to be.
She would like to see more adults volunteer for the Civil Air Patrol and more young people try out the cadets program.
Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan would love to see the Anoka County squadron in a new, larger building. He said the group has been raising money to get this accomplished. It currently meets at a building at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport and it leases hangar space for its plane.
“They do great work,” Ryan said. “They have a real purpose for our city, our county and our state.”
To find out more information or if you are interested in joining the Civil Air Patrol or its cadet program, visit www.anokacap.com or call 651-291-0462.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org