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Civil Air Patrol members salute a fellow member.

DECATUR — Benjamin Lindsey, 16, loves aviation. So to jump-start what could be an adventurous life, he joined the cadet program with the Civil Air Patrol Decatur Flight. He said his experience with the U.S. Air Force auxiliary now can be important later.

“You can reach the rank of second lieutenant. That gets you E3 in the Air Force," he said. 

The cadet program, designed for those 12-18, teaches the differences in ranks as well as the important military disciplines. The group meets from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays at the Business Center of Decatur, 2121 S. Imboden Court.

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Civil Air Patrol members perform a marching drill Tuesday at the Business Center in Decatur. The group utilizes Air Force techniques to focus on emergency services.

Self-discipline and better behavior are some of the benefits. “It helps them in school too,” said 1st Lt. Bruce Haubner. “The more they learn here, the more than can take back to school.”

The students are not obligated to join the military after they finish the course. “We are a non-military program, but we are based on the military,” Haubner said.

Makayla Curce, 16, has no plans to join the service after she graduates from high school in two years, but instead plans to be surgeon. She knew she would have to be able to communicate well with others. She decided to join as CAP cadet three years ago to gain confidence and to be a better leader. “That can help me get further in life,” she said.

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Civil Air Patrol member Makayla Curce leads the group during drills.

When she began the program, she was one of the lowest ranking cadets. Curce has since climbed the ranks to become a cadet commander, one of the higher positions. “It has taught me how to lead and teach other people,” she said. “I’ve made a small impact. Well, it is a small impact here, but it can go on to be greater things.”

CAP utilizes the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program, or STEM, in the classroom setting. Some of the projects they have been involved in include a flight simulator, astronomy, robotics and rocketry.

“We try to teach kids about flying, spacecraft and science technology and different courses of flight,” Haubner said. “And the Air Force pays for all this stuff.”

A yearly fee of $35 is required. 

Ben Manley, deputy commander with the Civil Air Patrol Decatur Flight, said the children and parents like CAP because of the discipline. “The kids seem to enjoy it a lot,” he said. “You wouldn’t think they would, but they enjoy it more than they realize.”

Mark Uy, 12, is the youngest cadet in the Decatur program. He joined seven months ago with plans to enlist in the Navy. “It is pretty fun,” he said. “I like the drills. It is kind of like P.E.”

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First Lt. Bruce Haubner watches drills for the Civil Air Patrol members Tuesday at the Business Center in Decatur.  

CAP was founded in 1941 as an auxiliary of the Air Force. “They sounded the sirens and told people to turn their lights off,” Haubner said. “It evolved to flying off the coast to look for German subs.”

The cadet program developed into a course in which youth will be able to fly, lead, hike and camp as well as push themselves to achieve goals.

The Decatur program began in 1982. Haubner joined three years later at 16 years old. His experience gave him the motivation to join the Air Force.

Sixteen-year-old Dylan Clark hopes to follow in his footsteps by joining the Air Force or the Navy. Clark joined CAP less than a month ago because the program gives him opportunities to use math and science, subjects he has always found easy.

“But this will look good on applications,” he said. “It will give us a leg up.”

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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