SPANISH FORK, Utah (ABC4 News) If you get lost hiking or your plane goes down, the Utah Civil Air Patrol could be the crew called in to help. Members of “CAP” say the jewel of their organization is their cadet program. The cadets aren’t just finding lost hikers. They’re finding themselves.
A plane missing out of Ogden downed in the Great Salt Lake, the exhaustive search for two missing teens from Juab County and the scramble to find a man in Summit County who went to get water to put out a campfire and disappeared.
Utah’s Civil Air Patrol has responded to all these incidents and many more like them. Among their personnel: civil air patrol cadets.
“We do a lot of lost hikers. Stuff like that. We’ll send out a ground team or we’ll send out a plane in the air,” said Cadet First Sergeant Lauren Shafor.
The cadets are young men and women 12 to 21 years old.
We first caught up with the cadets of the Utah County Wing’s “Phantom Squadron” at Spanish Fork airport, marshalling aircraft.
“That’s basically where you guide the planes to their parking spot,” said Cadet First Airman Barnett. You need to get those planes off the runway as fast as possible.”
It’s just a small part of what they do from teaching the greener cadets to field training exercises.
Cadet Staff Sergeant Alex Marzo helped lead a group of cadets, learning the skills they need to locate missing hikers or downed planes.
“Right now, he’s setting up our DF or direction finder antenna,” said Marzo.
With the antenna, the cadets track a beacon hidden in the hills and brush. It’s the same type of signal emitted by a downed plane.
“Get a compass bearing then come back, plot it out on the map. And see if we can get a direction.”
Once they have a direction, they form a line and head out, encountering a couple of hurdles along the way, but the cadets get back on track and find their objective.
The cadets reveal another thing they’re here to learn.
“I want to be a helicopter pilot,” said Marzo.
“I’m looking at firefighter pilot,” said Barnett.
“I want to get my pilot’s license. We can go fly. And I love being in the air,” said Shafor.
They’re well on their way to their goal.
CAP’s solo flight academy lasts 10 days. At the end of it, the cadet is piloting the aircraft alone.
“Like being scared. And being happy and excited all at the same time. :58 so if you’ve ever had anxiety. It’s like that. But on steroids. And you’re happy about it,” said Shafor.
The experience has changed them. Some of the cadets say they wouldn’t recognize who they were before CAP.
“I was in a bad space. I was angry all the time. My self-confidence really dropped,” said Barnett.
Cadet Airman First Class Barnett says she had lost one of her only purposes in life: playing tennis, being part of a team. It was her primary outlet.
“I was searching for something,” said Barnett.
She found CAP.
“With civil air patrol, it provides an outlet. Where I can be someone, I used to be on the tennis court which was a beast,” said Barnett.
“It’s not a club. It’s not a sport. It’s– we’re doing something. We’re advancing ourselves. We’re advancing our community. We’re getting stuff done,” said Shafor.
What’s next for the cadets. In December, they have a winter encampment. It’s a week of intense training and drills at the historic Wendover Base. For more information, visit http://www.utwg.cap.gov.