Yesterday the newest AZWG squadron, the Eloy Composite Squadron 131, celebrated its official grand opening. During the meeting the squadron was presented with its CAP charter and then 11 of its cadets were promoted to Airman.
The meeting was attended by Lt Col Robert Pinckard, Vice Wing Commander, and Capt Jeffrey Lantiser, West Sector Commander. Cadets from Squadron 305 provided color guard. Squadron 304 was represented by Cadets Zaengle and Kottraba.
C/CMSgt Zaengle served as the activity sergeant and assisted the parents of the cadets in pinning on their new insignia. C/Capt Jacob Kottraba presided over the cadet promotion ceremony and was asked to give the keynote address. (The text of the keynote address is below.)
It was a great evening. Congratulations to Squadron 131 on joining the Wing and to the cadets for becoming Airman!
“Good evening everyone, I’m C/1st Lt Jacob Kottraba, and I’m honored to be here to take part in this first promotion ceremony of the new Eloy Composite Squadron.
There are 21 promotions that cadets can earn in Civil Air Patrol, which are grouped into 4 phases.
Phase 1 begins when you become Airman and ends once you become Staff Sergeant. In Arizona Wing almost 3/4 of the cadets are in Phase 1 with you. And overall, about 6% of cadets have the rank of Staff Sergeant.
From there, the promotions only get harder. With more challenging tests and activities you have to do all the way through the rank of Cadet Colonel, although less than 1/2 of 1% ever make it that far.
But no matter how far a cadet goes we all started where you are today, as Cadet Airman.
When you get your ranks pinned on tonight, you’re not only earning your first promotion, but you’re also taking the first step in your journey with Civil Air Patrol. Transitioning from a normal teenager to someone who stands out from the crowd. Your promotion will also mark the beginning of your leadership training, helping to further develop your character so that hopefully one day that training will help you achieve whatever you want from life.
Perhaps the hardest part of this promotion is the transition in the world of CAP in general. From learning drill, to customs and courtesies, learning how to wear the uniform properly, and participating in weekly meetings can be a challenge to most airman, especially for ones that didn’t grow up in a military family.
But remember throughout all of your challenges, that every cadet, no matter their rank, has been through the same thing that you’re currently going through.
I remember when I earned Airman in December of 2015. Our squadron at the time had a lot of high ranking cadets who had a lot of experience in Civil Air Patrol. Despite having a uniform and being in the program for a couple months, I felt like an outsider. The world of CAP was still a little weird for me and I was a still a little unsure of what was happening in the weekly meetings. But one thing I knew for sure was when I was finally able to pin on my new insignia, I felt like I finally belonged. I was not only a real part of my squadron, but having earned the Curry I was now a part of a team of thousands that stretches all across the country and goes back for decades. I was now an Airman.
To become an Airman, you all had to study Chapter 1 of Learn to Lead. It’s an important chapter because this chapter explains all the fundamentals of leadership that are so important, yet are so easy to forget. The chapter explains that:
“The first step in this journey is learning how to lead yourself.”
Think about what that means. To me, its meaning is described in another quote from Chapter 1:
“Learn how to contribute to a team, how to wear the uniform, how to drill, and how to follow the guidance of the leaders above you. Work hard. Take your leadership seriously. Rise to the challenge represented by the Air Force uniform you wear.”
As you’re making your way up the ranks in CAP, please don’t forget anything from Chapter 1.
I’ve learned that you can try to go through Civil Air Patrol by just checking off boxes towards your next promotion. That’s how I did it when I was an airman. But if I were able to do it all over again, I would’ve stayed as an airman longer learning followership, and as a sergeant learning direct leadership. Because learning these things from the people above you, and passing it down to the people below you, really gives you the best experience in Civil Air Patrol.
Before I finish I’d like to give everyone a little background on who this award’s named after, Major General John F. Curry.
General Curry was the first national commander of Civil Air Patrol, and was the leader of Civil Air Patrol during WW2, a time when many citizens were looking for ways to help the war effort. General Curry built a force of 100,000 “flying minutemen” from all across the nation, who took on jobs that the military didn’t have the time or ability to complete. These people flew aerial search missions, towed targets for the Navy, and searched the Atlantic seaboard for Nazi submarines. This was the original Civil Air Patrol that you are now apart of.
There’s so many things Civil Air Patrol can offer you. From the weekly Squadron meetings, to the wing Encampment held every year. From activities all across the wing, to National Cadet Special Activities, CAP offers so much for everybody, and tonight you take that first step with your Airman promotion, and start your journey with Civil Air Patrol.