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CAP cadets train as pilots

A class of 30 Civil Air Partol cadets graduated from a week-long immersion course at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 16, 2017. Cadets in the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Familiarization Course experienced a condensed version of what actual pilot trainees at Laughlin go through in their 52-week training. Those who attended the SUPT-FC had an opportunity to learn emergency procedures, flying patterns, weather analysis and flight simulation just like a Laughlin pilot would. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin N. Valmoja)

A class of 30 Civil Air Partol cadets graduated from a week-long immersion course at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 16, 2017. Cadets in the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Familiarization Course experienced a condensed version of what actual pilot trainees at Laughlin go through in their 52-week training. Those who attended the SUPT-FC had an opportunity to learn emergency procedures, flying patterns, weather analysis and flight simulation just like a Laughlin pilot would. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin N. Valmoja)

Cadet Lester Dewalt, Civil Air Patrol cadet, focuses during a flight simulation at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 14, 2017. Dewalt was part of a class of 30 cadets who attended a week-long pilot training immersion.  Part of the course covered flight simulation, which the cadets spent two days training on the same simulators Laughlin pilots use. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin N. Valmoja)

Cadet Lester Dewalt, Civil Air Patrol cadet, focuses during a flight simulation at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 14, 2017. Dewalt was part of a class of 30 cadets who attended a week-long pilot training immersion. Part of the course covered flight simulation, which the cadets spent two days training on the same simulators Laughlin pilots use. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin N. Valmoja)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

A class of 30 Civil Air Patrol cadets graduated from a week-long immersion course at Laughlin Air Force Base, June 16, 2017.

The Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Familiarization Course (SUPT-FC) is a rigorous course designed to allow top high-school-aged cadets from across the nation an opportunity to experience some training that aspiring U.S. Air Force pilot trainees endure.

Material that real beginning pilots receive, like emergency procedures (boldface), flying patterns, weather analysis and even flight simulation, are all topics covered in the comprehensive class. In fact, the cadets memorized the same boldface Laughlin’s T-6 student pilots are required to learn.

Elizabeth Stegman, a parent of a cadet that attended the class, said the program was nothing short of amazing.

“The experience, expectations and accountability placed on the students is just astonishing,” said Stegman. “They have insight here that most people wouldn’t get until after they finished four years at the Air Force Academy. And here they are in high school getting the same kind of exposure.”

Students, like Cadet Leilani Schroeder, a distinguished graduate from the program, saw this program as a way to prepare for future goals.

“I’ve always been interested in space and aviation,” said Schroeder. “This made me see what it’s like to be a pilot in training here. It’s a glimpse of what’s hopefully my future.”

For Schroeder, this is the beginning to a long career, where becoming a pilot is just the first step. She plans on becoming a test pilot, and from there moving on to become an astronaut.

Most of Schroeder’s classmates have similar aspirations of becoming future U.S. Air Force aviators. For Cadet William Sawyer, CAP cadet, he has dreams of one day becoming an Air Force pilot.

“When I was looking on the CAP website, this was the closest thing I could find to pilot training, so I jumped on it,” said Sawyer.

While this program is based on aviation, it’s more than that. Cadets will have obtained the necessary skills needed to be an effective Airman and contributor to society. Developing influential leaders of tomorrow is a major expectation cadets and their families have for this program, because not every cadet aspires to tackle a career in aviation.

Stegman, also wife to a retired Air Force pilot, said one of the strong points of the program is that it also allows those who decide pilot training isn’t for them a chance to adjust their plan.

“If this wasn’t their cup of tea, they now have years to make life decisions as opposed to after the academy and starting pilot training,” said Stegman. “That’s fantastic. When [the cadets] leave here, they have a whole new perspective on everything.”

According to Stegman, at the end of the course, the cadets’ families see a transformation: one of confidence and leadership.

“If you have an opportunity [to attend the program], jump for it,” she said. “It’s worth more than gold.”

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