NextGen Aerospace Professionals Published June 8, 2021 By Airman 1st Class Jessica Haynie 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The Mississippi Civil Air Patrol experienced drastic declines in cadet attendance due to the global COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2019. Mississippi CAP has named a new commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Mims, retired, who has been on a mission to increase numbers within the units. One strategy is introducing more technological advancements within the squadrons. Mims hopes that the added innovation will encourage the younger population to become the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) professionals. Upon his assumption of command, Mims has traveled to various CAP squadrons around the state of Mississippi to share his plans for the future of the organization post COVID-19. Part of his strategy includes the purchase of unmanned aerial drones so that each CAP Squadron will receive two training drones and one mission drone. “I recently signed approval for $26,000 to be used to purchase small Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” said Mims. “It is an important learning tool for the cadets to have.” According to 1st Lt. Corey Goodwin, CAP Golden Triangle Composite Squadron commander, these drones can be very useful in all aspects of search and rescue and can also promote an interest in aviation, aerospace, and related career fields throughout the Golden Triangle Region. To pilot a small UAS, members of CAP must be at least 16-years-old, however, CAP members age 12 and younger can be observer pilots. “School Teachers who join CAP as what we call an Aerospace Education Member or AEM have access to the STEM kits through their local CAP Squadrons,” said Goodwin. “To be an AEM a teacher has to submit a CAP Form 13, CAP Aerospace Education Membership Application, and a one-time fee of $35 through their local CAP Squadron.” CAP provides about 20 STEM kits which are distributed amongst all squadrons in Mississippi. Currently the Golden Triangle Composite Squadron utilizes an aircraft simulator and robotic arm for their STEM learning. CAP uses these kits as one strategy to promote STEM-related careers through hands on activities. According to the Civil Air Patrol official website, the real goal of this program is to help collaborate a more comprehensive understanding of the aerospace and related career fields for a cadet or senior member, and opens new vistas for them.