EDMOND — Nearly every Thursday, a few dozen young people show up in military camouflage uniforms at the Edmond National Guard Armory for Civil Air Patrol.
They come to serve their country and prepare for their future.
The organization is part of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. Junior cadets, ages 12 to 18, learn about aviation, space exploration and humanitarian missions. Edmond Composite Squadron Commander Capt. Travis Kyle said the cadets develop leadership skills, confidence, discipline and physical fitness.
“They're also entitled to 10 free flights,” Kyle said. A cadet can remain in the squadron until age 21.
Nationally, the patrol receives congressional funding. Kyle said the funding comes with three teaching directives: emergency services, aerospace education and cadet programs.
Occasionally, real-life service is required of the cadets and their adult leaders. Such a time came two years ago.
“We did damage assessment for the 2011 tornado that struck Piedmont,” Kyle said.
Some of the cadets have even more real-world experience.
Sarah Wood is a senior cadet with six years in the squadron. She's also with the Army National Guard and returned recently from deployment in Afghanistan.
“I valued the experience,” she said. “I love the military and would go back.”
On a recent Thursday, she was teaching proper techniques of search and rescue.
Civil Air Patrol chapters were called into service when Hurricane Sandy battered the nation's northeast. Patrol members took some 158,000 photographs of the destruction. They also assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other relief groups in helping to feed and shelter Sandy victims.