Membership Opportunities

Whether you're an adult or a teenager, the best way to join CAP is to visit our squadron on a Thursday night. This will give you an in-person feel for who we are and what we do. We can also answer any questions you may have, and give you an opportunity to be sure that you and CAP are a good fit.

After you've visited a few meetings, we can help you complete the necessary paperwork to get started in your CAP career. 

Why should I join the Gainesville Composite Squadron?

North Florida has several outstanding CAP squadrons. Gainesville Composite Squadron offers unparalleled opportunities for both teens and adults. Whether you're a pilot who is looking for a place to volunteer, a retiree who would enjoy the camraderie of a group of service-minded people, or a teen who enjoys aviation, we have just what you're looking for. Our activities provide something for nearly every interest. Whether it's learning to march, training for search and rescue, launching rockets, or supporting an air show, we have FUN! 

When can I visit the squadron?

Visitors are always welcome at Gainesville Composite Squadron. It is best to check the calendar to ensure we are having a meeting. Advance notice is appreciated, but not required. We meet each Thursday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. 

What can I expect from joining the Civil Air Patrol?

You can expect three things: to work hard, learn, and have fun. Civil Air Patrol is a challenging, but rewarding organization. Our team is a family. We work diligently to serve our community, and we have fun while doing so. In addition, our staff provides challenging learning opportunities for both officers and cadets in aerospace, leadership and emergency services (search and rescue).

What will be expected of me as a member?

Our cadet members are expected to follow the Cadet Oath, in which members pledge to serve faithfully, participate actively, attend meetings regularly, wear their uniform properly, obey officers, and work diligently toward advancement in the program. 

All of our members are expected to adhere to the Civil Air Patrol regulations and the CAP Core Values, which are Integrity, Volunteer Service, Respect, and Excellence. We do not tolerate racial, gender or or religious discrimination, nor do we allow hazing of our cadets. Any violation of the regulations may result in expulsion from the squadron and the Civil Air Patrol. 

Is the weekly Squadron meeting all that is involved?

No. We have weekend training activities, summer and winter encampments, and many other events in which to participate. As part of their promotion through ranks, cadets are required to participate in squadron activities in addition to the weekly meetings. Officers are encouraged to participate in these activities as well. When you visit, ask about these activities.

Is CAP the Military?

No. While CAP acts as the official auxiliary to the U.S. Air Force and some CAP members are either current or former members of the military, CAP is a private, nonprofit, benevolent corporation chartered by Congress at Section 40301 of Title 36 of the U.S. Code.

Section 8150 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code makes it clear that CAP members are not granted the status of military or veteran by nature of their CAP membership. CAP members are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). 

As a parent, how can I get involved?

In order to provide a quality program for cadets, we rely on an active staff of officers to chaperone activities, teach classes, and coordinate logistics. If you'd rather not make a "full" commitment to be a CAP officer, you may join as a Cadet Sponsor Member. CSMs are called upon to chaperone, provide transportation to activities, and help plan special events.

Regardless, we welcome parent involvement. You are welcome to attend meetings or speak with squadron staff at any time. 

How much does it cost to join and participate?

Membership fees can be found on the National Headquarters Site. National renewal fees are usually less than initial membership. While the squadron raises funds to help offset many activity costs, members may be asked to purchase uniform items, equipment, as well as to pay activitiy fees, etc. 

Does rank/grade determine authority?

Authority in CAP is determined not by rank, but by position within the CAP structure. Rank is awarded through an individual's progress and achievement within the program, and therefore carries only relational authority. Rank does, however, generally indicate a member's commitment, experience, and service to CAP. Therefore, officers (both adult and cadet) are afforded the courtesies expected when achieving higher grades.  

Prospective Cadets

Will CAP help me in a future Military career?

Absolutely. About 10% of all U.S. Air Force Academy cadets are former CAP cadets. Our squadron has several former members who have earned ROTC scholarships to college. In addition, we have several former members who have earned advanced enlisted rank in the military because of their achievements in CAP.

CAP training prepares cadets for military discipline. Knowing how to march, speak confidently, work as a team, and solve problems as an effective leader will serve any young person well in the armed forces and otherwise. 

Will I learn to fly?

Cadets gain exposure to aviation from the very start. Cadets are eligible for free Orientation Flights in both powered aircraft and gliders. These experiences bring your classroom training and studies to the cockpit. Trained CAP pilots demonstrate the principles of flight with practical hands-on experience. 

Cadets who meet age and other eligibility requirements have the opportunity to take flight lessons with a CAP instructor pilot. Civil Air Patrol also has a summer flight academy for advanced cadets. In this way, earning a private pilot's license can be a reality, and for less money than a conventional flight school experience typically costs.

Are cadets required to do pushups as a punishment?

No. Under the Cadet Protection Policy, any form of physical punishment, or hazing, is strictly prohibited. Any member engaged in such activity is subject to disciplinary action including expulsion from CAP and possibly criminal charges.

Physical training in CAP is only for the purpose of encouraging a healthy lifestyle, and will never be used as punishment or corrective action. 

How will I promote through the ranks?

Cadets must pass written leadership and aerospace education tests, physical fitness tests, participate in moral leadership labs and in squadron activities to promote to the next grade (rank). They must also spend a minimum of 60 days (2 months) in each grade.

I don't want/like to fly. Do you offer anything else?

Yes. CAP offers much more than simply flying. In addition to aviation, cadets have the opportunity to develop excellent leadership skills while learning military discipline and courtesy. Our squadron also has an active emergency services program which trains members in outdoor skills and survival techniques. Members also can participate in model rocketry, color guard (cadets), radio communications, First Aid/CPR training and much more.

What are the requirements for cadet membership?

Cadet members must be:
  • 12 years of age through 18 years of age. (Cadets who start prior to 18 years of age may retain their cadet membership until age 21.)
  • Enrolled in or graduated from a private or public school or college with a satisfactory record of academic achievement, or be home educated. 
  • Unmarried.
  • Not a member of the Armed Forces on active duty.
  • Be a citizen of the U.S. or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
  • Possess good moral character.
  • If a former CAP member, must not have been terminated for misconduct.
  • Be accepted by the unit and higher headquarters.

What measures are taken to ensure cadet safety?

All officers are required by CAP regulations to be fingerprinted and submit to an FBI background check. They are further required to complete Cadet Protection Policy Training (CPPT). Under the Cadet Protection Policy, no officer is allowed to be alone with a cadet, and overnight activities are supervised with even more care. This is a national CAP policy and is taken very seriously.

Further, all pilots and drivers of corporate vehicles are specially screened and certified by the Civil Air Patrol. CAP also observes a safety program, where each activity is carefully planned to provide the safest experience possible for our members.

Prospective Officers

What are the requirements for adult membership?

To be eligible to join CAP as an officer, you must:

  • Possess the desire, willingness, and capability to promote the objectives and purposes of CAP.
  • Be at least 18 years of age or be a member of the Armed Forces on active duty at any age.
  • Be a citizen of the United States of America or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence to the United States of America and its territories and possessions or any lawfully admitted non citizen residing in the United States specifically approved by the National Commander's designee (HQ CAP/DP).

Subject to being waived by the Executive Director or National Commander, any one or more of the following may be the basis for rejection of or loss of membership.

  • Conviction of a felony by any court of record whether federal, state or military.
  • A pattern of arrests and/or convictions including but not limited to sex offenses, child abuse, DUIs, dishonesty and violence.
  • Discharge from the armed services under other than honorable conditions.
  • Falsification of information on the membership application.
  • Previously terminated or non renewed for cause from membership in CAP.
  • Any other unfavorable information brought to the attention of CAP officials at any level.

What can I do as a member of the Squadron?

As a new member in our squadron, you will be encouraged to choose a specialty track. A specialty track is comparable to your "job" within the squadron. Choosing a specialty track that you are interested in is key to developing a sense of purpose within the squadron. Grade advancement within CAP is dependent on your ability to advance in your chosen specialty track.

There are more than twenty specialty tracks, dealing with things such as finance, personnel, information technology, flight operations and cadet programs, just to name a few. It is common for the number of officers in a squadron to be less than the number of staff positions. As such, each of us has the opportunity to wear more than one hat and excel in more than one specialty. 

Do I have to be a pilot to join?

Absolutely not. In fact, most CAP members are not pilots. You don't even have to be a pilot to participate directly in CAP missions. After all, while the pilot is busy flying the aircraft, trained personnel are needed in supporting roles both in the plane and on the ground. There are also many other roles in CAP not directly related to flying, such as working with cadets, interacting with the public and the press and working as a ground team member. 

Will I get to Fly?

Yes, but realistically you won't find yourself behind the controls of the squadron aircraft right away. Before you can operate a CAP aircraft you must, at a minimum, possess a valid FAA private pilot certificate and a have a current medical. You must also pass what is referred to as a Form 5 checkride. There are additional requirements for orientation pilots and mission pilots. CAP Regulation 60-1 "CAP Flight Management" spells out the minimum experience requirements for acting as a pilot in CAP.     

What are the ranks/grades of CAP?

Generally, there are 8 officer grades that apply to adult members within CAP. These grades are:

  •     2nd Lieutenant (O1)
  •     1st Lieutenant (O2)
  •     Captain (O3)
  •     Major (O4)
  •     Lieutenant Colonel (O5)
  •     Colonel (O6)
  •     Brigadier General (O7)
  •     Major General (O8)

Officers who join before the age of 21 hold "Flight Officer" status, until their 21st birthday. In addition, former military NCOs are welcome to wear their highest earned military grade if they prefer, in lieu of officer grade. 

Initially, you begin your career in CAP as an "officer without grade." Under certain circumstances you may actually be able to obtain a higher initial grade if you have a mission-related skill such as pilot. Professional experience as a doctor, nurse, lawyer, flight instructor, accountant, teacher, or member of the clergy may qualify you for a higher initial grade as well. However, before you can advance within CAP you must complete the Level 1 Orientation Course which includes the Cadet Protection Program Training Basic Course.

Advancement from one grade to the next is generally accomplished through a combination of minimum time in grade, completing course work, attending CAP events, serving as a staff member and becoming proficient within your chosen specialty track.