Civil Air Patrol continues meetings on days 2 and 4

Group serves as the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force


Photo submitted

Lt. Col. Tom Elam speaks to members attending a recent meeting of the Civil Air Patrol.

Da'Nya Johnson, Reporter

We’re all used to seeing uniforms on the Hill — the stylish khakis, the seniors wearing Harvard sweatshirts who probably didn’t apply there, the Crocs (don’t tell Ms. Saum). 

But military uniforms worn by students who are members of the Civil Air Patrol also make their presence known on campus on the days the group meets. 

Civil Air Patrol is the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The program here is designed to teach aerospace and science, technology, engineering and math with a focus specifically on aviation through a military style cadet program. The goal is to introduce students to aerospace, STEM, aviation and military careers while also developing leadership skills.

But Covid-19 has changed much of that, at least to some degree.

 Lt. Col. Jamie Griffith has brought this program to the Hill. Griffith was a CAP member herself in 1993, so she has been involved in the organization for almost 30 years. Griffith started her CAP career at a unit on the Westside of Indianapolis, the Weir Cook Cadet Squadron, and that unit is still active today. 

The program was originally supervised on the Hill by Griffith and Mr. William Decker, a former teacher here. Now English teacher Mrs. Nancy Wheeler and Griffith are serving as the moderators. 

 For the first time in 77 years nearly all in-person cadet operations are on hold. Griffith said, “We have been required to move to virtual meetings, which makes it very difficult for us to engage these students the way we would like. Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our program, both at Cathedral and also CAP throughout the state and nation.”

 Griffith said although Covid-19 precautions apparently have been successful, going virtual has impacted attendance. At the beginning of going virtual, there was a definite decrease in attendance; therefore, going virtual has definitely made an impact on the participants. The CAP program was able to turn that around and regain some of the decrease and even add a few new members.

 “I feel like virtual hasn’t been too bad. I’m not a morning person, so that was probably the hardest part for me, to wake up before school, especially on late start days. That could be especially hard because it’s the one day we get to sleep in, but overall I would prefer being in person, because it’s definitely better just to see everyone,” said senior and CAP member Rebecca Richey.

 Teaching through a computer screen may not be the easiest tasks — said every teacher everywhere — especially when it comes to doing drills. Griffith said, “Virtual meetings can make it very difficult for us to engage these students the way we would like. CAP teaches through hands-on experience, it is very difficult to develop these young leaders in a fully virtual format.”

 CAP members changed their meeting schedule for the second semester and now meet at 7:45 a.m. on days 2 and 4. Cadets are learning about rocketry and flying and also are finding out how to read aviation maps.  When the weather improves, drills and marching will resume on the football field, according to Wheeler. 

 On the other hand, when it comes to service, Covid-19 has allowed the CAP program to participate in some projects. Griffith said, “Being able to serve the community has been a huge benefit. We assisted with some large food distributions with the National Guard and Cathedral students were able to take part in those events.”