`Unique experiences' motivate CAP cadets


October 04, 2002|By Susan Harpster | Susan Harpster,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DAVID WAINLAND knew he wanted to be an airplane pilot when he was only 8 years old.

When Daniel Steciak was 11, he read a magazine article about military careers that captured his imagination.

Both young men joined the Howard County Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).

A civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP offers training programs for "cadets," ages 12 to 21, and "senior members," 21 and older. Leadership skills, search-and-rescue exercises, physical fitness and flying airplanes are all part of the program's allure.

"It's hard to narrow it down to one thing," said Wainland, 17. "There are so many unique experiences."

Cadets attend weekly meetings at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in North Laurel. Squadron Commander Ron Whitehead oversees the cadet program.

"Cadets come with different desires," Whitehead said. "Some cadets come to fly, because of our aviation program, and some come because of our ground team - our search-and-rescue program. And some cadets realize it gives them some benefit on applications to military academies and ROTC programs."

Nationally, more than one-third of CAP's 60,000 members are cadets.

"Recruits" must attend three meetings before they can join the cadet program. "This gives them an opportunity to get exposure and a good idea about Civil Air Patrol and what we do at our meetings," Whitehead said.

Cadets who pass monthly exams are promoted through the ranks from 2nd lieutenant to cadet colonel.

Whitehead, a geographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, joined CAP in 1996 after 25 years of military service.

"I wanted to stay around airplanes and flying, and that's what got me interested in Civil Air Patrol," Whitehead said. "It's a volunteer organization, so you can get as involved as you want to."

Steciak, 16, has been a CAP cadet for almost five years. "CAP has really changed my life," he said. "It let me learn about aviation, leadership and people, and those are skills that are going to stay with me for the rest of my life."

During the summer, Wainland, Steciak and cadets Avi Chandra, 18, and Emily Hudson, 16, "did something exceptional," Whitehead said. They each received their "solo wings" - a student pilot's license - after 14 hours of flight instruction, a written exam and a one-hour solo flight in a single-engine Cessna airplane.

"It's incredible to know that people actually trust you to fly in an airplane all by yourself, before I can drive," Steciak said. "It's a mix of feelings. You're scared and intimidated and really excited."

Wainland is "not 100 percent sure" what he will do when he graduates from Mount Hebron High School in the spring. "I'd like to do something in aerospace, ultimately become a pilot or an aerospace engineer," he said.

Steciak, a home-schooler from Columbia, wants to study aviation at the University of Maryland's College Park campus. "I'm planning to go career Air Force," he said. "I'm hoping that they'll let me fly."

Information on the Civil Air Patrol: 410-461-6165.

Happy birthday

Second-graders at Bollman Bridge Elementary School in Jessup paid tribute to national folk hero John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman on his birthday Sept. 26.

Born in 1774, Chapman earned his nickname roaming barefoot through the American wilderness, planting apple seeds along the way.

Johnny Appleseed Day is "a celebration of his life and what he did for America," said second-grade team leader Beverly Brooks.

Through stories and poems, the children learned about Chapman's life and pioneering spirit, and how apples grow. "We do apple-related activities all day; even for math, where we graphed their favorite apple colors," said teacher Tara Matlak. "Red and green tied; they thought that was the coolest thing."

The children were eager to share what they learned about apples.

"First, they're flowers, and then they grow into an apple," said pupil Nicole Talbott. "The bees help."

"The bees help by spreading the pollen all over the flowers," added classmate Raven Coleman-Brooks.

The children made and ate applesauce, which was cooked in pots tended by parents.

"Applesauce doesn't come in jars. Applesauce is made," said parent volunteer Ann Ginty. "A hundred years ago, kids were cutting up those apples. I think these kids understood that. You've got to teach them the basics."

Vroom, vroom

The 11th Columbia Ride for Kids, held Sept. 15, raised more than $200,000 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation of the United States. The money will be used for medical research and family-support programs.

Eight-hundred-fifty motorcyclists went on a 40-mile fund-raiser, which began at The Mall in Columbia and ended with a "Celebration of Life" on the grounds of Lincoln Technical Institute.

Ride for Kids task force leader Bob Henig raised more than $72,000 at this year's event. A Columbia resident and owner of Bob's BMW motorcycle dealership in Jessup, Henig has been a Ride for Kids task-force member for the past six years.

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