WINCHESTER — Since 1941, the Civil Air Patrol has been providing youth volunteers an opportunity to serve their communities and educate themselves about aerospace.
The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the auxiliary of the United States Air Force. It consists of three main “missions”: cadet programs, aerospace education, and emergency services.
Jacob Bixler, who serves as the Virginia wing director of cadet programs for the Civil Air Patrol, said that the organization is composed of cadet, who range from 12 to 21 years old, and senior members 18 years old and up. The local chapter of CAP, the Winchester Composite Squadron, has 24 cadets and 22 senior members.
“I am very thankful that CAP is able to set up so many youths for success in this way,” Bixler said. “I am currently serving in the West Virginia Air National Guard and many of my successes I must also credit to CAP.”
Mark Arnesen, of New Market, serves as a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol. He joined the group with his son, Eric, in 2009.
“My wife had seen a snippet about the Civil Air Patrol in the paper,” he said. “Eric was interested in flying and he went flying with me quite a bit, as I’m a pilot. Civil Air Patrol just seemed like a fit for him. He also liked the idea of the military, so we gave it a shot.”
Mark Arnesen helps with practice missions by acting as an observer who handles radios, navigation, and being on the lookout for things during missions.
“I enjoy the volunteerism of it,” he said. “It was something that was new to me in 2009. I find it very rewarding. It’s also nice to get with a group of adults who think completely differently than what your average, daily interaction at work.”
His youngest son Alan started attending the Civil Air Patrol meetings when he was 10 years old.
“I enjoyed being here and learning about flying and character development, even at that age,” Alan Arnesen said. “I always wanted to be part of the military since I was around 4 years old and this was kind of my first step into that realm.”
During his time with the Civil Air Patrol, Alan Arnesen has earned several accolades, including the Amelia Earhart Award, which recognizes cadets who have completed the third of four cadet phases. He was recently promoted to cadet captain in the Winchester chapter.
Alan Arnesen is planning to attend the Virginia Military Institute this year, while Eric Arnesen is planning to graduate from VMI this year and has earned the rank of lieutenant. Mark Arnesen credits his wife Marie and the Civil Air Patrol for his sons joining the military.
“I give all the credit to my wife for teaching them the ethics, integrity, and volunteerism,” he said. “What CAP does more than anything is it gives a cadet somewhere they can see how to apply such qualities.”
Mark Arnesen said that the air patrol is open to anyone with an interest in aviation and contributing to the community.
For more information on the Winchester chapter of the Civil Air Patrol, visit http://winchester.vawg.cap.gov/home.