Cadet grades and insignia of the Civil Air Patrol

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A Civil Air Patrol Cadet Senior Airman

Cadet grades and insignia of the Civil Air Patrol are a series of cadet ranks awarded to cadets in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Each grade and insignia corresponds to an equivalent United States Air Force enlisted and an equivalent officer grade insignia. A cadet begins at Cadet Airman Basic (the lowest enlisted grade) and must progress through all the enlisted grades before becoming a cadet officer. Each achievement requires the completion of several tasks.

Phase I – The Learning Phase[edit]

Cadet Airman Basic[edit]

Cadet Airman Basic (C/AB) is the beginner level grade of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets and of all phases. During the time that this grade is held, most Cadets undergo some form of squadron-, group-, and, occasionally, wing-level training in the basics of CAP and what it has to offer. The cadet will wear no insignia. The grade has no corresponding achievement award.

Cadet Airmen Basic are to be referred to as "Cadet" or by their last name by other cadets and Senior Members.

Cadet Airman[edit]

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Cadet Airman (C/Amn) is a grade that indicates the completion of the first achievement of 16 in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program. The Cadet Airman insignia is based on the design of the airman insignia from the USAF with a CAP Cadet shield superimposed over the center. Requirements to obtain this grade include a 25 question test on the fundamentals of leadership and followership taken from chapter one of "Learn to Lead", a drill performance test, and a physical fitness test. Also included in promotion is attending at least one Moral Leadership session provided by the cadet's local squadron. Some local units also require review boards to ensure that a person meets all requirements for this.

The grade accompanies the General J. F. Curry Achievement.

Cadets who have earned the Curry Achievement are eligible to go to Encampment (a week long basic training for CAP Cadets) and also attain their General Emergency Services (GES) rating to assist CAP in its emergency services work.

Cadet Airmen are to be referred to as "Airman" or by their last name by other cadets and "Cadet" by Senior Members.

Cadet Airman First Class[edit]

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Cadet Airman 1st Class (C/A1C) is like Cadet Airman in many ways. Promotion to this grade indicates completion of the second of 16 achievements in the program. Some differences though are that at this level, Cadets must pass an aerospace test based on one of six modules in the current program along with a leadership, drill and physical fitness test. Cadets also must attend at least one Moral Leadership session. Along with this, Cadets sometimes begin serving as element leaders or begin working towards the experience of being flight sergeants while polishing their skills in learning how to be effective followers. The design is similar to that of a Cadet Airman with a second stripe.

The grade accompanies the General H. H. "Hap" Arnold Achievement.

Cadet Airmen First Class are to be referred to as "Airman" or by their last name by other cadets and "Cadet" by Senior Members.

Cadet Senior Airman[edit]

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Cadet Senior Airman (C/SrA) is the third enlisted rank in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program. It, like the requirements for Cadet Airman First Class (C/A1C) includes a leadership, aerospace, and physical fitness test with many units requiring review boards to obtain this promotion. By this time, Cadets have served at least 4 months in the program (usually more). Most Cadets take longer than that to reach this point and usually have a couple of group, wing, or other, higher level activities and experience. Senior Airmen are in essence NCO's in training. They may be asked to supervise subordinate cadets in the absence of a junior NCO. By this point a Senior Airman is usually an element leader.

The grade accompanies the Mary Feik Achievement.

Cadet Senior Airmen are to be referred to as "Airman" or by their last name by other cadets and "Cadet" by Senior Members.

Cadet Staff Sergeant[edit]

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Cadet Staff Sergeant (C/SSgt) is a grade in the Civil Air Patrol of the United States of America. It is granted alongside the Wright Brothers Award, which is the first of 5 milestone awards given in the Cadet Program. Formerly the Wright Brothers Achievement (which accompanied C/SrA prior to April 2003), it was made an award to mark the completion of the first phase of the CAP Cadet Program. The award requires passing a comprehensive test on leadership covering the material learned over the 1st three achievements of the program along with a physical fitness test and a drill performance test, as well as a commitment of at least eight months of active membership in the Civil Air Patrol. He/she may also apply for a staff position at an encampment or national activity. In addition Staff Sergeants may also become Flight Sergeants and supervise Flights anywhere from 8-20 cadets.

The grade accompanies the Wright Brothers Award, the first of the five Cadet Program Milestone Awards.

Cadet Staff Sergeants are to be referred to as "Sergeant" by cadets, and "Cadet" or "Sergeant" by Senior Members.

Phase II – The Leadership Phase[edit]

Cadet Technical Sergeant[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Technical Sergeant (C/TSgt) is the sixth enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. It is most often known as "Cadet Tech. Sergeant". At this rank Cadets are usually Flight Sergeants, but may also serve as element leaders instead.

The grade accompanies the Captain Eddie Rickenbacker Achievement.

Cadet Technical Sergeants are to be referred to as "Sergeant" by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Sergeant" by Senior Members.

Cadet Master Sergeant[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Master Sergeant (C/MSgt) is the seventh enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. At this point a Cadet becomes a Senior NCO and may be given the billet of First Sergeant, at which time a diamond is placed on the grade insignia.

The grade accompanies the Charles A. Lindbergh Achievement.

Cadet Master Sergeants are to be referred to as "Sergeant" by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Sergeant" by Senior Members.


Cadet Senior Master Sergeant[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Senior Master Sergeant (C/SMSgt) is the eighth enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. At this rank a cadet may serve as a First Sergeant. However, it is not uncommon for a Senior Master Sergeant to be a Flight Sergeant. Rarely, but in the event that there is a shortage of commissioned officers a Senior NCO may act as a Flight Commander, commanding a group of cadets numbering usually from 8-20.

The grade accompanies the General Jimmy Doolittle Achievement.

Cadet Senior Master Sergeants are to be referred to as "Sergeant" by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Sergeant" by Senior Members.

Cadet Chief Master Sergeant[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant (C/CMSgt) is the ninth enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. At this rank a Chief usually serves as a Squadron First Sergeant. However, a Chief may also be a Flight Sergeant. Lastly, like a Senior Master Sergeant, a Chief may serve as a Flight Commander if there is a shortage in officers.

The grade accompanies the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Achievement.

In order for a cadet to earn this grade, the cadet must pass the Leadership Achievement 7 test, and the only aerospace education test that the cadet has not yet passed. The cadet must also take and pass their Cadet Physical Fitness Test (CPFT), attend at least one moral leadership session in their squadron since their last promotion, have actively participated, and finally, the cadet must have spent at least 60 days as a Cadet Senior Master Sergeant.

In addition, the grade of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant is kept for another 60 days after which the cadet had earned the Goddard Achievement. Upon completing a physical fitness test and speech given to the squadron, and after the extra 60-day term, the cadet will earn the Neil Armstrong Achievement, which is the final achievement a cadet is able to receive before promoting on to officership.

Cadet Chief Master Sergeants are to be referred to as "Chief" by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Chief" by Senior Members.


Cadet First Sergeant (Position)[edit]

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Cadet First Sergeant (C/1Sgt.) is a position conferred to a senior cadet non-commissioned officer (NCO) in a unit. Rather than being a grade which any cadet may attain, this is a position granted to the cadet who will be acting in the leadership role over other cadets, and as such, there will be only one First Sergeant at any given time. Once a cadet achieves the grade of Cadet Second Lieutenant, he or she may no longer hold the position of First Sergeant, and it will be awarded to another senior cadet NCO.

The role of the Cadet First Sergeant is to relay information to Flight Sergeants and other NCOs or Airmen from the command staff. The First Sergeant has no authority over Flight Commanders (since the Flight Commander position is an Officer billet, even when filled by another cadet NCO). Often the First Sergeant is mistakenly placed above Flight Commanders in the Chain of Command, however, the First Sergeant position is not in the chain, and is simply there to make the chain of command work by relaying information from the "enlisted" grade cadets to the command level staff, mainly the Cadet Commander.[1] The reason the First Sergeant position is not in the chain of command is because it does need to be positioned above flight staff to work, however, Flight Commanders are typically Officers, and under no circumstances is an NCO above an Officer in the chain of command.[citation needed] First Sergeants do not have the authority to give Flight Commanders orders.[citation needed] Typically, Flight Commanders work directly with the Cadet Commander and receive their orders from that authority.

The insignia for this position will be the same as the cadet's grade (Cadet Master Sergeant, Cadet Senior Master Sergeant or Cadet Chief Master Sergeant). Junior NCOs are not assigned to this position. Cadets serving in this position are normally referred to as First Sergeant by other cadets.[citation needed]

Phase III – The Command Phase[edit]

Cadet Second Lieutenant[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Second Lieutenant (C/2d Lt) is the first cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program, and second milestone award (after Cadet Staff Sergeant). In order to achieve the award, cadets must pass the comprehensive, 60-minute aerospace and leadership test, as well as passing a Cadet Physical Fitness Test (CPFT), having gone to an encampment, having spent at least four months in the past grade 2 for the Armstrong and 2 for the Goddard, and participating in Moral Leadership at least once since the cadet's last promotion and having been recorder and discussion leader at some point since completing the first phase of the Cadet Program.

At this rank a Second Lieutenant usually serves as a Flight Commander. They may also have to receive some leadership training. However, contrary to the active duty military all commissioned officers have risen through all the enlisted ranks.

A silver star worn on the accompanying ribbon denotes successful completion of Cadet Officer School.

The grade accompanies the Billy Mitchell Award. As well, if the cadet later enlists in the United States Armed Forces with this grade or higher, he or she enters with a Department of Defense pay grade of E-3.

Upon completing this award, cadets are eligible for direct promotion to Second Lieutenant as a Senior Member once they turn 21.

Cadet Second Lieutenants are to be referred to as "Lieutenant" (or "Sir/Ma'am") by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Lieutenant" by Senior Members.

Cadet First Lieutenant[edit]

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The grade of Cadet First Lieutenant (C/1st Lt) is the second cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. The grade has no corresponding ribbon. A 1st Lt usually commands a large flight of about 15–20 cadets. At this grade they may also become a cadet executive officer. They may also serve as an aerospace education or emergency services officer.

Cadet First Lieutenants are to be referred to as "Lieutenant" (or "Sir/Ma'am") by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Lieutenant" by Senior Members.

Cadet Captain[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Captain (C/Capt) is the third cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program, and also the third milestone of five in the cadet program. In order to achieve the award, cadets must pass the comprehensive and timed aerospace and leadership test, as well as passing a Cadet Physical Fitness Test (CPFT), have written three Staff Duty Analyses, spent at least four months in the past grade and participated in Moral Leadership at least once since the cadet's last promotion. The grade accompanies the Amelia Earhart Award. Award of the Earhart Award (and corresponding promotion to Cadet Captain) makes the cadet eligible for Civil Air Patrol's International Air Cadet Exchange. In addition Cadet Captains may begin to serve as Deputy Commander or even cadet commanders. At encampments or special activities a Cadet Captain may command a squadron and have as many as three Flights or 60 Cadets, 3 Flight Sergeants and a First Sergeant under him/her.

Upon completing this award, cadets are eligible for direct promotion to First Lieutenant as a Senior Member once they turn 21.

Cadet Captains are to be referred to as "Captain" (or "Sir/Ma'am") by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Captain" by Senior Members.

Phase IV – The Executive Phase[edit]

Cadet Major[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Major (C/Maj) is the fourth cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. The grade has no corresponding ribbon. At encampment or wing level a Cadet Major may serve as an Executive officer or Deputy Commander. He/She may also serve as a Cadet Commander at a squadron level. Also it is not uncommon for Cadet Majors and above to serve as training officers.

Cadet Majors are to be referred to as "Major" (or "Sir/Ma'am") by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Major" by Senior Members.

Cadet Lieutenant Colonel[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel (C/Lt Col) is a cadet officer grade that a cadet of the Civil Air Patrol may attain. It is the fourth milestone of five in the Cadet Program. Prior to 1996 this level of achievement was simply referred to as "Phase IV Completion". At this rank a C/Lt Col may serve as a Squadron or Wing Cadet Commander.

The grade accompanies the General Ira C. Eaker Award.

In order for a cadet to earn this award, the cadet must have written an essay and give a speech, as well as take the PT test. Also they must have attended a cadet officer's course such as RCLS (Regional Cadet Leadership School) like COBC (Cadet Officers Basic Course), or COS (Cadet Officers School). Another alternative is to take the CAP Senior Officer Course (AFIADL-13); this option is rarely taken considering the valuable information learned at a RCLS or COS.

Cadet Lieutenant Colonels are to be referred to as "Colonel" (or "Sir/Ma'am") by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Colonel" by Senior Members.

Program completion[edit]

Cadet Colonel[edit]

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The grade of Cadet Colonel (C/Col) is the highest grade, and final milestone that a cadet of the Civil Air Patrol may attain. The Spaatz Exam is a comprehensive series consisting of a 60-question leadership exam (with a passing score of 80%), a 60-question aerospace exam (also with a passing score of 80%), physical fitness test consisting of three chosen events, and a moral leadership essay. Upon completion of the Cadet Program achievements (Eaker Award, formerly known as "Phase IV Completion"), the cadet may request this examination. Only three attempts are authorized. If reached, this is considered to be the pinnacle of a cadet's career. The grade accompanies the General Carl A. Spaatz Award.

Upon completing this award, cadets are eligible for direct promotion to Captain as a Senior Member once they turn 21.

Cadet Colonels are to be referred to as "Colonel" (or "Sir/Ma'am") by other cadets and may be called "Cadet" or "Colonel" by Senior Members.

A list of Spaatz Award recipients may be found at the Spaatz Association's website.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ CAP Pamphlet 52-9. Maxwell AFB: National Headquarters Civil Air Patrol. April 2008. CAP Pamphlet 52-9. 

Further reading[edit]