Cadet grades and insignia of the Civil Air Patrol
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Cadet grades and insignia of the Civil Air Patrol are a series of cadet ranks awarded to cadets in 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.
- 1 Phase I – The Learning Phase
- 2 Phase II – The Leadership Phase
- 3 Phase III – The Command Phase
- 4 Phase IV – The Executive Phase
- 5 Program completion
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
Phase I – The Learning Phase
Cadet Airman Basic
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 with this grade. The grade has no corresponding achievement award.
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 an attempt at 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. Since 2015, Cadets also must complete the new Wingman Program and quiz to obtain the grade of Cadet Airman.
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 Airman First Class
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 program along with a leadership, drill and an attempt at a 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.
Cadet Senior Airman
Cadet Senior Airman (C/SrA) is the fourth 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 an attempt at a 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 Staff Sergeant
Cadet Staff Sergeant (C/SSgt) is the fifth enlisted grade in the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. 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 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.
Phase II – The Leadership Phase
Cadet Technical Sergeant
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. They can also apply to become staff at an encampment or a national activity.
Cadet Master Sergeant
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 Senior Master Sergeant
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 Chief Master Sergeant
The grade of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant (C/CMSgt) is the ninth enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. There are two achievements with this rank. 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 56 days as a Cadet Senior Master Sergeant.
In addition, the grade of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant is kept for another 56 days after the cadet has earned the Goddard Achievement. Upon completing a physical fitness test, a 300-500 word essay and a speech given to the squadron (and after the extra 56-day term), the cadet can earn the Neil Armstrong Achievement, which is the final achievement a cadet is able to receive before promoting on to officership.
Cadet First Sergeant (Position)
Cadet First Sergeant (C/1st Sgt) 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 roles of the Cadet First Sergeant are to relay information to Flight Sergeants and other NCOs or Airmen from the command staff, be the eyes and ears of the cadet commander, be the voice of the cadets to the commander, and to be a mentor and example for all NCOs in the squadron. The First Sergeant has no rank authority over Flight Commanders (since the Flight Commander position is an Officer billet, even when filled by another cadet NCO). The First Sergeant is placed above Flight Commanders in the Chain of command, because they report to the cadet commander (as the Squadron's Senior Enlisted cadet), but this does not give them authority over flight commanders. The First Sergeant position is not in the direct chain of command, and is there to make the chain of command work by relaying information from the enlisted grade cadets the Cadet Commander. The reason the First Sergeant position is not in the direct chain of command is because it does need to be positioned above flight staff to work. First Sergeants do not have the authority to give Flight Commanders orders. 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.
Phase III – The Command Phase
Cadet Second Lieutenant
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). There are two achievements with this rank. 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 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. In addition, the cadet must attend and graduate an encampment. 
At this rank a Second Lieutenant usually serves as a Flight Commander. They may also have to receive some leadership training and may also serve as the Cadet Commander of a squadron if there are no cadet officers of a higher rank in the squadron. 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 Air Force with this grade or higher, he or she enters with a Department of Defense pay grade of E-3. If the Cadet Enlists to any other branch (with the exception of the Marine Corps), they will receive an E-2 Pay grade.
Cadet First Lieutenant
The grade of Cadet First Lieutenant (C/1st Lt) is the second cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. There are two achievements with this rank. 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.
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. There are three achievements with this rank. 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 56 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. Cadets who are promoted to C/Capt are also eligible for the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE), at the age of 18.
Phase IV – The Executive Phase
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. There are three achievements with this rank. 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 Lieutenant Colonel
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 Cadet Commander.
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.
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 56-question leadership exam (with a passing score of 80%), a 56-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 fact that only 0.5% of cadets become Spaatz cadets is a source of great pride for a Cadet Colonel's squadron and wing. The grade accompanies the General Carl A. Spaatz Award.
A list of Spaatz Award recipients may be found at the Spaatz Association's website.
- Awards and decorations of the Civil Air Patrol
- National Cadet Special Activities
- Ranks of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps
- List of United Kingdom Cadet Force by Rank
- Cadets Canada Elemental Ranks
- New Zealand Cadet Forces ranks
- Australian Defence Force Cadets ranks
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