What were 134 teens and 26 chaplains doing together on an army base way out in western Kentucky? Glad you asked! We were there to attend the Chaplain Corp Regional Staff College sponsored by the Great Lakes Region of Civil Air Patrol. Starting on June 24, 2019 we spent a week together learning and having fun in a relaxed and picturesque environment with the kind of warm and gracious hospitality found only in Kentucky.
To be sure, we were there for a very serious purpose: to focus on service. Courses and speakers throughout the event focused on 4 areas of serving: Church, Family, Community, and Country. We learned a lot and we shared a lot, but we had a lot of fun along the way.
Civil Air Patrol, or CAP, otherwise known as the US Air Force Auxiliary, assists the Air Force with disaster response, search and rescue, homeland security and numerous other kinds of missions needed around the country. We have our own chaplains that are appointed and trained to military standards and require regular proper training and education, hence the Staff College in Kentucky. But even more exciting, we have an entire teen program that allows teens ages 12 through 18 to join CAP and train to Air Force standards to assist with emergency service missions and to wear Air Force style uniforms. There are numerous other opportunities for these teens, like joining the color guard, training as an emergency service mission radio officer, or MRO, and to be a leader and teach newer members about CAP. These dedicated kids, called ‘cadets’, also study military customs and regulations and develop into outstanding educated and dynamic leaders of tomorrow. Many of them end up joining the military, but plenty go successfully on into the world and take the vital skills acquired in CAP with them.
The last week in June we all gathered at the Wendell H. Ford Training Facility in Greenville, Kentucky. We were greeted with plenty of warmth and smiles and a tasty hot dinner. As a Jewish chaplain, I brought my own kosher food, but they graciously offered the kitchen and any food available that I could use or order. The theme of the college was ‘service’, and we definitely had first class service at the facility, and we also learned lots about serving our country, congregants, communities, and our families. We had packed days of classes and events that really assisted us in our growth as ministers of our faith, as well as chaplains to all Americans. We also had the opportunity to interact and learn from the cadets. They spoke to us about what they enjoy about CAP and how it helps them grow. They taught us about things they learned in CAP and actually helped us learn about aerospace by showing us how to build rockets and launch them. We in turn encouraged cadets with their wonderful progress, and helped some homesick cadets get through some rough patches. We also gave character development lessons and pluralistic devotion. What are the odds, that a rabbi from Brooklyn will give a character development lesson on an army base to 120 teens from all over Kentucky? They were so respectful and behaved that you could hear a pin drop till I asked a question and I got a thunderous “YES SIR!”
As part of the encampment each cadet got a ride in a helicopter and 80 cadets got an O-ride in a single engine airplane, that means they got to sit in the front seat next to the pilot and actually fly the plane. The rest of them got to sit in the back and will soon get their chance at an O-ride too. They looked like they were having a blast learning to march in uniform, tackling the obstacle course, shooting a laser machine gun, and many other fun activities. We also had the pleasure of being with a Kentucky Wing national guard army regiment that was on base and preparing for deployment.
I am not sure who had more fun, but I am positive that we are all very excited and looking forward to the next encampment and college. What puzzles me is, where are all of you guys, why haven’t you joined CAP yet? Since this is all volunteer, there are no mandatory deployments. For more information, contact our recruiting and retention officer here at JFK, Captain Billy Metallinos at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can look around on your own at our unit website www.falconsquadron.org or at our national website.
Thank you, Chaplain Lebovic, for your inspiring article, and for your dedicated service to our great nation.
Shavua Tov v’Chaim Tovim,