FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa., Aug. 3, 2017 —
The Civil Air Patrol's Pennsylvania Wing Cadet Training Schools brought together more than 300 students here from diverse backgrounds across Pennsylvania and beyond June 18-25.
Two Pennsylvania Air National Guardsmen and CAP members are serving in key leadership roles during the annual encampment.
Airman 1st Class Shawn Utermohlen, an electrical power production specialist and Civil Air Patrol captain, and his brother, Airman 1st Class Kevin Utermohlen, a pavements and construction specialist and Civil Air Patrol cadet 2nd lieutenant, are both with the 1st Detachment, 201st Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer Squadron.
After attending the Horsham Air Show in Horsham, Pennsylvania, as a child, his parents encouraged Kevin, who is younger, to join the Civil Air Patrol at age 12. He said it was an intense experience at that young age to deal with the controlled stress of a military environment.
Developing Future Leaders
“We tailor the training as much as we can to the individual. We try to place older cadets in leadership roles, whereas a younger cadet’s place is in the flight, learning how to follow now so they can lead later,” Shawn said.
At the annual encampment, which is entirely cadet-run, leaders try to foster a basic training atmosphere while taking into account that they are working with people from ages 12-21 who have varied proficiencies, backgrounds and maturity levels.
“My focus this year was to bring my training from the Air Force back here to standardize the school and make sure it’s in line with that, because we do have a lot of civilian members that don’t necessarily know what that environment is like or how to behave in a military setting,” Shawn said.
Service members and veterans have an important role in mentoring cadets and demonstrating how to render proper military courtesies.
Kevin said that mentoring cadets and seeing them take over positions he once held is the most fulfilling aspect of the training because this is his last year as a cadet. At age 21, cadets must become senior members.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had through Civil Air Patrol, because it’s taught both of us leadership skills,” he said.
“For instance, I’m currently only an airman, but I know how to interface with people, how to mentor people without being in a leadership position. You can help out other airmen in your unit, you don’t necessarily need more stripes to show leadership,” Kevin said.
Shawn and Kevin both enlisted in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard in 2015 after having been in the Civil Air Patrol for several years.
“When I was 12 and in Basic Cadet Orientation Program, it was all at Horsham Air Guard Base and there was a class on the Air National Guard, and that was something I always kept in the back of my mind,” Kevin said.
Both Kevin and Shawn said their experience in the Civil Air Patrol influenced their decisions to join the Air National Guard.
“The most fulfilling thing for me is seeing the growth in the cadets from when they get here on day zero and they’re bumbling around and don’t know what’s going on, to graduation day when they’re in step, their [dress cover interval distance] is perfect, they’re chest out, shoulders back, proud to be marching. That transformation is awesome,” Shawn said.
"We see that in local weekly squadron meetings, there’s a paradigm shift from cadets that haven’t attended encampment to those that have. They know what’s expected of them, how to act, it’s like basic training we get to standardize them from across the state," he added.
During the encampment, students participate in the Leadership Reaction Course, obstacle course, a tour of the 193rd Special Operations Wing at Harrisburg international Airport, drill and ceremony and pass and review.
Most Civil Air Patrol members are civilians, but the organization maintains a close relationship with the military. The Civil Air Patrol contributes to Air National Guard readiness and Pennsylvania communities through volunteer responses to ground search and rescue, natural disasters and civil aid. Members also photograph damage during emergencies and enhance the state’s counterdrug mission.