Laughlin Air Force Base Hosts Civil Air Patrol Cadets for Immersive Week-Long Tour

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Laughlin Air Force Base opened its gates to a group of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets from around the country for a week-long Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Familiarization Course (SUPT-FC) from 24 June to 1 July, 2023.  

"Our goal this week was to allow cadets an opportunity to gain a better understanding of U.S. Air Force pilot training and what it takes to become a pilot," said Lt. Col. Chris Bailey, CAP cadre. 

The CAP is a volunteer organization that serves as the official partner and auxiliary of the United States Air Force. The program offers valuable opportunities for participating cadets to explore aviation, develop leadership skills, and contribute to their communities. This familiarization course was one such opportunity. 

"This is an annual CAP event. Over 300 applicants apply for this course, and only 29 cadets are chosen," said Capt. Dau Robert, 86th Flying Training Squadron executive officer. "This CAP event provides opportunities for all the base agencies to interact with [potentially] future Air Force officers. Many of these cadets go on to the Air Force Academy, guard, reserve, [officer training school], and many end up in pilot training at Laughlin AFB." 

Laughlin has hosted the familiarization course since the early 2000s and is the only base where cadets stay on-site for an entire week, engaging in immersive activities for 10-12 hours daily. 

Throughout the week, cadets underwent intensive training and preparation to ensure their readiness for the highly anticipated incentive flights in the T-1 Jayhawk and T-6 Texan II aircraft. This comprehensive preparation included academic briefings, simulator experience, aircrew flight equipment preparation, and flight physicals. 

In addition to flight training, the cadets also gained a holistic understanding of Laughlin’s operations, recognizing the contributions of various units. This included the firefighting capabilities of the 47th Civil Engineering Squadron fire department, canines and security measures employed by the 47th Security Forces Squadron, and extensive operations within the 47th Maintenance Directorate. 

On the last day of the tour, cadets were ready to fly. They took to the skies in T-1 Jayhawks and T-6 Texan II aircraft. The flights provided a crucial hands-on component to their comprehensive learning and provided a deeper understanding of aviation. 

"The cadets loved flying in the T-1 and T-6," said Dau. "Cadets directly told me 'I want to be in your shoes one day' and ‘I came here because I wanted to prove I can be a pilot.' Additionally, the cadets loved all the great advice from senior leaders, noting that there was an amazing diversity of perspectives and careers." 

For the final portion of the tour, cadets witnessed an undergraduate pilot class receive their future assignments during the highly anticipated ‘drop night’ ceremony. This special event prepares the undergraduates for the next phase of their Air Force careers by showcasing their future aircraft assignments. The cadets had a first-hand view of the possibilities and opportunities for those who wish to stand among the ranks of the world's most lethal U.S. Air Force pilots. 

"When we asked at the end of the tour, who wants to be a pilot, 26 of 29 hands shot up," said Dau. "The other three were inspired to pursue other Air Force careers through their other base immersion tours." 

This collaboration doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. With a shared vision, this dynamic and enduring partnership is succeeding in inspiring future aviators. 

"I see the partnership continuing for many years," said Dau. "The LAFB team that put this together gave [the cadets] resources and information on how to be a pilot, how to pursue commissioning, and what it takes to be in the shoes of a SUPT student one day. Most of all, we wanted to show them that [becoming a pilot] was a very real possibility. If they had any inkling of flying when they showed up, I guarantee they were more motivated when they left."  

In light of the current state of Air Force recruiting, which is experiencing a historic decline, the demand for skilled officers and a larger pilot pool has become more pressing than ever. Efforts to inspire and motivate aspiring pilots to pursue their dreams have become paramount. 

 "Someone once told me that people that want to be pilots will be pilots - I find that partially true," said Dau. "In an Air Force that needs quality officers and more pilots, this is where you find them; this is how you inspire them to push harder for their goals. It is hard to track where all these cadets will end up, and the data-driven mind may underestimate the importance of these events. Motivating those few extra people to pursue their pilot dream takes time, commitment, and a long-term vision. It is a lot of work, and I can only portray a fraction of the amazing things that have come out of this event over the years."