Mississippi Civil Air Patrol Cadets want the honor of being the best color guard units in America. Dozens of young cadets from across the state are in Gulfport this weekend for a cadet color guard competition. Instructors say joining in such a competition promotes the teamwork and leadership skills our next generation of pilots will need.
In-ranks the cadets stood for their inspection. Team members wore all standard color guard uniform items.
"You know obviously one of the reasons for the cadet program is to doctorate them a little bit and see if they would be interested in a career in the Air Force," Civil Air Patrol Cadet Instructor John Wilkes said.
During the drills the judges were testing: proficiency in marching, turning and passing in review. Teaching these skills will help prepare the cadets for military life.
"It's part of growing up, it's part of learning discipline, it's just important to building character," Aerospace Education Director Clarence Hauck said.
Cadets in South Mississippi's civil air patrol receive flight training twice a month. It's their military skills that will be called upon in the event of a local emergency.
"But we're getting more and more everyday into the homeland security aspect, so we keep our ground teams up and the ground teams are mainly manned by the cadets," Wilkes said.
15-year-old Matthew Walker is the commander of more than 40 air patrol cadets in South Mississippi. He understands the importance of not only teaching aviation training, but the discipline of the military and its strict standards, such as the attention to detail when presenting the colors.
"Color Guard is showing respec and it's also a lot of responsibility and this competition is a lot about bragging rights within the wing," Walker said.
With close to 65,000 members nationwide, the civil air patrol is responsible for 95% of the nation's inland search and rescue, including aerial reconnaissance for homeland security, disaster relief, medical transports and counter-drug missions.
For more information on the CAP you can log on to their website at www.cap.gov.
The group is always considering new cadets, ages 12 and up.