Florentia Clitso sat under the wing of a Cessna 182 Skylane as she watched 2nd Lt. Russ Miller show the components of an aircraft to the newest members of the Arizona Wing Civil Air Patrol.
“Hansen has always wanted to know more about these airplanes,” Clitso said of her 13-year-old son, Hansen Clark, who is a member of the Navajo Code Talker Bahe Ketchum Composite Squadron 211. “He’s enjoying it and he’s willing to learn more.”
The squadron is the newest escadrille of the Arizona Wing Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, headquartered at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona. The National Headquarters CAP at Maxwell air base in Montgomery, Alabama, in October approved the new squadron, which was named after the late Code Talker Bahe Ketchum who died on June 8, 2015. Ketchum resided in Navajo Mountain, Utah.
The 26-member squadron from Shonto Preparatory School in Shonto, Arizona took their first orientation flight at Page Municipal Airport last weekend. For many of the young CAP cadets like Elijah Little, it was his first time in an aircraft.
“It was awesome flying a plane and being in control of it,” said Little, 13, an eighth-grader at SPS. “It was scary. Taking off, I was ready to throw up. When we got into the air it was smooth and a little bumpy. But it was fun. We flew over Antelope Canyon and over Kaibeto, Arizona.”
The CAP cadet program is a year-round program in which the cadets learn to fly an aircraft and learn leadership skills. Others include taking part in outdoor and in fitness activities, according to Arizona Wing, which has a number of programs designed to help existing members mentor new members.
The Bahe Ketchum squadron is part of the “Great Start Program,” which introduces cadets to the elements of being a cadet, said 2nd Lt. Frederick Fout, the squadron commander and the principal at SPS.
“One of those elements of being a cadet, said 2nd Lt. Frederick Fout, the squadron commander and the principal at SPS.
“One of those elements is aerospace education and that’s really important,” Fout explained. “That’s what excited the kids the most.”
CAP’s aerospace education efforts focus on two different audiences: Volunteer CAP members and the general public.
Aerospace education ensures that all CAP members (seniors and cadets) have an appreciation for and a knowledge of aerospace issues.
Other elements are character development, volunteer services, integrity, respect and excellence.
“Respect is the big thing about learning the customs and courtesy of being in a military,” said Fout, who has served in the armed forces. “You learn about giving that respect … it’s a two-way street.”
He added, “Of course, they’re all very interested in being in an ROTC organization,” Fout said. “So, they get to wear the Air Force uniform. They have to dress blues.”
But the Bahe Ketchum squadron is in its infancy stages, said Kirkland Dewakuku, who, along with five adults, is part of the squadron.
“We’re still building,” Dewakuku said. “There’s still a lot of components that haven’t been put into place yet, as far as aerospace education program, which is taught like a STEM and an aviation education.”
Though the Bahe Ketchum squadron has a fairly large membership, Dewakuku says he is in hopes that it moves in a direction where the young cadets will continue to grow, just as the other 19 squadrons across the Grand Canyon state in Arizona Wing.
However, the city of Page does not have a squadron of its own, said Maj. Randy Hammit, who lives here in Page and is part of the Verde Valley Composite Squadron 205 in Sedona, Arizona. Hammit is currently working on establishing a squadron here.
“Once we’re up and running, we’ll have our own CAP plane,” Hammit said. “The CAP is about cadets, aerospace education, and search and rescue. The major reason to have pilots and planes is to be able to find people who are lost on the lake, the Grand Canyon, and on the Navajo Nation.”