Steamboat Springs When Don Heineman set out to form a new Civil Air Patrol squadron in Steamboat Springs in 1996, he thought it would just bring a new airplane to Bob Adams Field and an opportunity for adult pilots to help save lives.
Eighteen years later, he's realized it has done much more than that.
The decision to make it a composite squadron for adults and youths meant that in addition to saving lives and getting an airplane, the program also produced U.S. Air Force graduates and countless adventures for local teens.
“I thought all we were going to do was search for people and save lives, but I didn't realize the impact it would have on the young people in our community,” Heineman said from his home Friday. “It's been very heartwarming for me to watch this thing happen.”
Youths who have participated in the Civil Air Patrol program here in Steamboat for the past 18 years have done such things as travel to United Airlines to fly an Airbus in a simulator and gone on to fly fighter jets and chinook helicopters.
Others have gone on to have exciting civilian careers, boosted by the leadership qualities they got from the Civil Air Patrol program.
“It really exists to develop the next aerospace leaders of our country,” 1st Lieutenant Carrie Gibbs, the local activities and finance officer, said about the program. “Some of the cadets go on to do something entirely different. Some go into the military. A lot of them don't. It's a really neat program to help develop their leadership.”
Local Civil Air Patrol cadets have a lot to celebrate this year.
Some are headed next month to a training camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs while another will prepare to head to China as part of a cadet exchange program.
The four cadets who are headed to Colorado Wing Civil Air Patrol Encampment at the Air Force Academy will get to fly in simulators and attend special events at nearby Fort Carson.
As the older cadets prepare to leave for college and other adventures, Gibbs said the program is working hard to find new recruits.
“It's really a good opportunity for youth to explore aerospace careers and see what they think about them,” Gibbs said. “We're looking for new cadets to join the program and learn from these great cadets we currently have. That's what we're aiming for right now.”
The Civil Air Patrol held an open house this week at Steamboat Springs Airport for prospective cadets.
“The whole night was a huge success,” Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Andrea Houston said. “I'm really honored to work with my staff and I was honored to be able to meet all those prospective cadets.
Local youths ages 12 to 18 can join the Civil Air Patrol program.
Interested youths can attend Civil Air Patrol meetings at the Steamboat Springs Airport on Tuesdays. Email Gibbs at email@example.com for more information.
Civil Air Patrol accomplishments
• Four local Civil Air Patrol cadets will serve as command staff for the Colorado Wing Civil Air Patrol Encampment held at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Chief Master Sergeant Andrea Houston will serve as group first sergeant; 1st Lieutenant Aidan Gibbs will serve as executive officer; Cadet Captain Noah Gibbs will serve as cadet commander; and Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Joshua Heald will serve as standardization and evaluation officer.
• Cadet Captain Noah Gibbs will represent Civil Air Patrol in China this summer during an International Cadet Exchange Program.
• Cadet 1st Lieutenant Aidan Gibbs will study astrophysics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
• Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Joshua Heald is earning his pilot's license. He also will start studying aviation at Metropolitan State University and Denver and attend basic training for the Air Force Reserves.
• Chief Master Sergeant Andrea Houston has accepted command of Steamboat's Composite Squadron.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10