Military uniforms on display at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Lincroft, where tonight’s recruiting event takes place. (Click to enlarge)


It’s an easily overlooked branch of the military, but the Civil Air Patrol, founded on the eve of Pearl Harbor, is still keeping its eyes to the ground and sky for the safety of Americans on their home turf.

Tonight, potential cadets aged 12 to 20 are invited to get a taste of Civil Air Patrol life at an open house at the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center in Lincroft.

Hosted by the Bayshore Composite Squadron, the event aims to give curious youngsters and their parents insight into the different aspects of what the program offers, from classes in physical training and aviation to search-and-rescue.

Captain Robert Cartwright, squadron commander, says that the program is the perfect way for adolescents to get a feel for the military and decide if it is a life path they want to take in the future.

“They take moral leadership and aerospace classes and essentially decide from here whether or not this is something they’d like to pursue,” Cartwright said. “But we don’t push the military. Moms don’t have to be afraid that we’re going to have their kid enlisted by the time they graduate high school. We simply guide them if they show an interest.”

Cadets do wear Air Force uniforms. CAP is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, providing emergency response and “diverse aviation and ground services” in support of localities, according to its website. It “handles 90 percent of inland search and rescue missions, with approximately 75 lives saved each year,” its commander writes.

Each cadet starts out as an Airman Basic and takes tests to get promoted all the way to Cadet Colonel, at which point he or she is authorized to teach classes.

“It adds discipline and structure in their lives, and teaches them self-confidence,” said Cartwright. “They learn military customs and courtesies, and it gives them focus. The shyest kids can end up running the show. They just come right out of their shell and it’s really awesome to see how the kids mature when they’re here.

“When you’re in this a long time and you see so many kids come through, you really see how it changes their life,” he said.

Tonight’s open house is the first of its kind, but if it’s successful, there may possibly be more in the future, Cartwright said.

The event is from 6:45 to 9 p.m. at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center at Newman Springs Road and Half Mile Road in Lincroft. And for those who miss it, CAP holds meetings every Wednesday at 7 p.m. that give a brief overview. This open house will be more in-depth, however.

Fun Facts:

The CAP was founded one week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

CAP pilots flew over a half-million hours, were credited with sinking two enemy submarines, and rescued hundreds of crash survivors during WWII.