Nevada Wing
Main Content

A Cadet Encampment Story, 75 Years in the Making

A Cadet Encampment Story, 75 Years in the Making

By 1st Lt. Lincoln Brown, CAP
Assistant Public Affairs Officer, Reno Composite Squadron


In the back of the KC-135 the cadets were walking around with emergency oxygen pouches, looking out the side windows and fighting to get in line to look out the window under the tail as the AF crew refueled other aircraft. The fight took off from O'Hare Airport in Chicago and landed at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in Wisconsin. It was an incredible start to the week-long summer cadet encampment. Other highlights included a ride on a UH-1 "Huey" helicopter and watching B-52s practice low-level air-to-ground bombing. There was, of course, lots of marching, drill practice, inspections and inter-flight competition. I was 15 years old and a cadet in a squadron just outside of Chicago, IL. It was a week that will never forget.

Fast forward July 30, 2017. It is the 75th Anniversary Year of the cadet program, and I am returning to encampment. l am now a senior member and Public Affairs Officer in the Reno Composite Squadron, and it is Nevada Wing Training Corps (NTC) Encampment held at Camp Stead, just north Reno.

Truthfully, didn't quite know what to expect from my week at Camp Stead. I wanted every cadet to have the amazing experience that had at encampment, but it was not my place to influence that experience. I was there to record the activities of the cadet run NTC Encampment. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. It was extremely fulfilling for me come full circle with my encampment experiences, and now that is something that I can hope these cadets experience some day in the future because they too had an incredible experience. 

In-processing usually provides the first these to see if a plan will work when faced with reality. This year was no different, and it provided some valuable organizational lessons for the cadet cadre. The process of moving nearly 100 cadets through paperwork, medical, contraband check and assigning them to a flight in a building with limited space forced an almost immediate change in plans. As a testament to their character, cadre met the challenge head-on and adapted as needed. The cadets found their flights, got settled and got the first taste of encampment life. The beginning of the week focused on personal development of the cadet. How do I dress to meet a standard? How do I stand at attention? How do I march? How do I stay focused with this person in my face? These and many other questions were answered and practiced repeatedly. Then came the first flight inspection. The idea that understanding a concept does not equal mastery of it became clear as every cadet learned where they fell short of the encampment standard. 

Hard lessons for some that felt prepared. More practice! When mastery of those skills was demonstrated, the idea of teamwork became the focus. Starting small with each flight, how do I march with a group around me? How do I work in a group to solve a problem that I cannot solve individually? How do we work as a team in volleyball? How do we, as a group, capitalize on an individual's strengths?

Every cadet had many opportunities to show strengths, and weaknesses. Some excelled in the physical events and some were particularly strong during classroom and educational events. Others had a knack for memory work. Everyone had a chance to help someone else at some point.

Later in the week, the flights then came together as members of a squadron. How do we work as a larger group to achieve larger tasks? How do we determine the best of our group to represent the squadron while the rest support those that are chosen? Both rolls are important, and some of these tasks had major significance. There are serious bragging rights when you win the volleyball competition! There is a serious sense of achievement when you win the drill competition.

Lastly, how does everyone come together and impress anyone that is watching? As a cadet, one puts on dress blues, looks sharp during their graduation and turns a week of practice into an impressive parade and review.

It was amazing to watch the growth and transformation that occurred in a weeks' time. No one was immune to the growth from the Cadet Airman to the Cadet Commander. Many cadets commented on how the lessons learned during the week would help them in life and in future careers.

It was not all serious work all week. Wednesday morning included a flight on either a CH-47 Chinook or HH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Each flight lasted 25-30 minutes and included flying though some of the passes and valleys of the Sierras! Crossing a ridge line usually meant a moment of reduced gravity for all and some stomachs in the throat for some. Smiles and cheers then echoed above the noise of twin turbines. Friday provided an opportunity to get close to Rare Bare and other Reno Air Race aircraft; as well as time in the tower at Stead Airport, a chance to talk with Washoe County Sheriff about their rescue helicopter, a chance to get close to some of the firefighting aircraft based at Stead for this fire season, and a chance to do an informational scavenger hunt in the Stead terminal. This was a chance to see aviation from a few non-military perspectives. It was a reminder that aviation holds many opportunities.

The fun of playing with tape, glue, paper tubes and then sending them skyward was had by all the cadets as they made model rockets. The rockets were made during classroom time and then were launched later in the week with many rockets reaching significant altitude and releasing the streamers as designed. The experience may have even ignited some future careers with NASA.

A unique opportunity presented itself over the course of the week, and it was all due to cadet interest. Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Sara Holstein asked Capt. (Dr.) Daniel Holstein, the encampment medical officer, to have dual duty in Logistics and Medical during the Cadre Selection Exercise (CSX) for this encampment. Her request was granted, and during the week she began learning about some of the medical assessment techniques Capt. (Dr.) Holstein used when someone had a medical issue.

This impromptu education quickly extended to other cadets interested in the medical information. Cadet 2nd Lt. Casa and Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Pension also took advantage of the education being offered. The cadets were highly motivated, constantly asking very insightful questions looking for more information and seeking more chances to learn. Because of the interest, motivation and assistance, Capt. Holstein created the Encampment Medical Bay Training Certificate to recognize the efforts of the cadets. Cadet 2nd Lt. Casa said that he is considering the Air Force PJs as an option for his future career plans.

Despite the record hot temperatures and persistent haze from regional wildfires, the encampment was enjoyable for those who attended. Many friendships were made among the cadets, and the experiences of encampment will stay with each of them as they move forward. The cadre did an impressive job organizing and reorganizing the events during the week. They took in stride the challenges that arose in making this event with so many moving pieces successful. For the senior members, we provided support and guidance to an outstanding group of cadets.

For this senior member, it was an experience in coming full circle. It is very clear that the lessons I learned as a cadet have provided me a solid foundation for my life. Now those lessons are being instilled in the current generation of cadets. I was proud to be a part of that process.

© 2024 Civil Air Patrol. All rights reserved.