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Why CAP Matters So Much Today: The Making of Leaders

Why CAP Matters So Much Today:

The Making of Leaders

By Maj. Kenneth Lucia, CAP


11/2004 Nellis AFB Airshow, Aviation Nation

11/2004 Nellis AFB Airshow, Aviation Nation

In today’s world, it is easy for some to get discouraged by current world events. A pandemics is raging, international disputes escalating, inflation sky rocketing, increasingly stressed political environments, and bouts of civil unrest.

But amid all of that, you find stories of hope and encouragement for America. There is a place where young adults grow into amazing leaders to become the beacon of hope for America. A place where core values are still taught. A place where it doesn’t matter where you came from, or what the color of your skin is, or who you worship or don’t, or who you love, and more. It is a place where people who want to be part of an amazing country, strive for personal excellence, serve their communities, focus in three main mission areas, and share a common bond of history and esprit de corps can be found: Civil Air Patrol.

Take two cadets in particular. In 2010, at the age of 12, and after many years of attending air shows with her family (five shows by that time) and getting her photo taken in CAP airplanes, Stephanie Lucia joined CAP. She continued to do all the things cadets do in CAP, like weekly meetings, orientation rides, studying for and taking promotion tests, and so forth. At first, she went to meetings because her father dragged her there. But she soon found she liked the people, found it fun, and looked forward to going. She got her rocketry badge, and became the unit’s first cadet safety officer (see articles in Volunteer Now, Volunteer, and Nevada Silver Wings in Nov 2011). Her first encampment at Camp Pendelton, CA, in 2011 sealed the career path.

Meanwhile, not far away, and early in his life, another young man would drive to the airport with his beloved grandfather to just watch planes take off and land at McCarran Airport and the North Las Vegas Airport. He also went to air shows and then, when he was 12, Blaise Cohen joined his local CAP unit in 2011. As it turns out, and by good fortune, someone was there to capture that first day on film. It is the same day these two cadets met. One was the acting flight sergeant, and the other filled in the ranks.

The two would soon become friends and were nearly inseparable. Regarding Encampments, Stephanie had done six Encampments, in various roles as flight sergeant, flight commander, squadron commander, executive officer, and ultimately as the Nevada Wing’s Cadet Commander in 2017. Blaise, likewise, had done five Encampments in roles as flight sergeant, squadron first sergeant, squadron commander, and as Nevada Wing’s Encampment Executive Officer in 2017.

Along the way, the two had a string of successes and they brought a synergy and excitement to CAP. They started the brand-new Vegas Valley Composite Squadron, NV-077 as a means to fill the need for an under-served area of Las Vegas. They both served as its Cadet Squadron Commanders before moving onto college.

11/2004 Nellis AFB Airshow, Aviation Nation

2011 - Ten years before they tied the knot

It is important to note that these cadets entered a program where others had gone before them and laid the groundwork. There were senior members who had been in CAP for years and who gave of themselves selflessly and completely to CAP. Those senior members, and cadet leaders, imparted their love, experience, and devotion to CAP to them and their contributions laid the foundation for service for these two. In time, these cadets became the role models for other generations of cadets, and the cycle repeats. This year, a cadet that started in their new unit will be the Cadet Encampment Commander for the 2021 Nevada Wing Encampment. So, a legacy continues. And it was just not CAP that inspired them. Along the way, these cadets were inspired by the Army National Guard in Reno in Blackhawk and Chinook Helicopters, and with the Nevada Air National Guard in Reno in C-130s, or National Guard training centers in southern Nevada and with the Air Force on Nellis AFB at the Airman Leadership school, Thunderbirds, and threat training facilities. 

11/2004 Nellis AFB Airshow, Aviation Nation

2017 - Nevada Wing Encampment

Weekly meetings are wonderful, but the real reward is in all the other activities a cadet can do. There were weekend CAP schools for new airmen, advanced schools, NCO schools, officer schools, region schools, Cadet Special Activities, Drill Competitions, Color Guard Competitions, color guard details and postings, a trip to Meteor Crater in Arizona, air shows on Nellis AFB, Emergency Services courses at Lake Mead and Mt. Charleston, Wing, Region, and National Conferences, and so many other activities. You see, leadership, teamwork, and trust are built slowly. It can’t be read in a book and be easily applied. It involves practice, and even failure, at varying levels, to build skills and wisdom, and the ability to inspire and motivate. All the activities they participated in and built upon gave them tools for success. Real leaders also know that leadership means to mentor, nurture, and develop those newer cadets to be in a position to be able to replace them. CAP is not static in its membership and there must be people to carry the heritage, skills, and values onward. So, like their predecessors, these two cadets left their legacy.

11/2004 Nellis AFB Airshow, Aviation Nation

2021 UNLV Spring Graduation

But the story did not end there. CAP lays a foundation, but cadets can choose to build upon that. Both of these cadets graduated from different high schools. Blaise earned his private pilot license at age 17. Both went on to college at UNLV and earned full-ride Air Force scholarships. Their understanding of the Air Force and the skills that they had attained in CAP made them stand out in AFROTC. Stephanie became the detachment Wing Commander as a Junior. Blaise would go on do to it his Junior year also. Several of the people they mentored and influenced in CAP are also in AFROTC today. They both completed their AFOQT tests, medical exams, security clearances, and field training with AFROTC. And, they both got their FIRST choice of career fields—Blaise was selected as a pilot and Stephanie was accepted into the Intel world.

Just two days after graduating UNLV, both former CAP cadets commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force at the Nellis AFB Thunderbird hangar, where Blaise earned the prestigious “Distingushished Graduate” award.  So, after a 10-year career in CAP, they begin their careers serving their nation in the premier fighting force in the history of the Earth! They are still both CAP members, but became senior members when the first turned 21.

11/2004 Nellis AFB Airshow, Aviation Nation

2021 - Wedding Ceremony, Las Vegas, NV

As if that were not enough, Stephanie and Blaise recently sealed their friendship in marriage. Two of the best men were in the photos above (Blake Rosezell and Brandon LaFayette)—friends since 2011. One of the bridesmaids (Gianna Maraccini) has been their friend in CAP since 2012. There were members of their current CAP unit, as well as senior members from the Nevada Wing staff and Pacific Region staff—many of them going back to 2012 as well. They were married by their long-time friend and mentor in CAP, and former Nevada Wing Chaplain, Deb Prosser.

CAP is an amazing vehicle to develop young people into outstanding citizens and future leaders. As a father, I was able to see these kids develop into young adults and I was able to chronicle it through years of photos. I was blessed to be able to see them grow. I was blessed to be able to give them both their first salutes as new officers in the Air Force (I retired as an enlisted USAF SNCO). I can think of no higher honor for a father than to see his kids (both of them now) become the amazing young adults and to see them both achieve even greater levels of success than I had. Besides a life devoted to the Almighty, I can think of no higher calling than the serving their nation and no father has ever been prouder. Now, these two officers will serve their nation, protecting you and I with their lives. They carry fire and the vision of the founding fathers of America, of those that fought to create, defend and protect, to emancipate, and to be the beacon of light to billions around the world. They carry forth that patriotism, heritage and history, and heavy responsibility. With fidelity, they will defend the Constitution and its Amendments, for all of America’s people, wherever their nation calls them to do it, and carry on a legacy of honor, sacrifice, and service.

11/2004 Nellis AFB Airshow, Aviation Nation

11/2010 - 1st O-ride and also now working air shows with CAP in CAP planes.

They got that start from their families, and developed it in CAP. From all indications, they will leave their mark on the world and become even greater leaders in the future. They will remain members in CAP also and continue to inspire others, old and young, to be better. I know they even inspire their father to want to be better.

For those of you out there just getting started in CAP, we hope you continue to serve and achieve the greatness within all of you. Be the people America needs so desperately. The road is sometimes tough, but you will build lifelong friends, enjoy the experiences, and you will love who you become. Accept the challenge—America needs you. Remember, WE LEAD, WE SERVE.

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