Ranks of the Civil Air Patrol
Members of Civil Air Patrol are assigned various ranks, the titles and insignia of which are based on those used by the United States Air Force. Each grade and insignia corresponds to an equivalent United States Air Force enlisted rank insignia and an equivalent officer rank insignia.
Cadet grades are a series of cadet ranks awarded to cadets in the CAP. A cadet begins at Cadet Airman Basic and must progress through all the enlisted grades before becoming a cadet officer. Each achievement requires the completion of several tasks.
Cadet Airman Basic
Cadet Airman Basic (C/AB) is the beginner level grade of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets and of all phases. During the time that this grade is held, most Cadets undergo some form of squadron-, group-, and, occasionally, wing-level training in the basics of CAP and what it has to offer. The cadet will wear no insignia with this grade. The grade has no corresponding achievement award.
Cadet Airman (C/Amn) is a grade that indicates the completion of the first achievement of 1 in the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. The Cadet Airman insignia is based on the design of the airman insignia from the USAF with a CAP Cadet shield superimposed over the center. Requirements to obtain this grade include a 25 question test on the fundamentals of leadership and fellowship taken from chapter one of "Learn to Lead", a drill performance test, and an attempt at a physical fitness test. Also included in promotion is attending at least one Moral Leadership session provided by the cadet's local squadron. Some local units also require review boards to ensure that a person meets all requirements for this. Since 2015, cadets also must complete the new Wingman Program and quiz to obtain the grade of cadet airman.
The grade accompanies the General J. F. Curry Achievement.
Cadets who have earned the Curry Achievement are eligible to go to Encampment (a week-long basic training for CAP Cadets) and also attain their General Emergency Services (GES) rating to assist CAP in its emergency services work.
Cadet Airman First Class
Cadet Airman 1st Class (C/A1C) is like Cadet Airman in many ways. Promotion to this grade indicates completion of the second of 16 achievements in the program. Some differences though are that at this level, Cadets must pass an aerospace program along with a leadership, drill and an attempt at a physical fitness test. Cadets also must attend at least one Moral Leadership session. Along with this, Cadets sometimes begin serving as element leaders or begin working towards the experience of being flight sergeants while polishing their skills in learning how to be effective followers. The design is similar to that of a Cadet Airman with a second stripe.
Cadet Senior Airman
Cadet Senior Airman (C/SrA) is the fourth enlisted rank in the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. It, like the requirements for Cadet Airman First Class (C/A1C) includes a leadership, aerospace, and an attempt at a physical fitness test with many units requiring review boards to obtain this promotion. By this time, Cadets have served at least 4 months in the program (usually more). Most Cadets take longer than that to reach this point and usually have a couple of group, wing, or other, higher level activities and experience. Senior Airmen are in essence NCO's in training. They may be asked to supervise subordinate cadets in the absence of a junior NCO. By this point, a Senior Airman is usually an element leader.
The grade accompanies the Mary Feik Achievement.
Cadet Staff Sergeant
Cadet Staff Sergeant (C/SSgt) is the fifth enlisted grade in the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. It is granted alongside the Wright Brothers Award, which is the first of 5 milestone awards given in the Cadet Program. Formerly the Wright Brothers Achievement (which accompanied C/SrA prior to April 2003), it was made an award to mark the completion of the first phase of the CAP Cadet Program. The award requires passing a comprehensive test on leadership covering the material learned over the 1st three achievements of the program along with a physical fitness test and a drill performance test, as well as a commitment of at least eight months of active membership in Civil Air Patrol. He/she may also apply for a staff position at an encampment or national activity. In addition Staff Sergeants may also become Flight Sergeants and supervise Flights anywhere from 8-20 cadets. And so is BTS.[clarification needed]
The grade accompanies the Wright Brothers Award, the first of the five Cadet Program Milestone Awards.
Cadet Technical Sergeant
The grade of Cadet Technical Sergeant (C/TSgt) is the sixth enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. It is most often known as "Cadet Tech. Sergeant". At this rank cadets are usually Flight Sergeants, but may also serve as element leaders instead. They can also apply to become staff at an encampment or a national activity.
Cadet Master Sergeant
The grade of Cadet Master Sergeant (C/MSgt) is the seventh enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. At this point a Cadet becomes a Senior NCO and may be given the billet of First Sergeant, at which time a diamond is placed on the grade insignia.
The grade accompanies the Charles A. Lindbergh Achievement.
Cadet Senior Master Sergeant
The grade of Cadet Senior Master Sergeant (C/SMSgt) is the eighth enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. At this rank a cadet may serve as a first sergeant. However, it is not uncommon for a senior master sergeant to be a flight sergeant. Rarely, but in the event that there is a shortage of commissioned officers a Senior NCO may act as a Flight Commander, commanding a group of cadets numbering usually from 8-20.
The grade accompanies the General Jimmy Doolittle Achievement.
Cadet Chief Master Sergeant
The grade of Cadet Chief Master Sergeant (C/CMSgt) is the ninth enlisted grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. There are two achievements with this rank. At this rank a Chief usually serves as a Squadron First Sergeant. However, a Chief may also be a Flight Sergeant. Lastly, like a Senior Master Sergeant, a Chief may serve as a Flight Commander if there is a shortage in officers.
The grade accompanies the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Achievement.
In order for a cadet to earn this grade, the cadet must pass the Leadership Achievement 7 test, and the only aerospace education test that the cadet has not yet passed. The cadet must also take and pass their Cadet Physical Fitness Test (CPFT), attend at least one moral leadership session in their squadron since their last promotion, have actively participated, and finally, the cadet must have spent at least 56 days as a Cadet Senior Master Sergeant.
In addition, the grade of cadet chief master sergeant is kept for another 56 days after the cadet has earned the Goddard Achievement. Upon completing a physical fitness test, a 300-500 word essay and a speech given to the squadron (and after the extra 56-day term), the cadet can earn the Neil Armstrong Achievement, which is the final achievement a cadet is able to receive before promoting on to officership.
Cadet First Sergeant
Cadet First Sergeant (C/1st Sgt) is a position conferred to a cadet senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) in a unit. Rather than being a grade which any cadet may attain, this is a position granted to the cadet who will be acting in the leadership role over other cadets, and as such, there will be only one first sergeant at any given time. Once a cadet achieves the grade of cadet second lieutenant, he or she may no longer hold the position of first sergeant, and it will be awarded to another senior cadet NCO.
The roles of the cadet first sergeant are to relay information to Flight Sergeants and other NCOs or Airmen from the command staff, be the eyes and ears of the cadet commander, be the voice of the cadets to the commander, and to be a mentor and example for all NCOs in the squadron. A first sergeant has no rank authority over flight commanders (since the Flight Commander position is an Officer billet, even when filled by another cadet NCO). A first sergeant is placed above flight commanders in the Chain of command, because they report to the cadet commander (as the Squadron's Senior Enlisted cadet), but this does not give them authority over flight commanders. The first sergeant position is not in the direct chain of command, and is there to make the chain of command work by relaying information from the enlisted grade cadets the Cadet Commander. The reason the first sergeant position is not in the direct chain of command is because it does need to be positioned above flight staff to work. First sergeants do not have the authority to give Flight Commanders orders. Typically, Flight Commanders work directly with the Cadet Commander and receive their orders from that authority.
The insignia for this position will be the same as the cadet's grade (cadet master sergeant, cadet senior master sergeant, or cadet chief master sergeant). Junior NCOs are rarely assigned to this position. Cadets serving in this position are normally referred to and addressed as first sergeant by other cadets.
Cadet Second Lieutenant
The grade of Cadet Second Lieutenant (C/2d Lt) is the first cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program, and second milestone award (after Cadet Staff Sergeant). There are two achievements with this rank. In order to achieve the award, cadets must pass two comprehensive, 60-minute tests with 50 questions each. One covers previously studied leadership modules, while the other covers the content of six aerospace modules. Cadets must also pass a Cadet Physical Fitness Test (CPFT), have spent at least 112 days in the past grade, 56 for Goddard and 56 for Armstrong, and participated in Moral Leadership at least once since the cadet's last promotion, as well as having been a recorder and discussion leader at some point since completing the first phase of the Cadet Program. In addition, the cadet must attend and graduate an encampment.
At this rank a second lieutenant usually serves as a Flight Commander. They may also have to receive some leadership training and may also serve as the Cadet Commander of a squadron if there are no cadet officers of a higher rank in the squadron. However, contrary to the active duty military, all commissioned officers have risen through all the enlisted ranks.
A silver star worn on the accompanying ribbon denotes successful completion of Cadet Officer School.
The grade accompanies the Billy Mitchell Award. As well, if the cadet later enlists in the United States Air Force with this grade or higher, he or she enters with a Department of Defense pay grade of E-3. If the Cadet Enlists to any other branch (with the exception of the Marine Corps), they will receive an E-2 pay grade.
Cadet First Lieutenant
The grade of Cadet First Lieutenant (C/1st Lt) is the second cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. There are two achievements with this rank. The grade has no corresponding ribbon. A 1st Lt usually commands a large flight of about 15–20 cadets. At this grade they may also become a cadet executive officer. They may also serve as an aerospace education or emergency services officer.
The grade of Cadet Captain (C/Capt) is the third cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program, and also the third milestone of five in the cadet program. There are three achievements with this rank. In order to achieve the award, cadets must pass the comprehensive and timed aerospace and leadership test, as well as passing a Cadet Physical Fitness Test (CPFT), have written three Staff Duty Analyses, spent at least four months in the past grade and participated in Moral Leadership at least once since the cadet's last promotion.
The grade accompanies the Amelia Earhart Award. Award of the Earhart Award (and corresponding promotion to cadet captain) makes the cadet eligible for Civil Air Patrol's International Air Cadet Exchange. In addition cadet captains may begin to serve as Deputy Commander or even cadet commanders. At encampments or special activities a cadet captain may command a squadron and have as many as three Flights or 56 Cadets, 3 Flight Sergeants and a First Sergeant under him/her.
Cadet captains are to be referred to as "Captain" (or "Sir/Ma'am") by other cadets and "Cadet" or "Captain" by senior members. Cadets who are promoted to C/Capt are also eligible for the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE), at the age of 17.
The grade of Cadet Major (C/Maj) is the fourth cadet officer grade of the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. The grade has no corresponding ribbon. There are three achievements with this rank. At encampment or wing level a Cadet Major may serve as an Executive officer or Deputy Commander. They may also serve as a Cadet Commander at a squadron level. Also it is not uncommon for Cadet Majors and above to serve as training officers.
Cadet Lieutenant Colonel
The grade of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel (C/Lt Col) is a cadet officer grade that a cadet of the Civil Air Patrol may attain. It is the fourth milestone of five in the Cadet Program. Prior to 1996 this level of achievement was simply referred to as "Phase IV Completion".
In order for a cadet to earn this award, the cadet must have written an essay and give a speech, as well as take the PT test. They must have also attended a cadet officer's course such as RCLS (Regional Cadet Leadership School), COBC (Cadet Officers Basic Course), or COS (Cadet Officers School). Another alternative is to take the CAP Senior Officer Course (AFIADL-13); this option is rarely taken considering the valuable information learned at a RCLS or COS.
The grade of Cadet Colonel (C/Col) is the highest grade, and final milestone that a cadet of the Civil Air Patrol may attain. The General Carl A. Spaatz Award. that garners the rank of C/Col is Civil Air Patrol's highest cadet award and honor and is achieved by less than 0.5% of all cadets nationwide. Since January 2020, only 2268 members have achieved the award since 1941. To attain the rank of Cadet Colonel, cadets must devote an average of 5 years of service, complete 19 successive rank examinations, pass three promotion boards, a timed 60-question comprehensive exam on leadership theory and CAP regulations(on 1,123 pages of text), a timed, 60-question comprehensive aerospace exam(on 482 pages of text), pass a timed essay on a question of perennial moral debate where they must argue for/against an issue on moral grounds/making appeals to reason, and pass the United States Air Force Academy Candidate Fitness Assessment. Upon completion of the Cadet Program achievements (Eaker Award, formerly known as "Phase IV Completion"), the cadet may request this examination. Only three attempts are authorized. If reached, this is considered to be the pinnacle of a cadet's career. Only 0.5% of cadets become Spaatz cadets.
Senior Member ranks
|Uniformed services pay grade||Special grade||O-10||O-9||O-8||O-7||O-6||O-5||O-4||O-3||O-2||O-1||Officer candidate|
| Civil Air Patrol
|Major general||Brigadier general||Colonel||Lieutenant colonel||Major||Captain||First lieutenant||Second lieutenant||Senior flight officer||Technical flight officer||Flight officer||
|NATO code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student officer|
|Uniformed services pay grade||E-9||E-8||E-7||E-6||E-5||E-4||E-3||E-2||E-1|
| Civil Air Patrol
|Chief master sergeant||Senior master sergeant||Master sergeant||Technical sergeant||Staff sergeant|
Senior Members are the adults in Civil Air Patrol. Promotion through the ranks is based upon completion of Education & Training (ET) program levels, including progression along a Specialty Track and service requirements. CAP Specialty Tracks are similar to the Air Force Specialty Code, and include such vocations as Historian, Cadet Programs, and many more.
Senior Members are persons who join CAP after their 18th birthday, or cadets after their 21st birthday. Upon their 18th birthday, cadets may choose to remain as cadets or become Senior Members. Senior Members under the age of 21 hold the ranks of Flight Officers. A flight officer is roughly the equivalent of a second lieutenant, a technical flight officer is the rough equivalent of a first lieutenant, and a senior flight officer is the rough equivalent of a captain. Upon turning 21, Flight Officers are automatically promoted to the appropriate rank. Current or former military personnel that hold officer grades can be promoted to the equivalent CAP officer grade up to Lieutenant Colonel (example a major general can only promote to CAP Lt Col). All promotions are based on completion of ET program levels until lieutenant colonel. The CAP grades of coronel, brigadier general, and major general are reserved for wing and region commanders, National Vice Commander, and National Commander respectively. Because promotion from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel are based upon achievement, squadron commanders can be (and are) in charge of subordinate personnel who outrank them.
Current or former military enlisted personnel may choose to retain their grade as senior members, with grades E-5 (CAP Staff Sergeant) through E-9 (CAP Chief Master Sergeant) available. A military enlisted member with the grade of E-4 can join the CAP as an NCO with the grade of CAP Staff Sergeant. The NCO corps structure mirrors the Air Force NCO force structure with an established process to promote and develop NCOs.
- Awards and decorations of the Civil Air Patrol
- National Cadet Special Activities
- Ranks of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps
- Ranks of the cadet forces of the United Kingdom
- Cadets Canada Elemental Ranks
- New Zealand Cadet Forces ranks
- Australian Defence Force Cadets ranks
- A list of Spaatz Award recipients may be found at the Spaatz Association's website.
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