Civil Air Patrol Cadets Take to the Air in Valpo

Dec. 22, 2020

Dec. 21—VALPARAISO — Lauryn Hahn enjoyed her first flight. Minutes later, during her second flight, she was given a chance to take the yoke and fly the plane.

Hahn is one of the cadets in the Civil Air Patrol squadron based at Porter County Regional Airport. She took to the skies Saturday, one of the opportunities afforded by the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The volunteer organization's members are aviation-minded, and missions include emergency services and aerospace education.

"We got to see a lot of stuff," Hahn said about her flight Saturday. "We went in the clouds."

Fellow cadet Isabel Gaydos flew with her. She wants to increase her skills.

"I'm afraid of heights, and I did it," she said. Gaydos had flown just once before, in a commercial airliner with her family. Her first flight with the Civil Air Patrol trainer, she was able to take the yoke and experience the thrill of controlling the plane.

"I love roller coasters, but there was nothing under me in the plane," Hahn said.

"We didn't die. We're still alive," Gaydos said.

Hahn said she will have to work on her cardinal points, remembering the acronym Never Eat Soggy Waffles — North, East, South and West.

"I'm terrible at directions, but now I'm about to fly a plane," she said.

Squadron Commander Kathy Howard said the Civil Air Patrol is an incredible opportunity for young people. Her daughter, now a student at Purdue University, was nominated for admission to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

"That's amazing. You're 18, and you've got your pilot's license," Howard said.

Because the Civil Air Patrol cadets are focused on aviation, they're able to get flying lessons for far less than the cost of learning to fly elsewhere, said Major Bill Vendramin, public affairs officer with the Civil Air Patrol's Indiana wing.

The Indiana wing was formed Dec. 12, 1941, just 11 days after the Civil Air Patrol itself was founded. In those early days, the Civil Air Patrol did things like patrolling near the coast, ready to drop bombs on enemy submarines.

"Of course now, we don't carry any arms," Vendramin said.

Today's cadets, ages 12-18, get to experience flights, but they also give back to the community. They have been pressed into service this year to deliver food to people in need, both in Northwest Indiana and in the Indianapolis area.

When needed, they go on search and rescue missions.

Howard told stories of young people out searching until early morning, looking for an electronic signal that could indicate a plane had crashed. In one fortunate incident, they knocked on doors to try to find the source of the signal. The pilot had taken it off the plane and brought it home, where the signal had gone off.

Modern emergency signals now have GPS built in, which helps pinpoint the location faster, Vendramin said.

Cadets learn leadership skills. At 12, "they're quiet, they're meek," Howard said. By 18, "they're assertive, they're responsible."

Cadets also get the opportunity to visit military bases.

"It prepares you a lot for military service," Howard said. "It's like an ROTC component, except better."


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