Aircrew teach life lessons to Civil Air Patrol Cadets
By Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 22, 2016
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A McConnell pilot and navigator had their military aviation roots planted when they joined the Civil Air Patrol in their early teens.
The aircrew members from the 384th Air Refueling Squadron, Captains Nathanial Beer, pilot, and Ryan Cobb, navigator, now dedicate several hours each week giving back to the local Emerald City Composite Squadron in Wichita, Kansas, just as they did as kids.
The CAP program's goal is to train cadets aged 12 to 20 in military discipline and traditions as well as prepares them for leadership responsibilities. Once they turn 21, they become senior members that perform supervisory and mentor roles.
Both desired to become pilots at a young age. Cobb wanted to follow his grandfather's footsteps who was a naval aviator, and Beer was a self-proclaimed aerospace nerd.
Cobb joined when he was just 12-years-old. The following month the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers occurred.
"I always wanted to be in the military as a kid because I wanted to fly, that's what Grandpa did and it was cool; it's a sexy job kind of thing," said Cobb. "A whole new factor was added after 9/11; as a kid I began thinking of service and what that meant, it was obvious to me that I would join in a time of war."
As for Beer, he knew he wanted to fly since he was four years-old but didn't know how to get started. When his family moved to Colorado from Australia he joined the CAP at 15 years old. It wasn't exactly what he expected but there was more to the program than flying.
"At the time we were allowed orientation flights but not allowed to pilot," said Beer. "When I joined I really enjoyed the camaraderie with the other cadets, learning about military leadership and the aerospace things. It gave me the opportunity to learn and, in turn, teach as I moved through the leadership levels."
Over the last 13 years, Beer continued to participate in the CAP even through college and pilot training.
"The real-world application the cadets perform are search and rescue missions, because we can find a downed aircraft while flying, but cannot reach it," said Beer. "They go in with basic medical knowledge, scene preservation and rudimentary accident investigation. They secure the scene and set-up the perimeter. Cadets can perform real-life search and rescue, which is why we take the program so seriously because we trust them with finding and saving lives."
They are also tasked by Department of Homeland Security to perform reconnaissance missions for counter drug missions. The ECCS has also assisted the National Wildlife Service when they took photos to compare with previous photos to check water levels near bridges to see if it was safe to travel in North Oklahoma during recent flooding.
"We won the Northwest Region Squadron of the year, due to the hard work we put into making the program as great as we can," said Beer. "When we first joined we had six to ten cadets, and now, we have an active roster of 30. We have come a long way."
Through mentoring, Beer and Cobb have made an impact to the ECCS cadets.
"They have been very inspirational," said Cadet Chief Master Sgt, Heather Dedrick, flight commander first sergeant. "They are able to pick out things that we don't see and have helped the squadron a lot in general."
For all they put in, they get something back.
"[I am proud when] I have been guiding a cadet and they make a call or decision and you know that you got through, maybe not even on a specific lesson but got a concept through that they can take that concept and apply it broadly, then out of left field and just blow you away," said Cobb.
For Beer, he has seen many of his cadet's graduate pilot training, become pilots in the military and some even work in state legislatures.
"I am very humble about the cadets that I get to work with," said Beer. "I've taught for long enough and taught enough cadets that I have started to see many of them grow. Many are community leaders and have gone off to do amazing things, it really represents what the program is about."
The Air Force has funded the CAP to build cadets into valuable assets that can potentially save lives as cadets and possibly become productive Airmen further down the line. For Beer and Cobb, they'll continue to inspire the next generation of pilots and aviation enthusiasts.