CAP: A Ministry Opportunity
By Roger Bennett
I received a mandatory retirement from the National Guard, which all guardsmen receive when they reach 60 years old. My guard unit went to Iraq just after I retired, and soon after, I met and was recruited by Chaplain Eddie Young from Tennessee. He informed me there is no age limit in CAP (Civil Air Patrol), and I could serve as a chaplain. I joined and was commissioned and appointed to a local squadron. I soon learned a CAP chaplain could not be deployed, but I stayed in anyway.
Working with Cadets and flying search and rescue missions as a scanner appeals to me. (A scanner does the actual searching.) I work mostly with cadets, teaching character development and going to encampments, which are ten days of basic training for cadets. These encampments are similar to army basic training but geared toward youth. The first few days are tough on them, and that is when they come to see the chaplain. It is rewarding to see them progress and complete encampment.
I recruited a 13-year-old boy and his father a few years ago. Soon after, I took duty in another state. When I returned, the cadet had grown about two feet and was the ranking non-commissioned officer in the squadron. He is now considering an army career. Many CAP cadets attend the Air Force Academy. One is a Blue Angel.
The cadets are well disciplined and dedicated. They pay for their uniforms, equipment, encampments, and schooling where they receive advanced training. As a matter of fact, all CAP members pay their own way; it is a volunteer organization.
One would think the removal of all junk food, electronic devices, and calls home, and getting up at 5:00 a.m. to do physical training would drive the cadets nuts, but some return the next year to go through it all again. That is what dedication looks like. The advanced cadets are the trainers at encampments, so they pretty much run their own program. The most rewarding part is being able to watch as cadets progress in their training.
I also enjoy training as a flight crew scanner in AF 172 and 182 Cessna, Skyhawk, and Skyland planes and mingling with the senior members, most of whom are pilots. I feel as safe flying with them as I would with any commercial pilot. (I also hope to become a glider pilot, but that will be some time in the future.)
A chaplain must have the proper education from an accredited college and seminary, which means a bachelor’s degree and a master of divinity. CAP may waive the master of divinity if the applicant has at least five years pastoral experience, approval of his squadron commander, and endorsement by a particular denomination’s endorsing agency—North American Ministries for Free Will Baptists. Certain promotions can be achieved when the phases in the chaplain personal development programs are completed. The pay remains the same, though...zero.
All in all, I am happy being a CAP chaplain and would recommend it to others. The assignment has no physical training tests, weight standards, or age requirements. One chaplain I met was 90, and he did not join until he was 80.
Check us out at www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com and come join the team.
About the Writer: Roger Bennett and his wife Maxine reside in Amory, Mississippi, and are members of Pearce Chapel FWB Church, Smithville, Mississippi. Learn more about Free Will Baptist chaplain ministry at www.FWBNAM.com.