Civil Air Patrol
  • Aircrew returing to base

Cadets soar silently over West Virginia mountains

October 25, 2019 — ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Maryland Wing, Civil Air Patrol cadets traveled to Grant County Airport, W. Va., Oct. 18-20 for a weekend of glider orientation flights.

Fourteen Harford Composite Squadron cadets from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., each got to fly the glider twice for about 12 minutes per flight under the supervision of the pilot in charge, Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Brian Collins.

The sleek two-seater aircraft, pulled by a mile-long winch cable, rapidly climbs into the sky going from zero to 60 miles per hour in about two seconds. 

“Our cadets love gliders,” said Civil Air Patrol Maj. Maria Esparraguera, Harford Composite Squadron activities officer. “The winch start is probably one of the most exciting things that will happen to them. It probably puts a couple of G’s on them and they just love it.”

Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The organization aids in search and rescue missions and disaster relief. It offers aerospace education opportunities and its cadet programs builds future leaders.

Cadets are offered unique opportunities, Esparraguera said. 

“I’m a licensed pilot. I’ve been flying for 20 years. I have never seen a winch start for a glider,” she said. “It’s such a unique experience to be able to do that. The cadets love it. This was one of their favorite events.” 

Civil Air Patrol cadets learn about, among other things, aerospace education, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We’re involved in developing future leaders of America, and future aerospace leaders in particular,” said Civil Air Patrol Maj. Samuel Thomas, Harford Composite Squadron deputy commander for cadets. “The cadets are very enthusiastic about this type of event. Being able to fly in a glider and be able to manipulate the controls…that’s where they first get a good chance to feel what the aircraft’s responses are.” 

Cadets enthusiastically discussed their experience.

“At first I thought it was going to be way faster…something more like a roller coaster, but it was actually less like that,” said Cadet Matthew Crowe. “It was more calm and I liked it. It was good.” 

Every cadet from the age of 12 to 17 has the opportunity to fly the glider and also fly the powered airplane, Thomas explained. 

“That’s the greatest draw I think that we have,” he said. “Aside from that, leadership…we teach leadership. We teach a military kind of style of leadership and the cadets really get a chance to grow as they increase in rank, as they go up in rank from just an initial cadet all the way up. So it’s a great opportunity for them to mature.”

Cadets also toured the Smoke Hole Caverns and learned about the area’s history. the event is just one of many field trips planned throughout the year across the Mid-Atlantic region. Cadets meet Mondays from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. for classes and training.

The Harford squadron is a composite of both adult and youth programs. The unit meets in the STEM Center, Building 4508, 6483 Wayberry Road at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. 

Do you have a passion for aviation, dream of flight, or are considering a career in the military? Do you want to serve your community and enhance your leadership skills? Join us. Youths, ages 12 to 18, as well as parents and adults interested in the cadet and/or senior program are welcome to visit meetings and talk with the staff. Follow the squadron on Facebook.

Nearly 1,500 members serve in Civil Air Patrol’s Maryland Wing. Last year, wing members flew 13 actual search and rescue missions. Overall, the Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the State of Maryland, flying 2,245 hours in all mission categories, and was credited with four finds. Volunteers contributed services estimated at $4.6 million. For information, contact the Maryland Wing at or follow the wing on Facebook.

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 82 lives annually. CAP’s 61,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 25,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit or for information.


2nd Lt. David McNally, CAP
Harford Composite Squadron

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