Members of a squadron gather near one of the Rhode Island CAP Wing’s small planes while it was parked near a larger National Guard C-130 transport plane.

WOONSOCKET — Young people interested in a future career related to aviation or aerospace skills should show up at the Girls and Boys Club of Woonsocket on Kendrick Avenue the evening of July18 to learn more about a new Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Squadron forming there.

The squadron, the first to be operated in Woonsocket in 20 years, is being chartered by Rhode Island CAP Wing Headquarters in North Kingstown with the help of a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training’s Real Jobs R.I. Program.

The grant will cover the cost of membership fees and uniforms for those helping to establish the new squadron in Woonsocket, according to Robert Gubala, a lieutenant colonel and vice commander of R.I. CAP Wing Headquarters.

The new composite squadron will be open to both youth from ages 12 to 21 and also adults looking to volunteer with the organization and take on its training opportunities in areas such as search and rescue and emergency services, or leadership and aerospace education.

“We are really excited about bringing the program to Woonsocket,” Gubala, a resident of Pawtucket who was once a CAP cadet himself, said while listing the opportunities the local squadron will represent for disadvantaged youth in the community.

“We are forging young adults and people who can contribute to society,” Gubala said while explaining the CAP’s many roles in emergency response, aviation training and leadership development.

Although not geared specifically to helping its participants find future careers in the military, as is the local Air Force Jr. ROTC Wing at the high school, the CAP is an auxiliary organization of the U.S. Air Force and does help train about 10 percent of the students admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy, according to Gubala.

With wings operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the CAP, founded on Dec.1, 1941, now provides 60,000 volunteers nationwide to provide emergency services and training with 550 single-engine aircraft and 1,000 vehicles nationwide.

The Woonsocket squadron will join four other CAP squadrons operating in the state: Pawtucket, West Warwick, Westerly and Warren.

Under its military ranked cadet program, young people can learn the skills they need to participate in emergency situation responses, search and rescue operations, and even cellphone technology victim location projects.

With its strong support for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, the CAP also helps those looking to find career opportunities in aerospace engineering or aeronautics technology.

Rhode Island CAP cadets can take a flight orientation class that includes a flight experience and the opportunity to apply for a flight scholarship that could provide them with a first step toward obtaining their private pilot’s license.

The flight scholarships can be used to join a national summertime CAP flight academy where participants can earn a solo flight certificate, Gubala said.

The program can also help adults interested in a career in aviation to get hands-on training in the skills they will use will obtaining a job in an aviation-related business or service, according to Gubala.

“We are hoping that we get a good turnout and also hope that we can make a difference in some of these kids’ lives,” he said. “We are bringing a good program to Woonsocket.”

William Stranahan, a colonel and wing commander with the CAP, said he too is looking forward to starting the new squadron in Woonsocket.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for us to expand in Northern Rhode Island,” Stranahan said.

The program will also benefit those who choose to participate no matter what future career path they will seek, he noted.

“It definitely builds a person’s leadership capabilities and also team skills and physical fitness,” he said.

“Our goal is really to make them a well-rounded leader whether they plan to pursue a career in the military or civilian life,” Stranahan said. “We want them to be excellent leaders no matter what they do.”

The R.I. CAP Wing also provides flight training opportunities with the two single-engine planes, a Cessna 182 and Cessna 172, that it operates in the state. CAP participants can get the chance to experience flight in one of the planes, participate in a flight mission, or even get behind the controls, he noted.

After getting a flight experience through the program, CAP members can also apply for the summertime national flight school or a fight scholarship to continue their progress toward a pilot’s license, he noted.

Other participants might be more interested in search and rescue or emergency response work that might help them find a career in those areas, according to Stranahan.

The fact that the CAP has a military rank system and military training is a benefit to those seeking a military career, and Stranahan said that a cadet achieving the rank of second lieutenant can see that transferred to an E-3 rank if they chose to enlist with a military branch of service.

The variety of opportunities that can stem from participation in the CAP, both in civilian life and the military, make it a good program for young people to join, according to Stranahan.

“It is an awesome program to be a part of,” he said.

The first meeting of the new squadron will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club of Woonsocket, and regular meetings on Thursdays will follow.

For more information, contact Gubala at Wing Headquarters by calling at 401-267-3130.

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