‘Taking the Reins and Evolving’: Northeast Region Trains Cadet Leaders
Recent completion of its third online Region Cadet Leadership School in just over a year means the Northeast Region has trained more than 200 cadets during that period from around the nation, ranging from the Delaware, Florida, and Maryland wings to the nine-wing region itself.
Such schools are a course in officership, indirect leadership, and other themes consistent with Civil Air Patrol’s leadership expectations for Phase III cadets. The sessions make use of local resources to broaden leadership skills in cadet officers and noncommissioned officers. To participate, cadets must have completed an encampment and hold the grade of cadet master sergeant or above.
The recent cadet leadership schools were overseen by Maj. Carol Whelan and Capt. Tina Vanek, who also teamed up to found the Advanced Leadership Course dedicated to educating Phase III and IV cadets on leadership in the strategic arena. Whelan is Connecticut Wing chief of staff, and Vanek is region deputy chief of staff for cadet programs.
Reflecting CAP’s renewed focus on innovation in its 2022-2026 Strategic Plan, the two activities were adapted to use online platforms, including Discord, Google Classroom, and Zoom, to ensure continued education and training throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to classes, students also participated in other activities ranging from chess tournaments to movie nights.
Whelan said the region’s leadership school is unique because it operates with a “cadet-run, senior-supervised” approach. The cadet staff has significant freedom to run the event, allowing the team to gain valuable leadership experience.
“We get to see cadet leaders taking the reins and evolving,” Whelan said.
As for the schools’ online nature, she said, “I think there are incredible benefits to being virtual: the ability to have guest speakers like the national commander, being able to host cadets from across the nation, as well as being able to only charge $25-$30 for a polo shirt and a coin.
“Those benefits can’t be understated.”
One participant, Cadet 2nd Lt. Andrew Serrazina of the Connecticut Wing’s 103rd Composite Squadron, described the leadership school as “one of my all-time favorite Civil Air Patrol activities, as I was able to make connections with a variety of cadets from both the Northeast Region and across the United States.”
The school is one way to fulfill the leadership academy requirement for achieving CAP’s Gen. Ira C. Eaker Award. The activity focuses on developing cadets’ indirect leadership skills through various lectures and activities, including lessons ranging from “Officership” to “Principles of Critical Thinking.”
The Advanced Leadership Course offers cadets the opportunity to learn about leadership in the strategic arena. Last spring, students studied topics ranging from how chess strategies and tactics can be applied to life to a discussion of Robert Greene’s book “The 48 Laws of Power.” Course participants are leadership school or Cadet Officer School graduates above the grade of cadet second lieutenant.
Over the past year, students from both schools heard interactive lectures from such guests as Maj. Gen. Edward Phelka, CAP national commander and CEO, on servant leadership and establishing organizational goals, and John Salvador, CAP’s chief operating officer, who spoke on empowerment and corporate survival.
Advanced course participants were also treated to a surprise question-and-answer panel on ethics consisting of Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, former national commander and CEO; Cols. Jack Ozer, former Northeast Region commander, and James Ridley, Northeast Region chief of staff; and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Higgins.
Cadet Maj. Ariana Moretz of the Delaware Wing’s North Chesapeake Cadet Squadron participated in the advanced course in the spring and returned as staff for the region leadership school this winter. “I learned from the Advanced Leadership Course that teamwork makes the dream work. Harness your team's individual strengths and build up each other’s weaknesses,” Moretz said.
“From staffing, I learned that patience is your best friend,” she said. “As a leader, you will encounter situations where you might not know what to do. You might feel stuck. Be patient with yourself and the people around you. Be confident in your decisions and thinking. You’ve got this!”
During graduation, Cadet Lt. Col. Rodrick-Josh Zapanta of the New Jersey Wing’s Atlantic County Composite Squadron, cadet commander for the event, invoked U.S. Army Gen. George Patton’s saying that “pressure creates diamonds” in congratulating cadets on a week of hard work.
The Northeast Region hopes to hold both the leadership school and advanced leadership course this spring or summer, with dates to be determined.
Cadet Lt. Col. Sahil Swali
National Public Affairs Staff Assistant