ARTICLE BY: Cadet Faith Marquez

Bastrop, TX – December 28, 2014-January 4, 2015 – Winter Encampment was organized at Camp Swift with a great number of cadet and senior staff arriving in Bastrop between the 27th and 28th of December, 2014. Following the staff arrival, cadets from all over the country came to attend this basic encampment organized by the Texas Wing.

The first day was cold and drizzly. Cadets were moved quickly through registration. They said final goodbyes to family members before being placed in flights. Flight members would become best friends over the next eight days. Thunderbird Composite Squadron had seven members attend as basics: C/TSgt Hannah Andrews, C/Amn Elizabeth Dry, C/A1C Sidney Kincaid, C/MSgt Faith Marquez, C/MSgt Martin Marquez, C/Amn Lizette O’Quinn, and C/A1C Robert Stauber. Six cadets also attended as members of staff: C/CMSgt Holly Fieglein, C/1st Lt Kyler Hearn, C/CMSgt Eleidy Sosa, C/MSgt Dinah Gates, C/TSgt Joshua Gates, and C/1stLt Truitt LoDolce. Four seniors of Thunderbird served as flight training officers: 1st Lt Steven Gates, 1st Lt Lydia Gates, 2d Lt Gary Fourie, and Capt John Hinch.

The history of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Encampment dates back more than fifty years. Encampment is a weeklong training with lessons well taught and learned. The cadets who attend take the first step into leadership as followers and team players. They develop self-discipline, and confidence. They make new friends and share new experiences.

“We simulate basic training, but not at the same intensity. The purpose of the cadet encampment is for cadets to develop leadership skills, investigate the aerospace sciences and related careers, commit to a habit of regular exercise, and solidify their moral character.” stated C/SMSgt Eleidy Sosa, Flight Sergeant for Hotel Flight. After the eight days of training, these cadets go home with the proud achievement of having completed and passed their basic encampment.

Major Fletcher Sharp was the encampment commander and C/Lt Col Bradley Wabbersen was the cadet commander. There was never a still moment for cadets or the staff throughout the entire week. From the moment of waking, cadets hurried to get dressed, organized their bunks and prepared their uniforms before being hustled into formation with their flights. Staff was up extra early every morning and stayed up late every night making sure the day’s curriculum was ready. Cook staff worked around the clock always ready to serve. The cadets participated in physical training in the morning and spent hours learning to sound off and drill as one flight. C/TSgt Hannah Andrews, who has been a member of Thunderbird Composite Squadron for over a year, commented, “It was very helpful to have drill retaught to me and to be able to ask questions. Now I feel more confident and comfortable in CAP.”

The cadets studied in a classroom setting, learning from instructors who had real experience in the subjects they taught. The lessons covered the CAP missions, CAP history, Aerospace Education, Emergency Services and Cadet Programs as well as career opportunities and character development.

Work was not without play, cadets were able to enjoy marksmanship, shooting 22 caliber rifles. They played simple team building games such as the human knot and participated in more challenging team builders such as the real life military obstacle course used at Camp Swift. Cadets cheered on their fellow flight members as they climbed net ropes rolled over and under log obstacles, or tossed each other over wood walls. On the last day before graduation, flights competed against each other in cadet Olympics. It was a final test to demonstrate how the flights had grown as teams over the week. They competed in tug of war, volley ball, ultimate frisbee and more.

After a wet and cold week of marching in mud, the entire encampment awoke to a clear sky on Sunday morning, graduation day. Families of cadets came to watch the ending ceremony as the graduates marched before the pass and review board presenting themselves as disciplined and well developed teams.

Proud Thunderbird members earned three awards. Echo Flight was awarded Honor Flight of Encampment for going above and beyond, demonstrating excellence and teamwork throughout encampment. Thunderbird senior member, 1st Lt Lydia Gates, the training officer for Echo Flight, said, “When Echo Flight received the award of “Honor Flight” of encampment, I was very proud. Shadowing them all week, I was able to see many highs and lows from the flight and line staff.  But seeing howthey never stopped pushing forward as a team earned them the recognition of Honor flight. It was a great experience and “honor” to work with such fine cadets!”

Foxtrot flight was awarded Warrior Flight for demonstrating great team effort and embodying the warrior spirit. Thunderbird cadets Lizzette O’Quinn and Hannah Andrews were members of Foxtrot Flight. Thunderbird member C/MSgt Faith Marquez was awarded Hotel Flight, Honor Cadet.

Many new opportunities are now open to these cadets. They have completed their Basic Encampment. The hope is that these cadets will return to their home squadrons feeling confident enough to seek higher positions and to continue to take advantage of the many learning opportunities that CAP offers.

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TX-179 Thunderbird Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol

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