2nd Lt. Christine Lobetti (Florida Wing)
Posted on August 17, 2022 at 9:20 PM by Virginia Smith
2nd Lt. Christine Lobetti, Deputy Commander and AEO of Fruit Cove Cadet Squadron in Florida, participates in her daughter's cadet promotion to Airman First Class. Her daughter is C/TSgt. Elizabeth Lobetti.
August 18, 2022
Meet 2nd Lt. Christine Lobetti, the Deputy Commander and Aerospace Education Officer for Fruit Cove Cadet Squadron in the Fruit Cove community of St. Johns County, Florida. She joined as a senior member after her son joined as a cadet. Her father also has been a CAP member. "My family got so involved in CAP that at one point in time there were three generations of my family in the same squadron." Her daughter is now a member as well. Lt. Lobetti's interest in aerospace was ignited by her father, who grew up in the time of the Space Race. "My dad used to take us to Cape Canaveral a lot. Museums, shows, really anything that was related to aerospace or technology, he would really expose us to it," she remembers. Following a career in bank fraud investigation, which taught her much about cybersecurity, she spends much of her time home-schooling and volunteering. In addition to CAP, she volunteers with another youth organization, American Heritage Girls, and works in her church's youth ministry. This summer, Lt. Lobetti was again at Cape Canaveral as part of the 2022 National Aerospace Education Officers School, which she calls one of the best experiences she has had in CAP. The class attended information and hands-on learning sessions at Patrick Space Force Base and field trips to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. "Even for someone like me who has been in this organization for years, attending the school gave me so many new experiences and knowledge that I am already using with my cadets and even members of my other youth organizations," she says. "The space nerd side of me also thought it was the best because I got to see parts of aerospace history that most people don't get to see. Standing with the Artemis Program rocket on the launch pad behind me was a dream come true." We asked her some questions about her Civil Air Patrol career, and her answers follow.
How did you get involved in Civil Air Patrol?
We decided to homeschool my son in middle school. He was looking for an ROTC type program. One of the moms in my local homeschool Facebook group posted about this Civil Air Patrol Squadron that was meeting in St. Augustine. So, we went to check it out and I'll never forget that after the first portion of their meeting, the cadets all took a 5-minute break. My son was sitting in the front row, and I was all the way in the back. My son turned around and looked at me grinning ear to ear and gestured a big thumbs up. I knew at that point that he was hooked. He was a son of an army soldier; so military was already a big portion of our lives. Not long after that, our squadron broke off and formed what is now the Fruit Cove Cadet Squadron. At that time, the squadron leadership noticed that we had a lot of female cadets and thought that it would be extremely beneficial for them to have a female senior member. So, I was approached about joining and did so. My first duty position was a finance officer, which I'm still doing today.
How many years have you been in Civil Air Patrol? Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current role.
I believe this is my seventh year in the program. Even while I was the finance officer in the beginning, I took the time to learn more about CAP -- especially with the focus on cadets. This led me to gain lots of knowledge in all aspects of CAP, and I filled in for different subjects as needed. Sometimes I would cover character development; other times I would handle a little bit of aerospace.
My family got so involved in CAP that at one point in time there were three generations of my family in the same squadron. My father, Jose Maester-Hernandez, who was previously a private pilot, joined the squadron and started off as the assistant aerospace education officer, alongside myself and my teenage son as a cadet. During that time, I worked with my father a lot on external aerospace education opportunities. We were invited to local homeschool groups to teach aerospace education monthly. We also organized activities for the cadets in coordination with the current aerospace officer at that time. When our long-time AEO left the squadron, my father filtered into that role, and then the COVID-19 epidemic happened. In addition to that, my father moved to South Florida. So, I took over the role of aerospace education in the middle of a pandemic. It was not easy! But we held on to a huge portion of our cadets because we found ways to engage them virtually with aerospace topics. Twice a month we had our aerospace meetings; we would have the highest turnout then. I really credit aerospace and these cadets' thirst for it in getting us through the coronavirus pandemic.
How did your interest in aerospace begin?
I did not go to college. My aerospace education started when I was very young, and it was because of my father. Growing up as a child of the Space Race my dad was encouraged with everything aeronautical and space related. So of course, when he had kids, he dragged us along for the ride. My dad used to take us to Cape Canaveral a lot. Museums, shows, really anything that he can get that was related to aerospace or technology, he would really expose us to it. He would drag us to every hole in the wall museum or attraction if he knew it would give us a learning experience. When he went back to college in his 30s and learned electronics and computers, he brought all that home. I had a computer in my house before the internet was invented or even Microsoft Windows, and it wasn't just for us to look at. He encouraged us to play with it -- to program, to learn what made it work inside and out. Our family garage was literally a playground full of electronics equipment, parts and computers everywhere.
2nd Lt. Christine Lobetti, (far left) visits Boeing in Jacksonville with CAP members including her father (then-2nd Lt. Jose Maester-Hernandez). She credits her father with her interest in aerospace.
Even still to this day, I talk to my dad on a weekly basis about aerospace stuff -- what I'm teaching cadets, what cool things I got to do or experience, or really whatever Elon Musk is up to at the moment. Aerospace and technology really have bonded my father and me for years, and if it wasn't for him, I don't think I would have ever really learned as much as I have because he really started that spark in me that led me down all these years of self-study and knowledge.
Tell us about your career outside of Civil Air Patrol.
Prior to homeschooling, I actually worked in the fraud investigation unit for a major U.S.-based international bank. It was a very fulfilling and exciting career and actually taught me a lot about the cybersecurity side of things. Unfortunately, around the time that we chose to homeschool my oldest, I also had a health complication which kept me from being able to work. Now my days are filled with a lot of volunteer work. For the last 7 years I have also been involved in an organization called American Heritage Girls. This is a scouting type organization for girls from kindergarten to high school that teaches life skills. For the past three years, I was actually part of the leadership team that ran one of the largest troops in Northeast Florida. I also teach history and science for a local homeschool Co-Op. I am also active with my local church ministry including their middle school and high school ministry, and I am an active member with the charitable organization Moose International. I have really found that not working will lead you to sitting on the couch all day; so I have tried to fill my days with work that pays in gratification instead of money.
Within CAP, why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area? Why do you encourage youth in the Aerospace Education area?
I'd like to say that I kind of fell into being an aerospace education officer, but the truth is I believe I would have gotten there eventually, especially with the path my father led me on. I wholeheartedly believe that aerospace education is our future. If you look at every invention or modern breakthrough of the last couple of decades, you will find the fingerprints of the aerospace science there. In educating cadets and youth in aerospace education with Civil Air Patrol, it offers us the unique opportunity to help steer these young minds in that direction. Think of it as a ripple effect. If you drop a small idea in the ocean of a child's mind, that ripple is just going to get bigger and bigger and lead to bigger ideas. It's an honor to be a part of that ripple.
What is the best CAP experience you have had since joining the organization?
By far the best experience was the recent AEO school I attended in June. I could literally talk about it for hours. I think the main reason for it is that it really opened my eyes to so much more that I didn't know. Even for someone like me who has been in this organization for years, attending the school gave me so many new experiences and knowledge that I am already using with my cadets and even members of my other youth organizations. The space nerd side of me also thought it was the best because I got to see parts of aerospace history that most people don't get to see. Standing with Artemis on the launch pad behind me was a dream come true. As one who got to see lots of launches from Kennedy as a kid, I was speechless when I got off that bus and was that close to one of the greatest spots in space history.
Tell us about any other Civil Air Patrol aerospace education programs (such as STEM Kits, TOP Flights, ACE, AEX) you use internally and externally.
When I was an assistant officer with my father, we did teach a monthly class for a large Homeschool Group in the Jacksonville area. We used the AEX curriculum and program for this activity. These kids absolutely loved it! Many of their parents told us that it was the highlight of their month for their kids to drive them crazy for them to bring them to our class. The way the program was set up, it was very easy for us to adapt it to the schedule we had with that group. The lessons were engaging, and the activities were phenomenal at getting the point across in the learning.
We also got the opportunity to use a CAP STEM Kit there at the end of the year with a rocket launch and build. That literally was the highlight of the year for those kids.
With my squadron as AEO I have been able to use a Rocketry STEM Kit successfully so far. My cadets were really involved and engaged and loved it. I have several cadets that have gone on to continue their Rocketry Badge on their own because it inspired them to continue on in the CAP Rocketry program. My cadets are currently using the 30 Days Lost in Space Kit and are learning computer programming with it. It's been a bit of a challenge for them, but when you see them make a mistake, fix that mistake, and then successfully complete a task, I just can't tell you the look on their face and how inspiring it is to see that they're getting it.
What is the best advice you have for a new AE Officer working with cadets?
Use all of your available resources. That was something that I really overlooked in the beginning as AE officer. Sometimes the person previously holding that position may have done things in a different way or manner. Don't be afraid to do things differently, as long as it's within CAP guidelines. Don't be afraid to take part in Wing and National events. I feel like I didn't do that in the past because I felt like this little person from a squadron that nobody knows about in North Florida. Everybody at AEO school was just so inviting and encouraged to hear my experiences and my questions at a squadron level. People at Wing and National really want to hear from you.
Do you have any suggestions for how to conduct outreach in schools (working with students and recruiting AEMs)?
My advice is really pertaining to homeschool. There is such a huge sometimes untapped opportunity with the homeschoolers of this country and Civil Air Patrol. Your local towns and states have Homeschool Group directories that you can Google. Send emails to those homeschool groups and tell them who you are and what CAP can do for them. Most of us homeschoolers are incredibly thankful and encouraged and really are always looking for resources that work with our kids.
Look up homeschool conventions in your area. In Northeast Florida we have one every year that has a CAP booth. We always talk about cadets there, but a lot of times we need AEOs to go to those conventions and talk about being an AEM and all of the things available to them. I know I plan to do that. A lot of big churches will also hold homeschool conventions in your cities or towns. Don't be afraid to explore Facebook and look for events like this. Most of the time you can take part in those events or host a booth at those events for little or no cost.
Please tell an anecdote or two of a rewarding experience working with cadets and/or students or teachers.
During the COVID pandemic a couple of my cadets were asked to video record their questions to a short interview by our Cadet Advisory Council. They were asked questions about their CAP experience, what do they recommend to new cadets, and then they were asked if there was one senior member that stood out to them. All of the cadets pointed me out. They all talked about how they felt that my lessons were engaging and fun. They felt like they got support from me and that I was tough but it was because I truly cared for them. They all went on and on about how I was making an impact in their lives. The CAC Cadet for my Squadron sent me the completed video after he submitted it. I have to tell you, it brought me to tears. It really opened my eyes on how much of an impact I had had on them.
Another one of my cadets who is now in the Air Force, was not only a cadet of mine but he also was a student of mine in my homeschool Co-op. After having been in my squadron as a cadet for years, he always referred to me as Lt. Lobetti at Co-op. So, this eventually got around to the point where every kid in my current homeschool Co-op still calls me Lt. Lobetti. The interesting part about this is that as we have gained new members in our Co-op every year, I get parents that come to me and ask why does everybody call you this. So of course, I explain about Civil Air Patrol and really focus on aerospace in my conversation. This has led to people in my homeschool Co-op now joining Civil Air Patrol squadrons. So, you never really know how big of an impact you have just by something as simple as someone calling you by your CAP title.
Is there anything else that we didn’t ask that you’d like to add for this spotlight on an AE Officer? We want to tell your story.
I guess my final thought to AEOs and really any senior members in Civil Air Patrol is to remember that we are literally training the Future Leaders of Tomorrow. I have had the unique opportunity to see cadets from my squadron go on to military academies, ROTC scholarships at major universities, college scholarships that they got because of their CAP experience being on their record, and so many more that went into private industry. It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of every single one of these cadets' lives. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be in this program. It has been extremely rewarding, and I have met some of the most wonderful people I will ever meet in my life. And I'm not even done yet. Remember that you have an impact in these kids' lives. Today's a good day to start a ripple in their life.
Lt. Lobetti enjoyed 2022 National Aerospace Education Officers School in Cocoa Beach, Florida, especially getting close to aerospace history, such as the Artemis Space Launch System rocket.
Lt. Lobetti presents an aerospace education lesson to school students.