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Cadet Safety

Posted on March 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM by Curt LaFond

Our national commander and our CAP-USAF commander released a joint letter today calling for CAP members everywhere -- and that includes member of our cadet community -- to join in their commitment to incorporate safety into all facets of CAP.

For the first time, safety is part of CAP's strategic plan. There's a new emphasis on teaching people, including cadets, how to apply risk management principles. And, you should already know that we recently deleted the "Intro to Safety" course that was never quite geared for cadets and replaced it with a comprehensive, age-appropriate "wingman" program. I want to share two thoughts with CP folks on why I'm so encouraged by these developments.

First, our official cadet doctrine identifies "challenge" as one of the key traits of cadet life.* In our program, we challenge cadets in innumerable ways, such as standing them before an 8-foot wall on an obstacle course and daring them to conquer it.  Or, if you've ever rappelled, you'll always remember that incredible first step off the tower, your life depending on the strength of a rope. And, I know I'm not the only (former) cadet to have felt  exactly one-half pure exhilaration and one-half sheer terror when my CFI said, "Drop me off at the terminal, and then show me some touch-and-go's." Challenge is a huge feature of cadet life, and cadets eat it up.

What allows us to take cadets a few steps beyond their normal comfort zone? Our commitment to safety. So, if anyone in the cadet community thought that safety and challenge are in a zero-sum game, I hope they now understand how mistaken that is.

Second, we're a leadership program, so we teach cadets how to think critically, to care for themselves (at first), and to accept responsibility for the well-being of everyone on a team, as they climb the ranks. When the commanders' letter talks about teaching members how to apply risk management principles, I read that as a natural extension of what we're already trying to do in the leadership and character arena. If the old saying, "A good leader takes care of her people" is true, then safety education and leadership education are natural partners. If we can develop in cadets the habit of thinking critically and systematically about the risks they encounter in daily life and in high-stakes activities, we'll be developing better leaders and equipping cadets with a life skill.

What's one concrete thing that you as a CP leader can do in response to the commanders' letter? Next time you're beginning to design a cadet activity, offer your safety officer a seat at the table and include him or her in the process. Don't make the mistake of waiting until the last minute and then just finding somebody to fill a box on an org chart. Involve them from the start; that's what the commander is telling us when he writes that "safety officers are to be key personnel and involved in all planning processes."

My thanks to my colleague George Vogt, chief of safety, for the breath of fresh air and his pledge to help the CP community continue to put some really cool, yet safe challenges before our cadets.

- Curt LaFond 
National Cadet Team


* CAPR 52-16, 1-3d




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