What is Great Start
What is Great Start?
Training and retention are connected. The best way to retain cadets is to busy them with worthwhile activities. This course brings a fresh approach to cadet indoctrination through meaningful, exciting, well-organized activities designed to transform prospective cadets into cadet airmen.
CAP has been lacking a standardized, user-friendly curriculum for orientating new cadets and getting them through Achievement 1. Therefore, the quality of cadet training has varied from unit to unit, making CAP’s dismal retention rate for first-year cadets (33%) no surprise. On its own, this course will not solve the cadet retention problem, but it is hard to imagine cadet retention improving if squadrons do not offer a comprehensive orientation for prospective and new cadets.
Looking at cadet orientation as a system, it seems that commanders have three options:
Trickle-In. The first and most common system is the “trickle-in” approach whereby the squadron allows prospective cadets to join at any time, so the unit will constantly have one or two new cadets, but rarely more. Commanders know the new cadets have training needs, but with everything else going on in a squadron, most units do not find it feasible to devote precious resources to the new cadets. Instead, new cadets fall-in with the experienced cadets, and are left on their own to progress in CAP. Is it any surprise that two-thirds of new cadets leave CAP during their first year?
Basic Cadet Training. The second option is the “Basic Cadet Training” approach where squadrons send new cadets to the group or wing for a weekend of training. The
obvious benefit here is that new cadets receive training designed to meet their needs. However, it is the quality of weekly unit meetings that has the greatest effect on cadet retention. A weekend BCT will excite a new cadet, but if the weekly meeting does not include worthwhile activities, the cadet will quit. Still, sometimes a BCT-style
approach is the most practical option, so this course has been designed to work well in that format.
Pipeline. The third option for orientating prospective and new cadets is called the “pipeline” and is the most ideal format for this course. Under the “pipeline” concept, once or twice a year, the squadron holds a recruiting drive that brings in several cadets at once. This allows the squadron to justify setting-up a special flight of new cadets, where they will receive training designed to meet their needs. Because “pipeline” training takes place mostly during squadron meetings, new and advanced cadets have something to look forward to for several weeks, which should improve attendance and retention.
Any cadet unit that displays strong program fundamentals can earn the Quality Cadet Unit Award. This award motivates squadrons to pursue goals that will inevitably lead to their having a vibrant Cadet Program. The award is purely objective. Cadet and composite squadrons who meet the challenging criteria below automatically earn the award. The award can serve as a helpful management tool. Local leaders can use its award criteria to gauge the relative health of their Cadet Program. Wing leaders can use the program data to identify squadrons that are flourishing, and perhaps use leaders of those outstanding units to mentor leaders in nearby units that did not earn the award.
Enable youth to succeed as CAP cadets by providing a comprehensive and fun introduction to all facets of cadet life
Transforming youth into C/Amn, providing a strong foundation in all aspects of cadet life, leading to a successful first year as a cadet
Motivate prospective cadets to join CAP
Introduce cadets to all 4 elements of the Cadet Program
Develop positive attitudes and teamwork
Increase retention through structured activities
Increase training effectiveness through a detailed curriculum guide
This course is primarily designed for use at squadron level, with most of the activities taking place during weekly squadron meetings. The syllabus also calls for the unit to host a “Field Day” (e.g., on a Saturday), where cadets will complete a full day of intensive training. A second option is for the group or wing to host the course over a weekend.
Cadets who participate actively in course activities and complete the usual requirements of Achievement 1 receive credit for completing Great Start and earn a graduation certificate.
Cadet NCOs and officers are essential to the success of this course. Ranking cadets, working under senior member supervision, should execute a majority of the lessons and activities.
Last update: 3/2/22