La Verne Magazine
Spring 2003


Squadron 64: The Only Way to Fly

by Meridith Zembal
photography by Liz Lucsko


With the precision of a military unit, cadets can be seen marching in dress blues or fatigues every Monday night at Brackett Airport. Thomas Hatch, Squadron 64 Civil Air Patrol deputy commander, and Scott Marikian, cadet commander, dismiss Alpha, Bravo and Charlie units after a short drill and marching exercise.

One week before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, a historically successful team was formed. More than 150,000 apprehensive citizens enrolled to assist in national defense in an effort to protect America. During World War II, these pilots flew approximately 500,000 hours, were credited for sinking two enemy submarines, and rescued hundreds of survivors from treacherous crashes. Today, this group, known as the Civil Air Patrol, has grown and currently carries out three primary missions: cadet programs, aerospace education and emergency services.

Brackett Airport is the station for Squadron 64 of CAP. Containing cadet and senior programs, this unique door to education in aviation offers great opportunities. As a non-profit organization, CAP, an auxilary to the United States Air Force, works as a military training model but is not an overt recruiting tool for the U.S. Armed Services. It provides the chance to explore aviation, and the possible careers that field of work may lead to for youth.

The Cadet Program involves tens of thousands of youth who can enroll at 12 years old and are allowed to work with the Cadet Program until they are 21. They participate in local and national levels in various activities to broaden their education of flight and space. The national dues are $20 per year, with $16 as a first year fee for books and material needed for the program. La Verne Squadron 64 has been honored and nationally recognized with the "Squadron of Merit" 2002 award, the 2002 "Group One Composite Squadron" award, as well as the "California Wing Composite Squadron" award for 2001.

Ken Hartwell, lieutenant colonel and department commander of La Verne's chapter of CAP, says, "For cadets, it gives them a center by combining worth, values, teamwork, inner strength and confidence-it teaches the skills to get them where they need to be in life. We teach success." Hartwell has been involved in this program for more than 30 years and continues his program devotion.

At the local level, activities include survival training, search and rescue, leadership training, radio communications, model rocketry, academic flight scholarships, flight training, disaster relief, public speaking, first aid, CPR, photography, astronomy, physical fitness and various sports activities. The model rocketry is a favorite among the cadets. But Scott Marikian, 16, cadet commander, says out of all the activities, his favorite is weekend camp outs. There, cadets work on survival and compass techniques, learn to read stars, and learn about the great outdoors. Cadets also assist in local events and air shows throughout Southern California. For example, May 27, 2002, cadets from Squadron 64 attended Memorial Day services at Live Oak Cemetery in Duarte, Calif. This commemorative event honored veterans who served in past wars, and cadets served as flag carriers or ceremonial guards. During weekly held meetings, the cadets practice drills in the parking lot dressed down in their proper utilities. The cadets run disciplined formations and make marching calls to teach newer members.

The Brackett headquarters of CAP is currently used as a classroom, where cadets learn diverse aviation and aerospace lessons. Trips to the desert also are a cadet-favored activity. Here, the cadets perform rocket launches from recreational bottle rockets, to full-blown models that stand 17 feet high. Plus, cadets take hikes throughout the local mountain ranges, learning survival skills and search and rescue techniques. Marikian says, "I started because I like aviation, and I hope to make a career in aviation. It teaches great leadership." Marikian says that his parents have been very supportive throughout his five-year experience in the CAP program. For parents, there are many involvement opportunities through sponsor memberships where they help with the weekend activities, such as chaperoning events or providing transportation. For some of the young people, the program leads to a pilot's license. Marikian says, "It was a challenging but rewarding process."

Cadets also have the chance to participate in national activities, including international cadet exchange, cadet officer school, National Blue Beret, pararescue orientation courses, National Flight Academy, air education and training command courses, National Emergency Services Academy, Air Force weather agency course, Hawk Mountain Ranger School, Military Music Academy or even Space Camp.

In cooperation with the Cadet Program, there is also a senior Membership Program. This group of aviation beginners and experts frequently work in search and rescue missions and assist U.S. Customs in counter-drug operations.

More than 85 percent of all inland search and rescue missions are conducted by the CAP emergency program, and an average of 100 lives are saved each year.

CAP seniors also provide disaster relief support, transport time-sensitive materials such as blood products and body tissue, provide damage assessment and utilize the communication's network. The senior volunteers also assist the Cadet Program, presenting speeches and serving as mentors, relating their personal experience with aviation or within the U.S. Military. "The La Verne Squadron started with three or four pilots. Now we have 18 pilots," says Lieutenant Colonel Commander Jerry Pricket, who first became involved due to his youngest son's interest in flight and in CAP.

The Brackett Composite Squadron 64 is a proud organization that focuses on important life-long lessons. Proper education in life can expand from programs like the Cadet Program in CAP. Lieutenant Colonel Hartwell expresses strongly that the program, while following a military training model, does not push the participants into the military. "I'm just as happy if they go off and become a dentist-we are plane lovers and flight lovers. Our job is to give them insight so they can contribute."

Education must always be a search for new interests. The Civil Air Patrol offers special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to children and adults to explore personal interest in aviation. Self-discipline, confidence, respect, leadership, teamwork, strong values and success are what CAP promotes and represents.

Information on Squadron 64 can be retrieved at www.sq64cap.com, or by calling (909) 861-8827. The window of opportunity is there to take advantage at CAP: "Where imagination takes flight."