La Verne Magazine
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
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
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
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
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
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