Area youth excel as Civil Air Patrol cadets

A recently revived cadet program makes the Tri-County Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol a composite squadron again.

Cadets of the Civil Air Patrol Tri-County Squadron stand in formation Monday at the Akeley Regional Community Center. They are, from left, Cadet Master Sgt. Daniel Kako, Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Brooklyn Moorhouse, Cadet Airman 1st Class Britton Johnston, Cadet Airman Anna Kako, Cadet Senior Airman Charlie Fresquez, Cadet Abbie Ihrke and Cadet Airman Caley Muller. Not pictured is Cadet Emily Ihrke. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

A new Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadet program is offering aerospace education and emergency services training to youth in the area, ages 12-21.

The addition of the cadet program puts the “composite” in the Tri-County Composite Squadron/ Tri-County has been a senior squadron (adult members only) since about 1993. According to squadron commander Major Dianne Harris, it was a composite squadron before that, going back to about the late 1970s.

“The cadet part started last July,” said Lt. Jolene Johnston, who works with the cadets under the command of her husband, Staff Sgt. Andrew Johnston.

The cadets meet every Monday at the Akeley Regional Community Center. They sometimes join the squadron’s seniors, who meet twice a month at the Walker airport.

“Previously, we were part of another squadron to the north of us (in Bemidji). It was quite a distance for us to drive,” said Andrew. “We came down here, and we were able to get into the squadron here. It cuts out a lot of time.”


Besides transferring some experienced cadets, they brought in some new cadets. At present, they have 10 cadets coming from the Walker, Nevis, Osage and Bemidji areas.

“It worked out nice for us,” said senior squadron member Lt. Thomas Moore, “because we needed you guys and you guys needed us.”

Including the cadets, Harris said the squadron has about 25 members, including seniors from Walker, Nevis, Akeley and Thief River Falls.

“There are areas in which we seniors just need that extra hand,” said Harris, “and cadets are ready and willing to help – like help move a table or help sweep the hangar.”

Harris added seeing youth in uniform makes the seniors very happy.

Looking for leaders

Andrew said the cadets learn discipline, such as drill and formation, as well as leadership skills, search and rescue (ground and air), communications, cyber skills/STEM, fitness and nutrition and fundraising.

They also share fun activities, like volleyball and rock climbing, Jolene said.

Another significant part of the CAP experience is aerospace education – both classroom work and orientation flights. Each cadet is entitled to up to five flights in powered aircraft and five glider flights, funded by the U.S. Air Force. High-achieving CAP cadets may receive even more benefits.


“As they come in, back in the ranks, they have to learn how to follow, and then within a year or two they start to learn how to lead; and the Air Force is looking for leaders,” said Dianne’s husband, James Harris, 1st Group commander with the Minnesota CAP.

James said cadets receiving the Mitchell and Spaatz awards – which he likened to becoming an Eagle Scout – may receive serious consideration when they apply to the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“The Air Force puts a lot of strength on developing future leadership,” said James, noting that former CAP cadets make up 10 percent of USAF Academy cadets. “They’re looking for where that’s coming from, and that’s why they fund these cadets.”

Jolene stated that “starting the cadet program basically from scratch presents challenges,” including operating costs. The squadron is looking for service opportunities to help raise funds, such as serving at banquets, parking cars, color guard duties and community cleanup, she said.

“If you have an opportunity for our cadets to serve, or you or someone you know is interested in joining Civil Air Patrol,” Jolene said, or to offer a private donation, call Dianne Harris at 821-6337 or Andrew Johnston at 252-6216.

Using what they learn

Several Tri-County cadets shared what interested them in joining the program and what they hope to get out of it.

Cadet Airman 1st Class Britton Johnson said she was interested in being the squadron historian.

“I like learning new drill moves,” said Cadet Airman Anna Kako. “Just wearing a uniform makes you feel a little proud.”


Cadet Emily Ihrke followed her older brother and sister into the CAP. “I thought it was really cool how everybody was a group and together,” she said, adding that her favorite CAP activity is drills.

“Most of my family’s been in the military,” said Cadet Airman Caley Muller. “I kind of wanted to know how to fly a plane because my grandfather’s building a plane.”

Cadet Senior Airman Charlie Fresquez said he enjoys meeting new people and seeing what they do. “I want to join the Air Force when I get older,” he said. “I think that’s a good start.”

Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Brooklyn Moorhouse was interested in the CAP’s fitness program. “I wanted to be a fitness officer,” she said. “I love everything to do with leadership. I love teaching classes and teaching drill, and going to all the activities, like encampment and EPS (encampment preparatory school).”

Moorhouse said she wants to be a flight attendant in the future. Relevant to that, she said, “CAP teaches you safety and leadership and respect.”

“I liked the military aspect of it,” said Anna’s brother, Cadet Master Sgt. Daniel Kako. “The self-discipline ... was awe-inspiring to me.” He added, “Who doesn’t want to fly a plane?”

Daniel said he has considered the military for his future, and he already has a job at the Park Rapids airport. “I wanted something to do with avionics,” he said.

Regardless of what he ends up doing in the future, Daniel said, “I’m going to use what I’ve learned – the self-discipline, the core values – integrity, volunteer service, excellence and respect – in daily life.”

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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