AUGUSTA — Veronica Wood went to her first Civil Air Patrol meeting a couple of years ago at the invitation of a friend and found a place to use her passion for helping people in emergency situations.

Just about everything else Wood has done, from learning aeronautics to working with the younger cadets, has kept her coming back every week for the past two years.

In fact, there’s just one thing Wood doesn’t appreciate about the Civil Air Patrol: flying.

“I get sick when I fly,” she said, acknowledging the irony with a laugh. “I avoid the planes.”

Wood, 19, was one of the handful of cadets who turned out for Saturday’s open house at the Civil Air Patrol’s hangar at the Augusta State Airport. Wood, a 2014 graduate of Cony High School who was recently promoted to cadet second lieutenant, now spends her time in the CAP teaching the younger cadets. That training includes the specific, such as drill and ceremony; and the general, such as leadership and physical training.

“I love working with the cadets,” Wood said.

The nonprofit Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, has more than 64,000 members nationwide, not including the 27,000 12- to 19-year-olds who serve as cadets. The patrol performs a variety of duties nationally, including search and rescue, disaster relief and drug enforcement.

There are nine squadrons in Maine, spread from Caribou to Portland, including in Augusta/Gardiner and Waterville. Both central Maine locations are composite squadrons, meaning they have both cadet and senior service programs. The patrol is made up of people with and without military experience and from a variety of industries.

The Augusta/Gardiner squadron has 17 cadets and 31 senior members, Lt. Charles Howe said.

The CAP is always looking for more members, particularly cadets, to fill out its ranks. In recent years the open house has been a big draw, but nobody had showed up by noon Saturday.

“It’s sad because this is such a meaningful thing,” Howe said. “The possibilities are endless.”

Not only does the CAP offer training and opportunities to help out in emergency situations, Howe said, but the experience also benefits cadets who join the military. Those benefits are more than just learning the military language and ceremony, Howe said. Cadets who achieve an officer’s rank actually can skip a pay grade when they join the military.

“It would be nice if we got a lot of people,” Howe said.

Despite Wood’s aversion to flying, the biggest draw CAP has for most people is airplanes and opportunities to fly. That’s what piqued 16-year-old Damien Jackson’s interest a year go. The Whitefield teen, who is now a cadet airman, wants to join the Air Force when he graduates. Every cadet is given orientation flights during which they receive instruction about instrumentation and flight. As they progress, cadets can take advantage of opportunities for training toward a pilot’s license at a fraction of average costs.

“I heard there were planes,” Jackson said, “but now I just think it’s good military experience.”

While the CAP command structure is modeled on that of the Air Force, the CAP is not only for those interested in the military, Wood said. People join the CAP from varied personal and professional backgrounds. Wood, for example, hopes to use what she has learned to advance her career goal of becoming a paramedic.

“We just want them here to have a good experience and to give them good knowledge,” Wood said.

For more information on the Civil Air Patrol in Maine call 626-7830 or visit online at

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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