Cadets attending the aviation ground school examine the history of the Pearl Harbor attack with a man who survived the event, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Robert O’Neill.
Aviation ground school cadets participate in physical training.
Cadets learn to use aeronautical charts.
The aviation ground school class of 2012.
Photos by Maj. Jennifer Richards
Maj. Jeffrey Carlson
Public Affairs Officer
FLORIDA – Eighteen cadets from across the Florida Wing took a major step in advancing their aviation aspirations by devoting a week to studying the knowledge requirements for private pilots, thanks to Group 5’s fifth annual in-residence aviation ground school.
The comprehensive instruction included three stage tests and a final exam. Those scoring above 70 percent on the final had their logbooks endorsed, allowing them to take the Federal Avocation Administration private pilot knowledge exam.
Each year, the ground school’s top students receive wing-sponsored $1,500 scholarships for use toward fight training in Civil Air Patrol aircraft with CAP flight instructors. This year, the scholarships went to:
- Cadet Capt. Jeremy King of the Polk County Composite Squadron.
- Cadet Senior Airman Lorenzo Fernandez of the Naples Cadet Squadron.
Cadets attending the school must demonstrate a commitment to pursuing private pilot training. To be selected they must maintain academic rigor while fulfilling their assigned squadron duties.
Successfully completing the ground school portion of pilot training represents a significant step, whether the cadets are aiming for a military or commercial academy The intensive training prepares the cadets for the personal focus and determination required to complete the practical skills portion of flight training.
“It's a totally optional program that, if taken advantage of by the cadets, can be the springboard to the rest of their life” said Col. Christian Moersch, former Florida Wing commander.
“I got my flying start in CAP as a cadet, and I owe my career to those initial days,” Moersch said. “This school gives interested cadets a quality look at the academics required for aviation success.”
Lt. Col. Fran Gleockler, former Group 5 commander, has coordinated the ground school program from the start.
“This year’s class was the most disciplined and respectful ever,” Gleockler said. “They understood the purpose of the school and were following their dream. This was reflected in a higher class average on test scores.”
“From the beginning, the goal of the school has been to create a unique opportunity for youth and feed their interest in aviation, help them recognize that aeronautics is a realistic goal to pursue,” she said. “The in-residence format of the school is a cost-effective way to bring this type of opportunity within reach of cadets who, for economic reasons, might not find other aviation programs accessible to them.”
Throughout the course, key elements of the CAP cadet program are reinforced. The 40 hours of class time are balanced with periods of physical fitness activity, while the demanding curriculum fosters a cooperative learning environment where cadets tutor each other and exercise leadership skills.
“I would definitely say that this year’s class was more focused than prior years” Moersch said. “This is a credit to the quality of the faculty and attendees as well as the program reputation.”
The program’s continuing success results from Gleockler’s vision and direction. She has combined fundraising efforts led by Lt. Col. Virginia Cullity, director of administration for the Southeast Region, the Florida Wing and Group 5, with lesson outlines executed by a team of instructors led by Lt. Col. Richard Petrucci, SRQ Composite Squadron deputy commander for seniors.
Providing instruction were Lt Col. Brent Cox of the Charlotte County Composite squadron; Capt. John Albers, Osceola Cadet Squadron commander; and 2nd Lt. Thomas Chiaponne, aerospace education officer for the Highlands County Senior Squadron.
The support staff is led by Gleockler herself and also includes Lt. Col. Lea Ann Curry, health services officer for Group 5, nurse officer for the school, and Maj. Jennifer Richards, personnel officer for the Polk County Composite Squadron and administrative assistant for the school.
“Col. Gleockler and her team have established the best cadet ground school in the Southeast Region,” said Col. Wes Hannah, Southeast Region chief of staff. “It enhances the cadet program and gives cadets an incentive to pursue a career in aviation.”
“This year’s class asked good questions and produced high grades,” added Hannah, a regular visitor to the school.
In addition, Gleockler said, “Having access to the Sarasota Military Academy‘s wonderful facilities is vital to being able to offer the in‐residence program.”
Several members of the academy’s faculty visited this year’s school, including Brig. Gen. Frank Laudano, commandant; Dan Kennedy, headmaster; and Col. Bill Brockman, dean of students. Other visitors included retired U.S. Navy Capt. Robert O’Neill, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Lt. Col. Marge Hannah, Group 5 personnel officer.