Local Civil Air Patrol hosting open house tonight

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Local youth from Civil Air Patrol #357 placed fourth statewide at the Civil Air Patrol Kentucky Cadet Challenge held last month. 

Do you have an interest in airplanes, or just want a chance to serve your community?

The Civil Air Patrol's Lake Cumberland Chapter (#357) wants to talk with you.

The local chapter is hosting an open house this evening (Tuesday) from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hal Rogers Fire Training Center on Oak Leaf Lane in Somerset.

The Civil Air Patrol is the official civilian auxiliary for the United States Air Force -- handling up 90 percent of the USAF's inland missions, such as search and rescue efforts involving aircraft. According to local squadron commander Captain Stacy Foncannon, the Lake Cumberland Chapter is particularly important as the eastern-most chapter in the commonwealth.

"There are no units in eastern Kentucky," Capt. Foncannon said. "If we have a plane go down or a distress beacon go off, there is no [CAP chapter] in eastern Kentucky to respond."

In addition to emergency response, CAP's mission is aerospace education as well. With the growing emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, now is a perfect time for families to get involved.

Foncannon calls CAP "the best kept secret in Kentucky" because so many have either never heard of it at all or think that it's only for pilots and not the general public. The organization also offers a "STEM kits" program that assists not only educators but also home-school families with lessons involving computer sciences, drones, etc.

"We do outreach activities involving STEM," Capt. Foncannon added, including an upcoming mini-camp this summer. "It's a very educationally-driven program."

The squadron commander noted that the Lake Cumberland Chapter just last month placed fourth overall at the Civil Air Patrol Kentucky Cadet Challenge.

Youth between the ages of 12 and 18 can join as cadets, although there are also plenty of opportunities for adults over 18 as well. Capt. Foncannon noted that in many instances, cadets can recruit their parents or other family members once the adults see what's available to them -- the family aspect making CAP unique. Volunteers don't have to have previous experience with flight or even the military. Members come from all walks of life.

"We are really looking for cadets and senior members," Capt. Foncannon said, "because we have a lot of volunteer opportunities for people who like emergency services or are interested in search and rescue. It's not just about flying.…

"They [volunteers] can just be an interested community member," she continued. "We provide different training opportunities…Some people don't like to fly, so they can do cadet programming and work with kids."

The local chapter also meets weekly, every Tuesday at 6 p.m., at the Hal Rogers Fire Training Center. For more information, email Capt. Foncannon at sfoncannon@kywg.cap.gov.