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This resource page has been developed IAW CAPP 52-9: Orientation & Training for Civil Air Patrol Cadets (a/k/a Cadet Great Start)

Cadet Great Start is a comprehensive introduction to CAP for new cadets. It transforms a cohort of ordinary youth into Cadet Airmen in 5 short weeks, while giving cadet NCOs and officers opportunities to apply their leadership skills.


When To Hold An Open House and Great Start:

Per ALWG Recruiting and Retention Officer, we have been directed to have NO LESS THAN one (1) Open House per year, but more as the unit is able to support. A "Spring" Open House and Great Start should be maintained as the most important opportunity. The specific date should be established by counting back from the upcoming Summer Encampment date and set the Open House for a date that ensures the course is completed in time for new cadets to obtain their Curry and be eligible to attend Encampment and acquire their Blues in time to go. This time frame allows for the following benefits:

  • Involve new youth prospects and their families prior to the commitment window for the following school-year's activities to get them interested and committed to the CAP Cadet Program early.

  • By utilizing the Great Start program, new Cadets complete the program basics and achieve their first rank in time to qualify to sign-up for and attend Summer Encampment.  (Part of their commitment in signing up for CAP is: "

  • After achieving their first rank, they receive the $100 Curry Voucher toward their Blues uniform. They need this uniform to attend Encampment (they should already have at least one set of ABUs and PT uniform). The sooner Cadets get into all of their uniforms, the more likely parents will be to send their Cadets because they are not feeling overwhelmed by the Encampment packing list.

  • Immediately start them on the path toward achieving their second rank in time for the BIG end-of-summer Annual Squadron Awards Ceremony. (We schedule this as the last Monday in July so that it does not conflict with families preparing for the first day of school which is typically the first Tuesday of August.)

  • All of these efforts give Cadets a reason to continue their attendance over the summer months, hopefully including additional "fun" field trips during the week that are not possible during the school year; further building their confidence within and commitment to the Cadet Program before the new school year starts. This can help improve retention rates that can sometimes drop once school starts.

*If "National Volunteer Week" is early enough in the Spring (usually some time in April), attempt to schedule your Open House to take advantage of PA opportunities being pushed by media and radio. This can help draw in adult volunteers as well. If timing doesn't allow for the Open House to be the week of National Volunteer Week, encourage the Squadron PA to still seek opportunities to advertise separately and recruit adults during this week.

Throughout the year, you can plan other Open Houses, and even other Great Start programs (with or without an Open House for new cadets who "trickle in"), but April should be the primary recruiting push to encourage the best results.

A "Fall," late September to October, Open House and Great Start is another good time frame. This allows ample time to prep a new group of Cadets in preparation for Winter Encampment (late Dec / early Jan).


5-Week Program Verses 2-Full Days and a Monday:

The 5-Week program works best when a Squadron has the infrastructure of either adequate Senior Member staff and/or Cadet Cadre advanced enough in their own training to be able to take on leadership roles and assist in the implementation of the course. If this infrastructure does not exist, it makes it difficult to keep more tenured Cadets involved during Great Start because their training and progression slows as the priority shifts to the training of new Cadets.

The "Weekend" or 2-Full Days and a Monday Meeting is a second scheduling option for Great Start. If done in this manner and you wish to do an Open House, the Open House should be scheduled separately as this time is only sufficient to complete the Great Start curriculum.


The Great Start Program should culminate in Cadets participation in their first "O" Flight.


Ideally, this course should be taught as part of Cadet Great Start and as soon as practical.

(It is NOT built into the Great Start Schedule that is provided. Great Start, Wk 3 is a good time to fit this in.)

It is required to be completed by every new cadet, usually within the first month of becoming a member, as they work toward their Curry Achievement. A link to the lesson plan and supporting material can be found below.



The following resources will guide you through how to hold an Open House, recruit new Cadets (and Seniors), jump-start their CAP careers, and improve retention rates.


Don't forget when you complete your Great Start Program, to submit your CAPF 11.

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