The other day I got an email from one of the cadets in my squadron that really brightened up my day and made me feel good inside. The cadet in question has been suffering from low self-esteem and I, along with many of my fellow staff members, have been trying to make him realize just how good a cadet he actually is. No matter what we tried(and we tried everything we could think of), nothing seemed to work. Well, I, along with my colleague of many a year, managed to talk him into going to Encampment. Encampment is Civil Air Patrol’s version of basic training. It is a week of learning everything you need to know to be a CAP cadet and it really builds character. It is one of the most memorable weeks of my life, and I will never forget how proud I was to stand out on the paradegrounds of Camp San Luis Obispo graduating from Encampment. We, me and my former flight commander and current deputy commander(me being my unit’s XO), figured that Encampment would work wonders for his confidence. We wanted to make him realize how good a cadet he is. He has natural leadership ability and I have always liked him. I’ve sort of taken him under my wing to make sure he gets by alright. And no joke, I think he will make an outstanding NCO or officer.
Most of our staff went to staff this year’s Encampment and they made sure they would keep an eye on my protege. I would have gone, but Encampment fell right in the middle of Fall Camp, and I couldn’t go. But if I didn’t have football in the way, I would return in a heartbeat, so I could pass along everything I’ve learned to someone who is just starting out in the program.
Anyway, back to the story at hand. So, my trainee got back and sent me one of the greatest e-mails I have ever gotten. He said that it was one of the most memorable weeks of his entire life. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to talk to him face-to-face yet, so I’ll update when I do, but he seems so much more confident. It is my sincerest hope that Encampment has shown him he is much better than he realized.
But this is what being a Non-Commisioned Officer is all about. An NCO is in the thick of it, leading those around him, unlike an officer who commands and orders but always stays somewhat distant from the troops. An NCO is more of a big brother. He is a mentor, someone who knows what to do and gets the job done. If all else fails, if you have no idea what is going on, if you need assistance, then find an NCO. I love it. I love leading those under me. It holds its own special rewards. I like to see those that I have trained do well, and I hate to see them fail. It is almost like being a parent. You become attached to them, because you held their hand as they first learned how to march in formation. You taught them to shine their shoes. You showed them how to wear the uniform properly. And you always hope to see the day when those you trained move up the ranks and take your place. It fills you with a lot of pride, to know that that’s one of your former cadets that is now the commander of this or that squadron.
But more than that, I always like taking a special interest in the hard cases. Those, like my protege, who have problems. I don’t know why, but helping them overcome obstacles and realize their own potential is very fulfilling. And that’s why I love being an NCO. I like helping others, it makes me feel good.