Frequently Asked Questions for Adult Leaders

I’m new to cadet programs. What do I do first?

Welcome aboard! Becoming familiar with the copious amount of information on cadet programs can be overwhelming. Here’s a homework assignment for your first few weeks:

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How do I evaluate my squadron’s cadet program?

There are many definitions of “doing a good job” in a cadet unit. Here are some ways you can decide for yourself how things are going.

To get an idea of the squadron’s overall health, try the Self Assessment for Cadet Units. This two-page, subjective interview can be completed by a small team of cadet and senior staff in under an hour, and it’s good to remind you what you’re doing well, and to help you focus on what needs attention.

Every year as part of your squadron’s annual Self-Assessment (or in preparation for a Subordinate Unit Inspection [SUI]), answer the Cadet Programs chapter of the SUI Guide, which you can download from the SUI page on This will let you know if you’re achieving the mandatory program requirements as set forth in CAPR 52-16.

Lastly, check how many metrics of the Quality Cadet Unit Award your squadron has met on the most recent report. In addition to the final numbers in September, NHQ typically publishes mid-year numbers in the spring.

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How do I plan a squadron meeting, or evaluate a cadet’s proposed plan?

Good squadron meetings are the foundation of a successful cadet program. Fortunately, CAP offers numerous resources to help CP officers and cadet leaders with this task.

A good place to start is the Cadet Staff Handbook, CAPP 60-31.

A good rule of thumb is to have a full quarter’s schedule (13 weeks) outlined in broad strokes, and then for the weekly schedule to be developed in detail 1-2 weeks, or up to a month, in advance.

To develop the quarterly plan, the senior-cadet CP team (deputy commander for cadets, leadership officer, cadet commander, etc.) should meet and discuss goals for the coming quarter. With a quarterly plan in place, cadets can be tasked to produce lesson plans for the blocks of instruction they’re responsible for. No activity, even drill, should be conducted without clear learning objectives.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Here are some great lesson plans and activity ideas for weekly meetings:

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Evaluating a cadet’s proposal

For cadets, planning and conducting meaningful instruction probably won’t come naturally. CP senior members should therefore check a cadet’s lesson plan the week prior to it being delivered. Even drill objectives should be reviewed. Seniors should ensure that the learning objectives are clear, that they support the quarterly goals, and that the lesson plan is achievable in the time allotted.

As the cadet staff gains experience planning good training, this verification can be reduced to a simple spot check, delegated to the cadet commander, or elimintated altogether.

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How do I help a cadet prepare to teach a class?

Having cadets teach classes is one of the best ways we can give them autonomy to implement their own cadet program. It’s therefore important to make sure we’re “teaching the teachers”, to set them on a path for success.

The Learn to Lead Curriculum Guide, page 5, describes the importance of cadets as instructors, and gives a timeline of how to help a cadet plan their activity. Cadets teaching for the first time should rely on the wealth of resources described in an earlier FAQ.

As with any task, make sure that the expectations are clear up front. You and the cadet should agree on the purpose of the class, and you should point them in the right direction for material to draw from to prepare.

As described in the Curriculum Guide, the “check ride” — the dry run that occurs the week before — is the key to ensuring the cadet will be successful. As the cadet gains more experience teaching, you can amend or phase out this process, but it’s important at first to ensure the cadet will not be “winging it”.

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How challenging should I make cadet activities?

Cadets join CAP for a challenge. As CAPR 52-16 says, CAP is a program for young adults, not children. That said, CAP is not the U.S. Air Force, and there are different training objectives between the military and the CAP cadet program.

When we refer to challenging activities, we’re often remarking on the intensity, the level of task focus and the vigor of the oversight. CAPP 52-23, the Cadet Protection Policy Implementation Guide, provides ample guidance on this subject and is a must-read for CAP officers planning cadet activities.

The CPP implementation guide describes three levels of intensity that are employed at different times during cadet training:

  • Level 1: Military Skills Instruction
  • Level 2: Academic Instruction & Normal Duties
  • Level 3: Social Interaction

Weekly squadron meetings typically operate at Level 2, with the exception of in-ranks inspections, organized PT, drill, etc. which can be more intense.

Leaders should be deliberate in how they set the intensity of an activity, and it can vary depending on the circumstances. For instance, normal instruction at a bivouac might be Level 2, but if cadets are engaged in what CAP calls a “high adventure activity” (such as rapelling), the intensity level can be stepped up to keep everyone focused and safe during the higher risk portion of the activity.

In short, challenging activities are recommended, as long as they are structured with forethought and with safety in mind. Higher intensity activities should be conducted with specific training objectives in mind. Also, note that there is a difference in the “baseline” intensity (Levels 2 and 3) you will operate at most of the time, and the stepped up intensity and focus for certain activities. Senior members play a crucial balancing role here to prevent intensity overreaches by an enthusiastic staffer.

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How and when do I provide feedback to cadets?

All cadets (not just staff) should be receiving periodic feedback on their performance and their growth as cadets, to ensure they’re engaged and so they know what they’re doing well and what they need to improve on.

Squadrons determine how often a cadet’s performance should be reviewed. CAP requires that feedback be given once per phase, but a good rule of thumb is that the cadet should receive feedback at least twice a year, regardless of promotion rate.

Feedback sessions should be based on the Leadership Expectations chart and CAPF 60-90-series feedback forms. Feedback forms should be completed by a senior member or a cadet officer. Since formally evaluating subordinates might be new to a cadet leader, their first few forms should receive extra review from a senior member to ensure they’re fair and accurate.

After the cadet reports for feedback, the discussion itself should be informal. This is not the time to drill a cadet on his knowledge of CAP minutae, it’s a time to have a conversation about how they’re developing as a cadet and leader. For two examples of what a CAPF 60-90 might look like, click here.

The page linked above has several good tips for filling out the form and conducting the feedback session. It’s not necessary to have a review for every promotion. Good times to conduct this feedback include: (1) before a milestone award is completed, (2) if the cadet’s performance has been deemed to be substandard, and (3) if the cadet simply hasn’t had a feedback session in 6-9+ months.

Also remember that promotions in CAP are not automatic. Merely “checking the boxes” isn’t enough, the unit commander also needs to approve each promotion. Senior members may decide to retain a cadet in grade based on a CAPF 50 feedback session. If this is done, it is critical to give the cadet a path to success, a bounded timeframe and clear objectives to achieve if they want to earn their promotion.

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How do I supervise a uniform inspection?

Learn to Lead Vol III describes the four functions of management: Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling. Uniform inspections are a classic example of Controlling (as in “implementing controls” — quality checking). Everybody has a role to play when ensuring that uniforms are worn in accordance with CAPM 39-1.

The two most common types of uniform inspections are (1) spot checks, which should be performed by element leaders, flight sergeants, and in-flight cadets on one another, and (2) in-ranks inspections, where an inspecting officer or NCO evaluates and grades each cadet’s uniform. In this FAQ, we will discuss in-ranks inspections.

Who should conduct them? Cadet NCOs and officers should conduct in-ranks inspections. The role of the senior member here is to supervise, or to train cadet officers and NCOs if they’ve never received formal instruction on inspections.

How often should they happen? In-ranks inspections can be held monthly or quarterly. Spot checks of uniforms by element leaders or flight sergeants should occur more frequently, especially for new cadets. Don’t wait for a graded inspection to point out an incorrect insignia.

How should the inspection be documented? CAP provides a recommended uniform inspection scorecard. Four cadet inspections can be recorded on each page.

How long should it take? Using the scorecard above, each cadet can be evaluated in under 30 seconds. It is not necessary to do memory work recitation during in-ranks inspections. If the inspection team moves briskly between cadets, inspecting an entire flight shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.

How can senior members help? Seniors can help by having cadets use a standard scorecard and procedure, by providing feedback to inspectors on their procedure and style (cadet officers can also provide this feedback), and by tying inspections back to the lessons cadets are learning in their academic curriculum.

  • For cadet officers, reference the full range leadership model (FRLM), specifically Transactional leadership and Management by Exception (L2L Vol III, Ch 11)
  • For cadet NCOs, discuss the pros and cons of teaching & training methods, and how in-ranks and spot check inspections differ (L2L Vol II, Ch 5)
  • For cadet airmen, discuss the importance of the uniform and the learning objectives described in L2L Vol I, Ch 1
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Where can I find information for my own professional development?

All too often, we as adult leaders put our own professional development on the back burner to focus on dealing with the weekly grind of running a cadet program. Still, it’s important to make sure we’re always learning and progressing, so we can continue to offer high quality CP experiences and to set the example for cadets.

The first step, if you haven’t done so, is to enroll in the Cadet Programs specialty track. CAPP 60-11, the Specialty Track Guide for Cadet Programs, is a great resource. Your commander can enroll you in the specialty track in eServices.

You should attend a Training Leaders of Cadets class as soon as possible. The VAWG Calendar lists upcoming TLCs, or you can contact the Director of Cadet Programs (DCP). Even if there isn’t a TLC coming soon, you can complete the online TLC modules to get a head start on the material.

Check out NHQ CP Library, or the resources page on this site for a curated list of the most essental CP materials.

Lastly, you should find out who your Group Cadet Programs Officer is, and make contact with them. If you’re not sure who it is, contact the Wing DCP. The VAWG Cadet Team is always available for advice, support, and to attend unit activities when the schedule permits.

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