Cadet Character Development Program Changes Announced
by Ch, Lt Col Tim Miner
On Monday, 10 December, the Chief of Chaplains of the Civil Air Patrol, Chaplain (Colonel) Charlie Sattgast, announced a sea-change in the way cadets receive their character development training beginning in January 2019. This program change is the culmination of over 22 months of work and coordination by the Chaplain Corps and the Cadet Programs team. The finished effort is a partnership of CAP and the Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) at the United States Air Force Academy.
In February 2017, under the leadership of the past Chief of CAP Chaplains, Chaplain (Colonel) Jay Hughes, a team of chaplains, CDIs, and the Director of Cadet Programs, Curt Lafond, visited the USAF Academy CCLD to learn how cadets destined for military leadership undergo their character training over a four-year training cycle. Since CAP provides over ten percent of the entering class of cadets every year it made sense to learn and adapt to the needs of one of the premier character training programs in world.
For the past decade CAP character instruction placed cadets in scenarios that made them think about their responses and decisions. This form of ethical instruction is called Situation Ethics and allows members of the group to discuss how the same event might produce different responses in different individuals based on the perceived facts and assumptions. Rules are the basis for “right” actions.
The CAP team discovered that USAFA and other leadership schools have evolved their instruction to concentrate on behaviors instead of rules. Beginning in January 2019, the CAP program, like USAFA, will teach virtues, or the behaviors that define excellence in humans. Over a two-year cycle, all cadets will discuss 24 virtues that will produce “habitual” right actions, done in the right way, at the right time. Virtue Ethics is over 2300 years old and has long been a pillar of Western philosophical thinking. The concept of virtues shaped early European society and religion. From the perspective of Virtue Ethics there is a right behavior in all situations.
To maximize the effectiveness of the program, beginning in January, all cadets in all units will study the same virtue. Junior cadet officers, Phase 3 cadets, will assist the instructing senior member as facilitators, making them active role models of the desired behavior.
The virtues for 2019 will be:
4. Vision (for my life)
7. Bounce Back
12. A Sense of Humor
The Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) and Medal of Honor programs are now incorporated into several of the virtue lessons over the course of the year.
For the first time, all chaplains, CDIs, and commanders who instruct in the program will receive state-of-the-art training in how to present the material and facilitate the discussion of ethics in young learners. These online videos, now available in the CAP Learning Management System, were produced in a partnership between the Air Force Academy and CAP.
In his announcement, Chaplain Sattgast thanked all the chaplains, Character Development Instructors and unit commanders for their work. He said, “Thank you for the investment you make in our CAP cadets. They are truly the future leaders of the world. Your efforts in helping them develop solid character as leaders will have a lasting positive impact on our world as they move on into the military, business, government, the arts, and finance. It is truly one of the best investments you will ever make!”
Civil Air Patrol members must act properly and respectfully regardless if it is during a CAP event or outside and away and unrelated. You are always a CAP Cadet and have an image to maintain. Don't act-out in or outside of CAP and expect it not to become an issue for you in CAP. You have to be responsible for your own life. Be careful about Face Book and My Space. Help the squadron become stronger. "You're only as strong as your weakest link." Train to be adults.
A joint presentation on Aug. 21 by Squadron Commander Darren Cioffi, and MLO Gregg Gunderson was given the cadets on the importance of integrity and personal responsibility when making character choices. It is inevitable that all of us will at some time in our lives, make poor decisions, wrong choices, and mistakes.
These are crossroad moments where we need to determine how we will respond to these errors in judgment. Will we try to cover up our mistakes, deflect blame to someone else or lie about it? Or, will we admit our mistakes, seek help and counsel, be honest, pay the price, bear the responsibility, and grow from the experience? One can either spiral downward with a loss of character and integrity, or spiral upwards depending upon how we choose to respond.
The CAP Honor Code was reinforced to the cadets as an unimpeachable standard for their lives. "I will not lie, cheat or deceive, nor tolerate anyone who does".
Various real-life experiences, positive and negative, were shared by both leaders and cadets which sparked good discussion. An example was given as to how wrong choices, lies, and character lapses are never individual issues, but will always spill over to involve or damage the lives of others, much like a boat moving through a harbor will send off a wake that will inevitably touch every other boat in that harbor.
Finally, the leaders urged the cadets to not feel as if they are going through life alone, but to reach out to parents, clergy, teachers, and other mentors in their lives for advice and counsel in the decisions they are faced with each day.
Moral Leadership seminar dealt with the topic of Partiality. Cadet John Miranda lead a discussion which explored the importance of treating all people in a unit with equality. The cadets drew upon personal experience to talk about the effects on team moral when one person is singled out for unmerited favorable treatment, such as a coachs son or daughter who gets playing time in excess of his or her abilities. The cadets agreed that a units cohesiveness is undermined, that unit moral plummets, and that respect for the leader diminishes dramatically in the face of favoritism.
The cadets further explored the root causes of partiality or favoritism, with an eye towards avoiding such temptations when they themselves eventually rise to a position of leadership
Goals and Goal Setting
To start the new year, a seminar was presented to the cadets on Goals and Goal Setting. Instruction on setting goals, as well as on what constitutes reasonable and reachable goals were presented, as was philosophical discussion on why it is so important for the human being to set them for ourselves in the first place. Each cadet was asked to reflect on a goal they had reached in 2007, and then to think ahead for 2008. Goals in 3 categories were identified, refined, and then verbalized by each cadet and included goals for school, for CAP, and for their personal lives. It was quite encouraging to hear the individual goals of a squadron of highly motivated cadets many of whom have set very high standards for themselves and formulated a clear plan on how to achieve these aims.
Dating and Relationships
This months seminar focused on Dating and Relationships. The discussion was quite lively with many cadets commenting on the issues of peer pressure to begin dating, time management and time priorities in dating, healthy Vs unhealthy dating relationships, and age appropriate boundaries in dating. The concept of mutual respect emerged as a prime ingredient of healthy relationships, as did the importance of remaining your own person with UN-compromised self-discipline and standards.
The changing mores of our culture and its effect on relationships were also discussed, particularly the preoccupation with sex in the media, music, movie, and advertising industries. A strong appeal to set high standards for themselves in the area of abstinence was given, and in fact underscored in examples given by cadets of acquaintances who fell short of these standards and paid high personal costs as a result.
Pride Goeth Before a Fall
The Moral Leadership discussion this month took its cue from the current news events of the humiliating fall from grace of New York Governor Elliot Spitzer. The cadets discussed the concept of pride, in this context, an arrogance or conceitedness and its effects on character, leadership, and respect. Personal examples as well as several from history were cited in the exploration of the cause and effect relationship of a prideful conceited nature and the inevitable fall that would follow. Cadets verbalized the importance of humility, of not looking down on others, and of treating all with respect and equality as factors which might prevent themselves from being prideful or arrogantly set up for a fall.