A group of volunteers ranging in age from 12 to 85 gathers at the Orangeburg Municipal Airport each Thursday to learn, train and fellowship.

They are formally known as the Orangeburg Composite Squadron, a Civil Air Patrol unit.

CAP, a national civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, was created to aide in emergency situations in the air and on the ground.

Orangeburg’s squadron was formed in March, with Commander James Greenwood at the forefront.

But this is not CAP’s first time in Orangeburg.

Previous units were instated in the 1970s and, later, with Felton Laboratory hosting cadet units through the late 1990s.

“We have made great strides in working with local agencies and becoming an integral part of the community,” Greenwood said.

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The unit is equipped to help search for missing people and assist in natural disasters. CAP units receive training from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Donna Holman, deputy commander of the squadron, says the group is interested in “combining resources” with other emergency services.

Members recently participated in the state’s hurricane exercise by flying routes and taking aerial photos.

Greenwood says Orangeburg’s location allows the unit to “relay messages from the coastal regions to our headquarters in Columbia” during hurricane season.

Holman says an interest in aviation is not necessary to be part of the Civil Air Patrol.

“You don’t have to be a pilot to join us,” Holman said, “We do many other things in addition to flying. We are an auxiliary of the Air Force but we are not military focused.”

CAP focuses on aerospace education, emergency services and cadet programs.

One cadet says he joined CAP “to do good for the community.” Per Civil Air Patrol rules, cadets are not allowed to be publicly identified in articles or pictures.

Cadets recently explored the inside of an aircraft and were involved in a stimulated missing persons search.

“I’m interested in the search and rescue program, so that I can help people find their loved ones,” another cadet said.

She was introduced to CAP by her grandmother, who is also a member.

“It’s a great family-oriented organization where parents, grandparents and mentors can join with their youth,” Holman said. “We really want to give back to the youth.”

The squadron hosted its first event at Jammer’s Skate-N-Fun Center. Holman says the “Skate-N-Learn” fundraiser was similar to an “open house event,” where potential members could get more information about CAP.

The money raised will be used toward cadet uniforms and participation in aviation-related activities, such as a field trip to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Holman said.

She envisions CAP being “an organization that brings other organizations together” in Orangeburg.

“A lot of organizations meet and do their thing. We want to be a part of the community and want the community to be a part of us,” she said.

Ela Gasior, IT and public relations director of the squadron, says she “joined to meet new people and make connections” as a new member of the Orangeburg community.

As a member of CAP “you get exposed to a lot of things,” Gasior said.

“You have the opportunity to essentially learn a new job,” she said.

CAP teaches character development, safety education, aerospace education and leadership. The group encourages members to uphold values such as excellence, respect, integrity and community service.

“Living by these values makes the community strong. All those touched by the Civil Air Patrol have the integrity needed to positively influence their peers by doing what is right, not necessarily what is easy,” Greenwood said.

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