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When Los Alamos High School student Justin Dunn is not carrying out his duties as vice president of student council, he can often be found at the airport leading his fellow cadets as a member of the Los Alamos Civil Air Patrol, Composite Squadron.
CAP a nonprofit auxiliary unit of the U.S. Air Force, best known for helping in search and rescue operations. CAP’s Cadet Program is for youth from 12 to 20.
“The Civil Air Patrol does specialize in emergency services, but we also use that aspect to teach cadets about aerospace and give the experience within the aerospace field,” Dunn said.
The cadets meet at the Los Alamos Airport every Monday at 6 p.m. to receive training in leadership, aerospace, fitness and character development. They also engage in flight training on gliders as well as powered flight at various airports in the region.
Dunn recently reached a milestone few in the squadron’s cadet program have achieved. On Monday, Dunn received the “General Billy Mitchell Award,” which is given to cadets that have completed eight crucial steps in the 16 step training program. Besides having to demonstrate exemplary leadership skills within the cadet program, Dunn had to pass a comprehensive examination that included answering 100 questions about aerospace and leadership theory.
With the award, Dunn’s rank changes from Cadet Chief Master Sergeant, or NCO, to Cadet 2nd Lt, which makes him the highest ranking cadet in the squadron.
“I will be taking on a lot more responsibilities, which will be a great help to our Squadron Commander,“ Dunn said, adding that joining CAP was one of the best things he could have done to help him achieve his personal and professional life goals.
Dunn’s love of aviation and flying started with yearly trips to Japan to visit his relatives.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve known I wanted to do something with airplanes, and that I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot,” Dunn said. “I heard about CAP, and I saw it as a gateway to this career path, and it’s proved to be just that. It’s open so many doors for me. ”
According to Maj. Mark Peters, Dunn has been an asset to the program, passing on his knowledge to the other sergeants in the program as well as the lower ranks. Senior staff has also trusted him with helping them run their flight training programs, when the squadron cadets go to Las Cruces or Socorro to learn glider or powered flight.
“Because he is one of the experienced ones, he can basically run the ground show,” Peters said. “The senior members are there to oversee and keep the safety margin high. It gets to be a lot of fun for us seniors when you have someone that experienced. We can sit back and enjoy the day.”
Air Force Col. Mark Smith, who is also the Commander of New Mexico’s CAP Wing was on hand to present Dunn his award.
Before he gave the award, he gave a short introduction to who Billy Mitchell was, and how his opinions and convictions shaped the modern U.S. Air Force.
“He was right on target with his vision for an air force, he was right on target about what would happen in World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor and he was right on target about the value of strategic bombing, airpower and the value that would have,” he said.
Dunn plans on attending the University of North Dakota upon graduation from Los Alamos High School.
He plans on majoring in commercial aviation as he pursues his Bachelor of Science and Aeronautics degree.