Oklahoma Well-Represented In D.C. For Annual Civil Air Patrol Trip

Oklahoma Well-Represented In D.C. For Annual Civil Air Patrol Trip

The halls of Congress were bustling with current and future military leaders this week, as the Civil Air Patrol made its annual trip to the nation’s capital. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma was well-represented.

Civil Air Patrol has 19 units in Oklahoma and each unit’s commander nominated a 'worthy' cadet for the trip, so it was a high honor for the two who were ultimately chosen, which they say hit home as soon as they arrived at the airport.

"We walk out and we see a two star general," said Bethany Jeffries, a CAP cadet from Norman.

The general was Major General Donald Carpenter, who oversees the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program.

"And then he comes up and introduces himself to us, he shakes our hands," said Jeffries.

The chance meeting seemed to only reinforce for Jeffries and fellow cadet Sophia Badillo this was what they were meant to do.

"It means so much to be able to come here," said Badillo, who is a junior at Edmond North High School.

Badillo, Jeffries and CAP's adult leaders arrived Tuesday for three days of activities, culminating with a full day at the Capitol Thursday.

"It’s a great responsibility and an honor to select the cadets who come on this trip," said Lt. Col. David McCollum. "This year we had more nominees than we’ve ever had."

McCollum, the Oklahoma Wing's current chief of staff who will soon assume its command in April, says Jeffries and Badillo are as good as they get.

"Everywhere we’ve taken them," McCollum said in an interview Thursday, "the representatives' staffs have been blown away."

Cadet Jeffries is a senior at Community Christian School in Norman, is already working on her private pilot's license and was nominated by Rep. Tom Cole to attend the Air Force Academy, which she says is her absolute dream.

"Because I want to be surrounded with cadets and senior members like myself who value integrity first, service before self and excellence in all that we do," Jeffries said in an interview. "I want to live those core values in and out of my daily life."

Cadet Badillo also aspires to be an Air Force pilot and fully embraces Civil Air Patrol's mission of shaping the leaders of tomorrow -- only, she's impatient to get started today.

"So, I learned that my impact, my influence amongst my peers is so important," Badillo explained, "and CAP has taught me how I can be a leader today, just in what I do every single day."

McCollum knows Civil Air Patrol isn't for everyone -- he says it's very demanding, physically and mentally, "but the young people who join and who thrive in it, as these two cadets have," he said, "give you hope for the future."