Cadet Poppe Goes to Washington
By C/1st Lt Tessa Poppe East Iowa Cadet Squadron
A year ago, when our Squadron’s former Cadet Commander said he had been selected to attendthe Civil Air Patrol's National Civic Leadership Academy, I immediately was interested ingoing myself. What an opportunity, I thought, to see our government up close and personalwhile going behind the scenes… not your average field trip! I made it my personal goal to tryand attend. Little did I know that year later I would be in the nation’s capital, experiencing itfirst hand!I applied for the honor of attending the Academy, and after a rigorous review process, I learnedthat I had been selected, along with 23 other Civil Air Patrol cadets. There was a lot to preparefor. I needed to make sure my uniform was perfect, since many of the activities were highlyvisible by the military, government, and public. There was also curricular preparation aswell. Cadets arriving for this activity were expected to be well versed in government principlesand have a good understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Upon arrival in Washington, ourgroup hit the ground running. We were involved in one activity after another. On Sunday, 27February, we visited the National Air and Space Museum and heard from Mary Feik, for whoma Civil Air Patrol cadet award is named. She escorted us through the museum, showing ussome of the aircraft she helped build. Later, we heard from the future Commissioner of theFood and Drug Administration, Dr. Lester Crawford. He spoke about running a public organi-zation and gave us some important leadership lessons and tips. His discussion was quite relevant to leadership in CAP.After the busy day, we spent time with some our colleagues and discussed the day’s lessons, as we would do every night. Thetheme of the day on Monday, 28 February, was Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court case that established the principal of Judicial Review. We visited the Supreme Court building and heard from a Court Fellow who explained her duties and the his-tory of the building. We were even allowed to hear an actual oral argument in the Supreme Court chamber! Next, our grouptoured the Capitol -- which is one of the most amazing buildings I’ve ever seen, especially considering I had never been to D.C.before.Tuesday, 1 March, was a highlight of the trip for me. We visited the U.S. State Department, where we met with Deputy Secre-tary of State, the Honorable Robert B. Zoellick, in the Treaty Room. It was a tremendous experience, considering virtually noone gets into the Treaty Room! We ate lunch in the Executive Dining Room, where we each got to speak with an ambassador orForeign Service Officer at each of our tables. After lunch, we went to the Operations/Task Force rooms, where we learned whatTask Forces do when something like the Asian tsunami or September 11th happens. We also heard from two representatives of the Press Corps who worked in the State Department. They explained their jobs and answered questions we had regarding themedia.On Wednesday, 2 March, we visited the Pentagon. I have never seen so many Generals and Colonels in my entire life! We gotthe customary tour, which was quite fascinating. It included seeing the memorial in honor of those killed there on September11th, a humbling experience. We then heard from two Air Force Colonels who explained to us the importance of civilian controlof the military, the basic structure of the command staff within the Pentagon, and how they work with the other branches of thegovernment.We also visited Arlington on National Cemetery, and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It wasone of the greatest experiences of the trip for me. Thursday, 3 March was the day when we teamed up with our fellow regioncadets and/or our Wing Commanders and walked on Capitol Hill, advocating the Civil Air Patrol Homeland Security Act. IowaWing Commander Col. Ralph Tomlinson and I met with four staffers from Iowa’s Representatives and Senators, and I also wasprivileged to work with Nebraska’s Wing Commander. I had an opportunity to speak with Senator Nelson personally about CivilAir Patrol. By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but not too tired to visit the memorials at night. That was another high-light of the trip. The Vietnam, Korean, World War II, and Lincoln Memorials were very impressive. It was an honor to visitthem and pay respect to those who have made sacrifices for our freedom.On Friday, 4 March, we visited the Central Intelligence Agency and viewed the wall where stars and the Book of Honor com-memorate agents lost in the line of duty. We also got to see the CIA museum, where some of the strangest gadgets I’ve ever seenreside. We also heard from a CIA recruiter who told us all we needed to know about careers in the CIA. All too soon, it wasSaturday, 5 March. The week had flown by, and even though I saw a lot of intriguing things, and visited many cool places, Ifound it was hardest to leave my colleagues behind. The Civil Air Patrol cadets and officers who participated in the LeadershipAcademy were some of the best from our nation, and it was an extreme honor to work with them and learn from them. Thisactivity was one of the best I’ve ever participated in, and I would love to do it all again!
C/1st Lt Tessa Poppe