Blowing snow and bitter cold gripped eastern Colorado the afternoon of Feb. 17 when a call went out from Cheyenne County emergency services.
An elderly man had called 911 with a cellphone after he became disoriented and the car he was driving went off an unmarked county road and into a field.
Darkness and weather prevented air crews from providing immediate assistance, but three ground search-and-rescue crews from Colorado's all volunteer Civil Air Patrol, including a four-member team from the Colorado Springs Cadet Squadron, were on the scene within hours of the call.
Lt. Col. Michael McNeely, commander of the Colorado Springs squadron, said he and three qualified cadets met with Cheyenne Wells Fire and Emergency Management about 9:30 p.m. and went to work.
Once weather conditions cleared enough to get help from CAP aircraft, the Colorado Springs squadron was credited with the save.
"Fortunately, the man stayed with his car and appeared to be OK when we found him," McNeely said.
"When we found him, he wanted to know if we were going to help him get his car unstuck."
Cadet Carlin Idle is 16 years old, and he was one of the first to arrive at Peterson Air Force Base after he got the call. He said real-life rescues like this one may not be an everyday occurrence for the cadets, but they are always ready to respond.
The Colorado Springs Cadet Squadron meets every Tuesday at Peterson Air Force and trains 51 cadets from age 12 to 20, said Capt. Bethany Lenell.
Lenell oversees training and cadet activities at the Colorado Springs squadron. She started as a cadet nine years ago in Washington state where she met her husband, now a C-130 load master at Peterson Air Force Base.
Her full-time job is a stay-at-home mom to her 1-year-old son, but she said she has no intention of leaving CAP anytime soon.
"I learned a lot as a Civil Air Patrol cadet and I want to give back to the cadets now," Lenell said.
Founded in 1941, just one week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer service largely decentralized by state with three national missions: emergency services, aerospace education, and cadet programs.
Cadets can start as early as 12 years old and serve until the age of 21 when they become senior members of the all-volunteer service said Capt. Rex Jakeman, squadron recruiting and retention officer.
Jakeman said he has no military background, but joined CAP as a senior member after his son became a cadet five years ago.
"I've been a civilian all my life, and I didn't know anything about the Air Force. I just came into Civil Air Patrol and liked what I saw," Jakeman said.
Jakeman's son, Ben Jakeman, shares his father's enthusiasm for CAP, but hopes to convert his experiences to a military career with the Air Force.
At 17 years old, Jakeman is one of the youngest to receive the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, named in honor of the first Chief of Staff of the Air Force and second national commander of the Civil Air Patrol.
Jakeman said he is grateful for all he has learned as a CAP cadet and credits his success to his love for flight, which he hopes to hone at the Air Force Academy in a couple years.
"Civil Air Patrol has a bunch to offer to young people: outdoor activities, flying, aerospace education, leadership training and discipline," Jakeman said.