AUGUSTA, Mich. -- What may look like high schoolers on a hike through the woods, is actually a military exercise. It is definitely intense. It’s hard work.
"Kinda what’d I get myself in to kind of work but afterwords it’s a very rewarding experience," said Jenna Minyard, Senior Master Sargent Civil Air Patrol.
The Civil Air Patrol is a non-combat volunteer branch of the Air force.
One of the missions is emergency services which is what we’re training for here. Disaster relief, search and rescue, homeland security and another big mission.
"Our cadet program where we have kids from twelve up to twenty one coming in and learn everything about leadership," said Mike Sandstrom, Lieutenant Colonel Civil Air Patrol.
This search and rescue academy provides the training needed in case an airplane goes missing anywhere in the United States
"They stay out here for 9 days they’re out in the woods, they don’t stay in barracks they stay in tents out in the woods, learn how to dig a latrine, learn how to cook their food on their own," Sandstrom said.
"This week we have been doing a lot of map work. like learning how to navigate with the maps and learning advanced ground team skills," Minyard said. "Using the direction finder unit, to locate the emergency locator transmitter so that we can get our next task," she said.
Cadets can also get a head start on a pilot’s license.
"Each cadet in the program gets five glider flights and five powered flights so like a Cessna airplane. and then each one you’ll go a little more in depth with them and you’ll get control of your plane for a little bit, and you fly it," Sandstrom said.
"So civil air patrol offers you the opportunity to fly," Minyard said.
And these cadets are on the runway, ready to take-off.
"i do want to go into the air force, job still being determined," she said.
"I’ve always loved medical and helping people. that’s part of why the search and rescue is important to me personally and it’s like you’re out here, you’re finding someone even if it’s just simulated they make it feel somewhat real," Minyard said.
"You would be surprised what these high schoolers can accomplish. they amaze me every day, every year i look at them, they amaze me the way they can grow," Sandstrom said.
Photographer Troy VanWingen also contributed to this story.