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Crow Wing Civil Air Patrol soaring in to 70 years


There is something fascinating about the sky and, in turn, flight.

Whether you’re 5 or 65, the dream of soaring through the air as the pilot of your own plane is a thought for many, a reality for few, but nothing is impossible.


Offering those exact flying opportunities for people of all ages, the Crow Wing Civil Air Patrol is an organization that allows folks to soar to new heights and has been for years as members are set to celebrate its 70th anniversary. To help celebrate, Brainerd Mayor James Wallin is proclaiming Jan. 30-Feb. 4 as Civil Air Patrol Week in the city.

“We are very excited to have the announcement made by Mayor Wallin, designating Jan. 30 through Feb. 4 as Civil Air Patrol Week in the city of Brainerd,” said Capt. Marcel Kobberdahl, squadron commander. “We do so many different things in the community and state and nationwide along with offering a safe outlet for activities for our kids. I think it’s important that we recognize just what we are all about.”

Founded on Dec. 1, 1941, less than a week before American involvement in World War II, by aviation enthusiasts and private pilots willing to donate their time to protect the coastline, CAPS has a membership of 60,000 nationwide, 1,410 in the state of Minnesota with Crow Wing’s CAP accounting for 59 of those members.

“We are one of the smallest squadron’s in the state,” said Kobberdahl. “But we also have the opportunity to be involved with some much, being so close to Ft. Ripley.”

A member since 2006, Kobberdahl’s passion for aviation has been around for as long as he can remember. A former Navy pilot who is also a qualified mission pilot, observer, scanner and transport pilot, Kobberdahl got involved with CAP after seeing the impact it had on three of his five children who went through the organization when the family lived in Duluth.

“They learned so much about leadership and had a very challenging and rewarding experience as a whole,” he said. “Then after we moved here (in 2000) I continued with my own pursuits of flying, taking lessons in the Aitkin area when I heard that they need some extra hands at this (Crow Wing CAP) organization, so I got involved and here I am today.”

Offering membership for kids 12-18, the cadets — as they’re known — go through marching drills, attend weekly Monday night meetings and take part in flights all for a yearly price of $33. A cheaper way to earn your private pilot’s license, according to senior member, Jake Heffron.

“I earned my pilot’s license at 16,” said Heffron, who entered CAP as a cadet when he was 12 and has now worked his was up to squadron captain. “It’s a lot cheaper to learn to fly here. We have the flight academy and we’ve been able to provide scholarships. We just have a lot of great opportunities here. From drill, to search and rescue and a lot on survival teachings, too, it’s just something we want, and have seen, continue to grow.”

Cadet Nathan Olson is well on his way to following in Heffron’s footsteps. At 15, Olson has already earned the title of Bravo Flight Commander and took part in this past summer’s CAP Flight Academy in Mankato.

“It was one of the most fun things I’ve done in Civil Air Patrol,” said Olson about Flight Academy. “Being able to fly for a whole week and getting the chance to meet other people has been awesome.”

Olson also says that the leadership learned is bar none. Something 15-year-old Jessica Holmes said she’s liked about being in CAP, too.

“There’s so much to love about CAP but leadership plays a major role here,” said Holmes, who is in her third year as a cadet. “I like working with the younger cadets and helping teach them and reach their goals because you remember being there once, too. It’s just something really cool.”

To find out more about joining Crow Wing’s Civil Air Patrol or to learn more about the organization and it’s 70th anniversary celebration, call Kobberdahl at (218) 534-5418.

JESSI PIERCE can be reached at 855-5858 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @jessi_pierce.

Jessi Pierce
Born: 9/28/1987 (age 24) High School: Mahtomedi High School (home of the Zephyrs) in Mahtomedi, Minn. College: Journalism and Mass Communications degree from Iowa State University (Class 2010) Passions: Sharing the story. I love getting to know people, and in particular this town as it is so new to me, and being able to share something about them with the public. That and sports, especially hockey and lacrosse. Follow me on Twitter @jessi_pierce (views on Twitter do not represent that of the Brainerd Dispatch)
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