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On July 1, 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 incorporating the Civil Air Patrol as a benevolent, nonprofit organization.  On May 26, 1948, Congress passed Public Law 557 permanently establishing the Civil Air Patrol as the Auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force.  Three primary Missions were set forth at that time: Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs and Emergency Services.

CAP's Aerospace Education effort is focused on two audiences: volunteer CAP members and the general public.  This insures that all CAP members, seniors and cadets have an appreciation for and knowledge of aerospace issues.  CAP cadets are eligible for 5 powered orientation flights as well as 5 glider orientation flights.  Cadets can also attend workshops and other training in order to become knowledgeable in aerospace issues.  While there are many youth oriented programs in the U.S. today, CAP iis unique in that it uses aviation as a cornerstone to the organization.  Thousands of people ages 12-21 are introduced to aviation through CAP's Cadet Program.

CAP's Cadet Activities program lets cadets progress at their own pace through a 16 step program that include aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness, moral leadership, drill and military ceremonies.  Cadets can attend many local and National encampments, leadership schools and compete in local and national competitions involving drill teams, color guards etc.  Cadets can also compete for educational scholarships to further their studies in fields such as aerospace engineering, science, leadership etc.

CAP's Emergency Services is what CAP is best known for.  CAP flies more than 85 percent of all Federal Inland search and rescue missions and is the owner of the largest fleet of Cessna Aircraft.  CAP's Emergency Services also supports Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Services and directly supports the Air Force i its mission.  CAP cadets are trained in search and rescue techniques, aircraft marshaling, first aid, land navigation and can participate in Search and Rescue Exercises and Field Training Exercises.