VALDOSTA -- With both parents in the military, it didn't take long before Michael Van Doren would follow in their footsteps. At age 16, the Lowndes High School junior is a cadet commander in the Civil Air Patrol, a cadet in the Air Force Junior ROTC and is heading to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for National Youth Leadership Forum on Defense.

"I don't think I was as near as mature as he was," said his father, Lt. Col. Michael Van Doren, vice commander of Moody's 347th Mission Support Group. "Even as a 4-year-old we called him an old man. He's done a lot to make me proud."

Throughout the week, Cadet Lt. Michael Van Doren will be among 400 high school juniors and seniors who will meet government leaders and prepare for careers in defense, intelligence and diplomacy.

"I'm really looking forward to being in D.C. and I'm interested in the military to see how the central defense and intelligence works," said Cadet Lt. Van Doren.

Lt. Col. Van Doren, who has been in the military for 22 years, said the leadership forum is an opportunity for his son to become more knowledgeable in government and the military.

"So much that affects our day and lives starts with politics," Lt. Col. Van Doren said. "I was excited for him. He's made me proud."

Planning for a military career after graduation, Cadet Lt. Van Doren said he is interest in aeronautical engineering or a space science-related field of

study.

"I'm looking forward to being in the military," Van Doren said. "I just prefer the lifestyle and I'm used to moving around a lot."

Van Doren said joining the Civil Air Patrol was something his mother inspired him to pursue. His mother, Lt. Kay Van Doren, a testing control officer for the Civil Air Patrol, has also spent time in South Africa with CAP.

"I've learned it's purpose and I'm really interested in it," Cadet Lt. Van Doren said.

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