VALDOSTA -- After a year that included a deployment to Afghanistan, Maj. Andreas Wesemann of Moody Air Force Base returned to Valdosta to finish what he started. Before deploying in spring 2003, Wesemann wanted to start a cadet squadron of the Civil Air Patrol at Valdosta Middle School.

On Tuesday, 12 cadets at Valdosta Middle School became the 47th squadron in Georgia.

"What a wonderful opportunity it

is for these boys to join a program that builds character and leadership," Wesemann said.

As a U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol provides leadership training, education in science and aeronautics, physical training as well as scholarships starting at the age of 12 for boys and girls.

During a squadron standup ceremony at VMS, Wesemann recognized the cadets that included eight charter members and their promotions. The promotions were made official when parents participated in pinning the ribbons on the collars of cadets. Wesemann was also promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Civil Air Patrol.

VMS Principal Marty Roesch said the after-school program has the potential to become an in-school program.

"It's one of the things we're interested in because this has a full curriculum with the program," Roesch said.

When Roesch first heard about the program, he said he became interested because of Moody's close proximity.

"In looking at Moody being right here in our community and all it brings to the community, I saw it as a positive instrument for us to show our support," Roesch said. "And a lot of students who are here have parents from the Air Force base."

VMS held its first Civil Air Patrol meeting in October with five cadets, and by the following meeting three more were added to the squadron.

"My goal is to triple this squadron in size by the end of the year from eight to 24," Wesemann said.

While Wesemann was deployed, he said Lt. Kay VanDoren helped move the program forward by contributing time and money.

"She's been my administrative support, testing officer and helped me in providing some up-front costs," Wesemann said.

Col. Don Greene, Georgia wing commander of the Civil Air Patrol, said there are more than 1,682 cadets in the state. However, VMS is one of the few squadrons that is located near an Air Force base, which allows for financial benefits. Squadrons located within a 30-mile radius of an Air Force base are eligible for funding that can be used for the program.

Besides leadership, Greene said the program can lead cadets to a career in the Air Force.

"One of these days some of you are going to raise your hand and swear to give your life for this country," Greene said. "And that's a big commitment."

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