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Seniors Vic­toria Schmidt and Paul Esposito help CAP cadets Charles Ream­snyder, Olivia Tritchka-Stuchell, and Carter Lucas with color guard. Courtesy | Heather Tritchka

One of the newest GOAL pro­grams, Mil­itary Men­torship, will assist stu­dents in the Hillsdale com­munity who are inter­ested in pur­suing a mil­itary career. 

The program’s main focus is sup­porting the Civil Air Patrol chapter in Hillsdale.

Civil Air Patrol, founded in 1941, is a civilian aux­iliary of the United States Air Force. It pro­vides man­power for low-threat mis­sions, such as search and rescue. The aux­iliary also has a cadet program for 12 to 21-year-olds, to learn the customs of the mil­itary, aero­space lead­ership, and vol­untary service, according to Colonel Vic­toria Schmidt, a Hillsdale College senior, and Heather Tritchka, squadron com­mander of the Hillsdale Civil Air Patrol chapter.

“It’s like a STEM program with the cool addition of learning to fly powered planes and gliders,” Tritchka said.

Tritchka said the Civil Air Patrol gives stu­dents a step up when they are applying for college. Cadets get to par­tic­ipate in five ori­en­tation flights, the com­pletion of which will allow them the oppor­tunity for flight schol­ar­ships through the Air Force, according to Tritchka.

“It gives them the STEM expe­rience that the mil­itary is looking for and lead­ership for other pro­grams that are non-mil­itary,” she said.

Hillsdale’s chapter began in part due to Tritchka’s daughter’s interest in a mil­itary career, she said. Tritchka said she heard from a friend that CAP is a good way to get a head start.

She got in contact with Ginger Moore, the director of the Hillsdale Airport, and started a chapter.

Tritchka first served as a deputy com­mander for about two years. Even­tually, the chapter, which started with five stu­dents, outgrew the space at the airport and moved to the Old Snack Bar in January 2020, she said.

This is when Hillsdale College got involved with the program. Tritchka asked Asso­ciate Dean of Men Jeffery Rogers if he had any mil­itary-focused stu­dents who might be inter­ested in helping with the program.

“My vision was to have a program that was more inte­grated with the college,” Tritchka said. “We could have the college mil­itary kids work on their lead­ership skills by men­toring the younger cadets.”

Then, Schmidt got involved.

Schmidt was a CAP cadet and made it to the top rank of Cadet Colonel. She is now a senior member of CAP.

Schmidt said she started by attending CAP squadron meetings off and on. Then, last spring semester, Schmidt said Rogers asked her about cre­ating a GOAL program that could connect CAP cadets with stu­dents at Hillsdale College who could practice their lead­ership skills.

“I thought we should infuse this with some young kids who have the energy and the time to pour into it,” Rogers said. “It’s a great men­torship tool. It’s the Timothy model: Older kids reaching out to younger kids. It’s the perfect model.”

Schmidt said she accepted the offer to lead it because she thought she could offer similar lead­ership skills to that which she expe­ri­enced in her squadron.

“I liked the idea,” Schmidt said. “Since it is just a new squadron, they don’t really have many people to look up to.”

Schmidt said she got final approval for the Mil­itary Men­torship program over the summer.

Now that they are an official GOAL program, CAP gets to use resources at Hillsdale College, like meeting at the Biermann Center, which has helped the program, Tritchka said.

Over two years, the chapter has tripled in size to about 15 ded­i­cated cadets, Tritchka said. Now that they are estab­lished, they can recruit even more stu­dents to join.

“It’s been hum­bling and rewarding,” Schmidt said. “I wouldn’t be at Hillsdale if it weren’t for CAP. It’s been great to give back to these cadets.”

After accepting the idea of the GOAL program, Schmidt said she reached out to some friends she thought might want to help.

One of those friends was senior Paul Esposito, who has expe­rience with the Navy Cadet Corp., which is the Navy’s equiv­alent of CAP.

Esposito said he serves as the mil­itary training officer. He is respon­sible for mil­itary dis­ci­pline, pro­fes­sion­alism, customs and cour­tesies, and drill.

“I teach them how to salute, I teach them how to march,” Esposito said. “I also teach them — a little more on the qual­i­tative side – about how to hold them­selves pro­fes­sionally and how to be con­fident and respond in the mil­itary command structure.”

Esposito said he plans to join the Michigan State Police after grad­u­ating from Hillsdale. He said he sees his work with CAP as a way of giving back for the growth he expe­ri­enced as a cadet.

“When I was a cadet, it formed me into who I am. It trans­formed from hon­estly kind of a slacker into someone who could excel and be con­fident in himself,” Esposito said. “To give the kids here that same sort of growth and for­mation, I count as a proper service.”

Junior Spencer Woodford, another vol­unteer for the program, said he found out about CAP through the program at Hillsdale College. He cur­rently serves as the physical training officer. He said his job is to make sure they hit their fitness require­ments, such as running a mile in a certain time and com­pleting a certain amount of push-ups and sit-ups. He says it is a great practice for lead­ership.

“There are so many oppor­tu­nities to share with these younger kids,” Woodford said. “It’s a really cool expe­rience. It’s a lot of fun.”

Tritchka said the help of GOAL stu­dents has led to much success in the program.

“They almost run the program,” Tritchka said. “The cadets are absolutely loving the inter­action with the college stu­dents.”

One such cadet is Chief Master Sergeant Dylan Deasy, a 10th-grade home­schooler. He has been par­tic­i­pating in CAP for about two years. He said he learned about CAP when vis­iting the airport when he first moved to Hillsdale.

“The assistant airport manager told us that there was going to be a CAP meeting in 30 minutes,” Deasy said. “I stuck around for that and found out it was an amazing program that I wanted to be involved with.”

Deasy said he really enjoys the aero­space part of the program. He said he hopes to join the Air Force someday, either through the Air Force Academy or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at a college.

Deasy said that he has enjoyed getting to know the GOAL stu­dents.

“Their lead­ership skills are incredible,” Deasy said. “They mentor us in a lot of ways, keeping us in shape and teaching us to not give up when things are hard, which a lot of our cadets need to hear.”

While the Civil Air Patrol is not having any official meetings right now due to COVID-19 restric­tions, cadets are still able to get together in their smaller men­torship groups at the college.

In addition, Tritchka said they have been able to do some color guard at events. For instance, they were able to do a color guard cer­emony for the Hillsdale’s Rotary Inter­na­tional Club’s 100-year anniversary event. They were also able to encourage an active mil­itary member over the summer.

“There was a man in town that was being pro­moted in the Air Force and he couldn’t go to Wash­ington because of all the shut­downs,” Tritchka said. “We did a color guard cer­emony for him down at the cour­t­house.”

The cadets might also do a mod­ified color guard cer­emony for the grad­u­ation cer­emony at Hillsdale College this year, Tritchka said.

Esposito, Schmidt, and Woodford said they encourage people to join the GOAL program for lead­ership expe­rience.

“We def­i­nitely want to get a larger amount of campus involved in this,” Schmidt said.

Esposito said vol­un­teering in this program is helpful even if they are not inter­ested in the mil­itary.

“It is not nec­essary to have a mil­itary back­ground,” Esposito said. “Hon­estly, they just need role models to look up to.”

Those inter­ested in joining should contact Vic­toria Schmidt at vschmidt@hillsdale.edu.