Big Four Cadet Unit Priorities

Do These Apply to Me? Right Now?

These priorities are meant to be universal: they aren't specific to cadet or senior leaders, and they're applicable to units large, small, established, new, and rebuilding. One constant in cadet units is turnover of leadership. The program is designed so that a top cadet at a unit shouldn't hold their top leadership job for more than a year. By definition, about 1/3 of unit commanders are new each year, and deputy commanders for cadets are often fairly new in the program compared to the size of their responsibility.

The best practice is to run through these priority items and give your unit an honest health check whenever one of the key leaders of cadets is new. Even established units who take a hard look at these priorities can find new efficiencies at the core of their programs. If nothing else, the key leaders will be on the same page about unit priorities!

How to Tackle: Go In Order


The "Big Four" Cadet Unit Priorities were designed to help unit leaders prioritize, build, and evaluate their unit's cadet program foundations.

It's especially intended for new leaders who are wondering "where do I even start!?"

Civil Air Patrol has a huge number of resources, regulations, optional programs, and best practices to follow. The challenge faced by leaders, then, is defining what the foundation of the Cadet Program really is, so that new leaders can be sure they're starting in the right place, and established leaders can self-check to ensure their foundation hasn't fallen into disrepair. In the course of CAP's scheduled leadership turnover and the steady flow of new projects, tasks, and activities, it's important to check up on the fundamentals regularly.

The priorities don't go in order of importance, but in the order that makes each the easiest to tackle.

A unit that is building from scratch can use this as a guide to build a solid foundation to operate on in as little as a month or two!

A unit that is well-established and following the best practices laid out here can bring key leaders together and finish their evaluation in only a couple of weeks.

The "Big Four" Priorities

Download: Big Four Single-Sheet PDF  |  Big Four Slide Deck



    ⃝      Cadet Leaders Assigned

Cadet leaders assigned in eServices

Cadet leaders given job descriptions and expectations.

CAPP 60-31 A1

eServices: Cadet Duty Assignments

    ⃝      Grade Appropriate Assignments

Cadet duty assignments and work are grade-appropriate.

CAPR 60-1 4.1.2.


    ⃝      Structure is Size Matched

Cadet structure and scope are appropriate to unit size and composition.

CAPP 60-31 A2


    ⃝      Structure is Published

Cadet structure published and current. All cadets should be able to see their local chain of command.



    ⃝      Unit Training Plan Published

Longer-Range Training Plan of Meeting Topics Published (at least 1 quarter out, published online).

CAPR 60-1

Squadron Training Plans

AE Curriculum Materials

AE Lessons & Activity Resources

Learn to Lead Activity Guide


    ⃝      Contact Hours Met

Minimum Contact Hours met in squadron training plan.

Meetings are interactive and engaging.

CAPR 60-1 T4.2.


    ⃝      Weekly Meeting Schedules Published

Detailed meeting plan published 1 week in advance. Available to all members and parents.

CAPR 60-1

CAPF 60-83 Squadron Meeting Planner



    ⃝  Promotions Plan Published

Cadet promotion procedures established and published, including which advancements feedback meetings are held for.

Units not adding promotion requirements or roadblocks.

Leaders systematically check and encourage cadets' promotion progress.

CAPR 60-1 5.7.2.


    ⃝  Feedback Meetings Conducted Properly

Feedback meetings (formerly called "promotion boards") held at-least once per phase.

Promotion policies conform to R60-1.

F60-90 Series instructions are followed.

WAWG CP Recommends a feedback meeting for every advance in grade, beginning at promotion to C/SSgt.

CAPR 60-1 5.7.2.


    ⃝  Meeting Rhythm Established

Monthly "rhythm" for promotion-essential meeting events established. (Predictable times/procedures for feedback meetings, ceremonies, drill testing, CPFT, etc.)



    ⃝      Annual Open House Events Scheduled

Open House(s) Scheduled for School Year.

Event(s) published on website/social media.

Event(s) advertised (Ads, Radio, School Posters, flyers, etc.).

WAWG CP recommends at least 3 open houses per school year.

CAPR 60-1 3.1.1.

Recruiting and Retention Site


    ⃝      Mentors Assigned to Recruits

Recruits assigned a mentor (one mentor may be assigned several recruits, i.e., a Recruit Flight Sergeant).

CAPR 60-1 3.1.4.


    ⃝      60 Day Recruit Training Pipeline

Cadet/Parent orientation complete within 60 days.

Pipeline/cohort style introductory training is strongly recommended.

CAPR 60-1 3.1.2.

Cadet Great Start

What's Next?

Once your unit is following all of these best practices, you've mastered the "crawl" and "walk" of cadet programs, and it's time to "run."When your core is set up to be fairly self-sustaining, you can start focusing on the exciting, optional projects that cadets love most about the cadet program: flying, overnight activities, tours & career exploration, cadet competition, rocketry, model aircraft, emergency services. The sky isn't even a limit here!