Civil Air Patrol cadets return to give back

by Major Barb Buckner, Civil Air Patrol Public Affairs Officer
Dan Tromfimchuk of Monee (left) and Barb Buckner of Chicago both began with Civil Air Patrol as cadets in the late 1980s. Today they are part of Thunder Composite Squadron in Lansing, Illinois.

LANSING, Ill. (October 19, 2017

) – On October 1, the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program celebrated its 75th year. Two local members shared their memories of being cadets and why they returned to help mentor a new generation.

Barb Buckner of Chicago and Dan Tromfimchuk of Monee both began with Civil Air Patrol as cadets in the late 1980s. They were members of the first Lyons Township Composite Squadron, located in the Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Illinois. They left the program after high school, then returned in 2008 and met up again while a part of Thunder Composite Squadron in Lansing, Illinois.

Barb Buckner joined the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program after hearing about it from a high school friend. It was a stepping stone to help her enter the Air Force, and she achieved the rank of Cadet Master Sergeant before leaving the program to join the Air Force ROTC Detachment 195 at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Buckner considers her most memorable cadet experiences (1) the Illinois Wing Encampments in 1986 and 1987, (2) the “rides” to encampment in a KC-135 and C130 aircraft, and (3) the F-4 Phantoms on the flight line during the graduation in 1986. She came home in 1987 to the Air Force Thunderbirds, who were in town for the Chicago Air & Water Show, and had lined up on the flight line at the Air Force Reserve Station at O’Hare. “As someone whose goal it was to become an Air Force pilot, it didn’t get better than that!” Buckner stated.

Dan Tromfinchuk joined the program and later joined the Navy, serving in Operation Desert Storm as a Hospital Corpsman. As a cadet, he remembers the friendships that he made, touring the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center, and being able to go on base to the Air Force Reserve Station at O’Hare Airport. His experience as a Civil Air Patrol cadet led to his being given a squad to lead during Boot Camp. For those interested in the military, “Civil Air Patrol prepares you somewhat for military life,” said Trofimchuk.

When asked why they came back to the program after all these years, both had the same response: Curiosity. They wanted to know to whether the program was still around. Buckner rejoined “to help give today’s cadets the same type of opportunities and experiences that I had as a cadet. Experiences that most of my friends still have never had.”

Trofimchuk rejoined because “I wanted to serve my country again. Experience the military life again. To have the ability to fly missions for multiple government agencies. And giving back.”

The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program teaches today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders. It opens the door to a variety of experiences that cadets can then use when they go on to college or enter the job market. To learn more, visit

Thunder Composite Squadron meets every Wednesday from 6:30–9:00pm at Heritage Middle School in Lansing, Illinois. Membership includes Lansing residents as well as people from Calumet City, Mokena, Lynwood, Dyer, Munster, and Schererville.

About the Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol, the long-time all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. CAP’s 57,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief, and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies. CAP also plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit for more information.