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Former Civil Air Patrol cadet gives back

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Before the Air Force, Staff Sgt. Marisela Lugar engaged her community as a Civil Air Patrol cadet. Today, Lugar gives back as a senior member of the South Georgia Cadet Squadron.

“I was in CAP as a kid, and it helped me come out of my shell and become more responsible and self-disciplined,” Lugar said. “I had a rough upbringing, so I always tell people the Civil Air Patrol saved my life. It was my home away from home, and for a lot of these children, it’s a home away from home.”

That mindset translates well into her current job as the First Term Airman Center team lead at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. There, Lugar uses her experiences to prepare a younger generation of Airmen who’ve just enlisted for the rigors of military service.

Those Airmen graduate the two-week crash course and go on to become successful Airmen, on and off duty. Part of those off-duty successes are when two seemingly unconnected agencies come together for a common goal.

Senior Airman Andrea Alvaro is the ways and means coordinator for Airmen Committed to Excellence, a junior enlisted council that aims to grow, develop and connect with the junior Airman tier through career development and volunteering. When she reached out to donate uniforms to the local CAP squadron, Lugar worked as a liaison between the two organizations.

“I could see the joy on all their faces when they saw the uniforms arrive,” Alvaro said. “I think that’s one of the most important things, and it helps advocate a positive image for our Airmen.”

The ACE council donated 4,760 pounds of Airman Battle Uniforms, undergarments and jackets to the South Georgia Cadet Squadron, which provided two uniforms to each of the 33 cadets. Lugar’s squadron and ACE shared the extra uniforms with the entire Georgia Wing of over 1,000 cadets.

“ACE saved us and other units a lot of money and it gives us the opportunity to gain more members who couldn't afford to join due to the cost of uniforms and membership fees,” Lugar said. “This makes our units more diverse in economic status. It brings me great joy that if a child can’t afford to join we can tell them we will cover the uniforms so that they are able to join."

Beyond coordinating the donation, Lugar goes above and beyond to make sure the cadets meet uniform requirements. She applies her fashion school knowledge by sewing patches for the cadets and military organizations.

“Instead of sending the cadets to have their parents spend money on sewing, I just collect them and sew them myself,” Lugar said.

Lugar wants to expand her connection to the youth and is currently studying psychology to be a school counselor.

“I’m the first person in my family to have a degree and I feel like I owe all of that to my upbringing in CAP,” Lugar said. “To be able to give back to those children and be the person they rely on and trust, I want to be the person that’s there for them that they can go to to get help.”

Lugar and 15 other senior members meet with the cadets every Thursday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Valdosta Middle School. She encourages Moody Airmen to join if they have an interest in becoming a senior member.

“It’s a big commitment,” Lugar said. “If you have a skill to bring to the cadets and help them grow in leadership or anything, let me know and we’ll set up a time and date for you to come teach them.”

For more information on how to become a senior member, visit http://www.southgeorgia.cap.gov/join-us/prospective-senior-members or contact Lugar at 229-257-3822.