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Just One Of The Guys

Just One Of The Guys

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Click photo to enlargeCivil Air Patrol cadet Second Lt.

Mary Kraynak, standing, works with cadet Tommy Ferris, 14, of Monroe, to learn some of the required lessons, during a weekly meeting at the C.A.P.

headquarters at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford, CT on July 02, 2009.�1234�Mary Kraynak is just 15, but she's already working on her career.

And since she wants to one day join the Navy or become a forensic scientist, she felt that becoming part of the Stratford Squadron Civil Air Patrol as a cadet would be a good way to prepare for either path.Cadets go through a military-style boot camp -- including running obstacle courses -- and can accompany CAP members on search-and-rescue missions.

Kraynak said she especially likes the program, headquartered at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, because it gives her a chance to compete against her male counterparts."It feels not like you have to prove something, but that you can do anything the males can do," Kraynak, an Ansonia resident, said of being one of five girls in the 30-member squad.

She said she's treated just like "one of the guys.""The girls that come are not usually the look-at-your-nails type," she said.

"We're ready to get down in the dirt."Not only is she just one of the guys, but she has surpassed many of them by receiving the Gen.

Billy Mitchell Award, a milestone that only about 15 percent of all cadets nationwide achieve."It makes you feel good because not many people get that milestone," Kraynak said of the award presented to her last month.Lt.

Ian Schermann, the deputy commander for all cadets at the squadron, said it is hard to determine how many of their cadets have won the award because the squadron has been Advertisementin existence for 40 years.

But, he said, even fewer cadets win the award earned by Joseph Kraynak, 18, Mary's brother.

Less than 1 percent of cadets nationwide win the Gen.

Carl A.

Spaatz Award, and only 32 have won it in Connecticut since its creation in 1964.Joseph Kraynak, who is a cadet commander, said being presented the Spaatz award on June 18 was one of the happiest moments in his life.

"I had worked for it for seven years," he said.

"It felt really good to achieve it."Their father, Joe Kraynak, said he is speechless about the milestones his children have reached.

"They're the best.

They have fun, but they're like little adults," he said.

"The Civil Air Patrol teaches them courtesy and respect and they bring that home."Mary and Joseph Kraynak each joined the CAP cadet program when they were 12, the minimum age for the program.

Once a cadet turns 21, he or she becomes a senior member.The Kraynaks said there are four pairs of siblings in the squadron, but they are the only brother and sister.Joseph Kraynak finds it difficult to have his sister there because he was a commander and had to treat her as a cadet.

However, at home they would offer each other tips and help each other."I've always tried to pay less attention to her than anyone else [in the squadron], but I've always kept an eye on her," he said.Schermann said because the Kraynaks are professional, you would never tell they were related at the squadron except for their nametags."They're both very dedicated and both work extremely hard," Schermann said.

"There's a lot of mature cadets, but those two have always stood out." He said they have both run overnight exercises and carry responsibilities that other adults don't.Joseph Kraynak said he joined the CAP because his grandfather served in the U.S.

Air Force, and after seeing a squad doing drills at a meeting he fell in love with the program.

He left for the Air Force Academy in Colorado on June 24, where he will spend the next four years.Mary Kraynak said her favorite part is teaching the cadets about the program."When you first tell them we formed right before World War II, they look so amazed and honored to be there," she said.

"They respect the program so much more.""There's nothing in the world like this," her brother added.

"It gives you the opportunity to lead people when you're 13 years old, to feel like you're responsible to them."About the Civil Air Patrol n The Civil Air Patrol was created in 1941 and assists the U.S.

Air Force.

n It is comprised entirely of volunteers and conducts about 90 percent of inland search-and-rescue missions done in the United States, as well as aerial reconnaissance for homeland security.

n The CAP Cadet program is broken down into 16 achievements, or levels, with five milestones among the achievements.

n At each achievement the cadet is promoted, given decorations, more responsibility and becomes eligible for more scholarships.
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