CAP Shoe Flag

It’s a harvester of evil
That no one can control
And it’s here to take your soul.
Don’t try to fight it.
There’s nothing you can do.
S.O.S. is coming for you!

- Dos Gringos, “S.O.S.”

I have survived Shoe Flag.  It’s actually called CAP’s Squadron Leadership School.  It and its related follow-on schools are roughly analogous to the Air Force’s Squadron Officer School or “SOS,” although the CAP courses each last a few days at most and SOS goes for a month or more.

If the legends are true, non-pilots in the Air Force (known to pilots by the pejorative term “shoe clerks”) regard SOS as a prized opportunity.  Pilots are reputed to dread SOS because it tends to take pilots out of the cockpit for a month or so.  And, let’s face it, SOS involves very little flying upside down – or any other kind of flying.  Taking a cue from Red Flag and other “Flag” exercises, pilots occasionally refer to SOS or any similar endeavor as a “Shoe Flag.”

I’ve used the term all weekend on Twitter and otherwise.  And it’s entertaining to think of CAP SLS that way.  The majority of the other attendees were non-aircrew, after all.

But I’m happy to admit that SLS turned out to be valuable and that I’ll likely be a better squadron officer as, and if, I have the opportunity to take on that role.

FOD just turned 10.  Which means that he’ll be 12 soon.  And the squadron leadership will likely be ready to turn over partially or wholly at some point close to that time.

I have one of the worst attendance records in squadron history.  I perform most of my CAP duties behind the scenes as an aircrew member, a legal officer, and a director of the Civil Air Patrol Foundation.  I’ve had the opportunity in the past to do more at the squadron level, but it would be disingenuous for me to try when my attendance is so sporadic.  But, as long as I’m going to be taking FOD to and from squadron meetings and being there a lot more often, I’m hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to play a larger role in the squadron leadership.

SLS covers basic leadership, professional development, communications, the structure of squadrons, and other information that anyone in CAP squadron leadership should know.  And it was refreshingly free of references to Cog’s Ladder.  And red mesh hats.

The other important thing is that an SLS brings you together with a group of people who have made a pretty important commitment to their CAP careers.  Not everyone in this weekend’s class is going to be running the wing someday, but you can be reasonably assured that more than a few will continue to advance in leadership.  The people whom you get to know at SLS or similar training will be valuable resources and the relationships that you begin will grease the skids for your future interactions with them.

As with any national standardized program, your mileage will vary depending on the faculty and your co-trainees.  But SLS was worth a day and a half.

It’s unlikely that I’ll go on to CLC and some of the other programs.  As a legal officer, my next step (to lieutenant colonel) isn’t dependent on any particular course of study or specific objectives.  I’ll complete four years in grade next May and I’ve already been the the National Legal Officer College twice.  All that remains is a promotion action, which needs to originate at the region level.  But it’s good to have had an insight into what the other leaders in the wing do and where they plan to take their programs.  It can only help me as a legal officer or squadron-level leader.

In other news, I have an appointment with the surgeon on Tuesday to take a look at my appendectomy sutures and send me back to the cockpit.  I’ve been a good patient and I’m expecting clearance to fly, along with a letter that I can give to my AME at my next medical next year.


About Steve Tupper

Stephen Force is the superhero alter ego of mild-mannered tech and aviation lawyer, commercial pilot (glider, with private privileges in ASEL, ASES, AMEL, IA, and DC-3 (SIC) type-rated), and Civil Air Patrol lieutenant colonel Steve Tupper. Steve writes, records, and brings you the inside story about everything that really matters in aviation. He's flown with the USAF Thunderbirds, he's and airshow performer and air boss, and he's one of only five pilots ever to earn a FAST card in the glider category. Follow Steve's ongoing quest to do all that is cool in aviation at or on Twitter as @StephenForce.


  1. Dave Crawford says:

    I wouldn’t discount attending CLS, RSC or even NSC too quickly. NSC was one of the best in-residence courses I have attended in my 30 years in CAP. Particularly since your career track diverges from that of the majority of other CAP members – the cross-pollination in my opinion would be good for you – particularly if some Wing CC comes along and says “Hey, Steve, I want you to be my legal officer”. Just my two cents from the trenches.


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