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Commander's Blog

1 MAR 21

The coronavirus pandemic has touched all corners of the globe in the last 12 months, and encampments have not been spared its wrath.  After countless conversations and debates, the wing staff and I are willing to take the chance and continue planning for Summer Encampment 2021.  To me, Summer Encampment has been a staple of my CAP membership since the summer of 2003, when I attended for the first time at Volk Field ANGB in Wisconsin. Each year since, the encampment has been the one thing I look forward to most each summer, and it was with a heavy heart that we had to decide to cancel for 2020.  Nobody could have predicted the impact that the virus had on our way of life. However, in the end, it is clear that the choice we made last spring was the proper one.  

Rather sit in the corner and lick our wounds, the Summer Encampment staff has demonstrated exceptional resilience and motivation to use this year off as an opportunity to rebuild and improve in areas in which we have faltered in the past.  Namely, we are committed to implementing a new registration and medical tracking system for the Illinois Wing Summer Encampment. If you or your cadets have attended an Illinois Wing Spring Encampment in 2019, you will be familiar with a service known as CampDoc.  CampDoc is a third-party application that is widely used by camps of all kinds throughout the country. It will allow us to get rid of our cumbersome multi-step application process, payment systems, manual medical history review, and manual dietary restriction review and replace them with a single streamlined administrative solution.  While we would like to be perfect, when these processes are done by hand by a volunteer staff that is widely geographically separated, mistakes happen, and issues fall through the cracks.  We feel that using CampDoc can get us closer to the perfection we seek in our administrative tasks while greatly reducing the man-hours required for processing applications... freeing up our staff to improve the encampment experience at all levels.

The benefits of this system aren’t limited to administrative functions, however. On the medical side of things, our staff will have unprecedented access to communicate quickly and efficiently with the parents and commanders of cadets seeking treatment at encampment.  The occasional bump, bruise, or stomach ache is commonplace at any camp.  Now, with the click of a button, our medical staff can instantly log visits and submit detailed reports to the parents of cadets each time they visit the medical officers.  We hope that parents can assist the staff in more quickly noticing patterns or concerns that otherwise would have seemed commonplace before issues could become more serious.  

We also have the ability to track exactly which classes cadets attend throughout the week, enhancing our accountability and curriculum adherence.  The Illinois Wing Summer Encampment is unique in that we are able to go above and beyond the encampment curriculum with special activities such as: providing orientation flights in a glider and powered aircraft, participating in an obstacle course, rappelling, and simulated weapons training in a state of the art simulator.  While these activities enhance the encampment experience, they are not always part of the standardized encampment curriculum.  All encampments are required by NHQ to provide a specific number of contact hours in certain areas of interest.  With this tracking software, we can be sure that each and every one of our cadets are completing the required 80% of those contact hours throughout the week.  

While we are confident that the CampDoc program will be an asset for years to come, the initial implementation of this tool has its challenges.  To those familiar with the application timeline in the past, you may have noticed that we are opening our application windows a little late this year.  With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided that it was necessary to delay standup of the CampDoc platform.  The bottom line is that CampDoc costs money to use each year, and if we were to cancel the 2021 encampment after we had already started work on this highly individualized program, that money would be lost. Therefore, we had to wait until we had enough confidence that the encampment would be a “go” before we made the financial commitment to go forward.  This pushes us into a bit of a corner. We need to insure that the program is up and running as soon as possible to begin accepting applications for Cadet Cadre on April 1st, while maintaining the integrity of the system and managing the unforeseen challenges that are sure to come.  

Personally, I am excited for this summer. I know that taking last encampment season off, has made me even more excited to host a great encampment, and I think that feeling is shared by many on my staff.  While we have our challenges for 2021, I am confident that the cadet and senior staff will pull through and host a terrific training event.  I can’t wait for July, and I hope to see you there!

Capt McDowell

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