From cadet to commander; Airman finds belonging in service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Esteban Esquivel
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

If you ask Senior Airman Cody Chenowith to describe himself before the military, he would tell you about a rebel that wanted nothing to do with taking orders and certainly not interested in joining the military.

“My brother was always pretty gung-ho about joining the military, and then one day at a state fair he was talking to an Army recruiter and the recruiter told him about Civil Air Patrol,” said Chenowith. “After checking it out he joined and because my parents had to take him and I couldn’t be left alone at home, they made me join as well.”

As a Total Force partner and auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, Civil Air Patrol is there to assist in search and rescue, disaster relief and homeland defense.

Reluctant at first, young Chenowith showed no interest in CAP. Little did he know at the time, a search and rescue exercise, mixed with a healthy combination of sibling rivalry, would put him on a path that would change his life and take him half way across the world.

“One portion of CAP’s mission is emergency services, one night while I was there, we did a lost hiker exercise,” Chenowith said. “They took one of the older cadets, put him out in the woods and they taught us how to search for clues and ultimately find him. I thought it was pretty cool and just like that I came back and started caring more about my uniform and making sure my boots were shinier than my brother’s. It was always a competition between us, and eventually I worked my way up to Cadet NCO and then a Cadet Chief Master Sgt.,” Chenowith said.

Eventually, Chenowith would reach the rank of 2nd Lt. in CAP and at this point he had a new thirst for the military’s way of life. It was at this point he decided to take what he learned from the CAP and join his high school’s Marine Corps JROTC program.

“Within the JROTC, I was a part of the drill team and color guard,” said Chenowith. “Getting involved with the drill team was like being part of a family; we had our own little group within the school and we would spend hours training, traveling and competing. Having that kind of environment gave me a sense of purpose and what kept pushing me toward where I am today.”

Fast forward 12 years, Chenowith has a busy plate balancing his day-to-day job as a pavements and equipment journeyman assigned to the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron and head trainer and flight sergeant for the base Honor Guard. During his off duty time, he is also working to re-launch the Guam CAP chapter, where he leads his team as the Andersen Flight Commander.

“One day, I saw a post on Facebook from the CAP commander in Korea wanting to build a unit in Guam,” said Chenowith. “He was looking for anyone with experience or interest and I e-mailed him right away and said I’ve been in CAP for so many years and here are my experiences. After a few meetings I got a call one night from the commander in Korea asking me to run it.”

With the help of a few volunteers, Chenowith has grown the program from an initial six cadets to having an official meeting space, 24 cadets, and 15 senior members.

Who was once a rebel with little interest in the military, he has grown into a leader in Guam by influencing those that see him working with the youth of Guam.

“For CAP I really like taking who they are right now and building them into leaders and teaching them how I became who I am today” Chenowith shared. “I want to give them something to do and something to be a part of. As Honor Guard, we are out there as the face of the Air Force, we are out and about at ceremonies, retirements, and funerals. The professionalism we display at these events can be the lasting memories someone has of the Air Force and Andersen Air Force Base.”