Pilot training program provided opportunity for area men

By Thomas Garcia: PNT staff writer

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, area residents participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program in Roosevelt County.

Initiated in 1939, the CPTP had a goal to train 20,000 civilian pilots a year, creating a pool of potential military pilots, according to the National Museum of the United States Air Force Web site.

The Roosevelt County CPTP operated at an airfield located where Eastern New Mexico University’s Greyhound Stadium now stands.

The local pilots who participated in the training signed an agreement to join the armed forces if the country entered into war.

John Cantrell of Portales and Samuel Neff of Clovis made such commitments.

After completing their training, the pilots continued their education at local and state universities until they were called to action.

Cantrell was attending Eastern New Mexico Junior College (now ENMU) studying biology, and Neff was attending pre-medical studies at the University of New Mexico.

Like many soldiers of that era, they enlisted following the Japanese attack at