A cadet in the Civil Air Patrol squadron based at Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport has earned the organization’s highest award, an achievement reached by only a small number.
Elizabeth J. Hale, 17, of Independence, was presented with the General Carl A. Spaatz Award on Aug. 12.
Only about two cadets in a thousand earn the award, said 2nd Lt. Julianne Dresser, deputy commander of the squadron known as “The Flying Tigers.”
“To put that in perspective, there are more than 26,000 cadets, currently,” Dresser said.
Since the program’s inception in 1964, the Civil Air Patrol has presented 1,965 Spaatz awards.
The award is named for Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, the first Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. Spaatz commanded the Allied air campaign against Germany, and in the Pacific Theater, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski took place under his command.
After he retired, he was first chairman of the Civil Air Patrol National Board.
The Civil Air Patrol is a congressional-chartered auxiliary of the Air Force for adults and youths. Its purpose is aerospace education, cadet programs and assisting with emergency services responding to air crashes or natural disasters.
Cadets can choose different tracks to complete. Some learn to fly planes, and Hale chose to work on leadership.
For several summers she has served on staff at Missouri Wing statewide encampments. This summer she led the encampment at Fort Leonard Wood, creating a training plan and supervising the staff that worked with cadets.
To earn the Spaatz award, cadets finish 16 achievements, taking an average of five years. They learn self-discipline, leadership and get a foundation for a career in aviation, space or technology industries.
Candidates complete interviews, and the final step is seven hours of testing. The exams include a physical fitness test, essay exams on moral reasoning and leadership, and a comprehensive test covering the cadet’s aerospace education.
Upon passing the exams, cadets are promoted to the grade of colonel. Cadets completing programs can join the Air Force at a higher grade. Hale will be going to Truman State University at Kirksville to major in math and physics.
Hale said she was in a squadron in Grandview several years ago but transferred to Lee’s Summit because she’d heard about the strengths of its programs.
“Cadets there are really excited about learning,” Hale said. “I wanted a place where I could get involved in and help.”