Only 82 cadets in the Civil Air Patrol have earned the General Carl A. Spaatz Award in Texas since its inception in 1964. One of the more recent awardees is Cadet Col. Andrew Fuller.
Fuller, who has been involved with CAP’s Midway Composite Squadron since 2014, said he joined the CAP program to learn leadership and aerospace skills in a more military-style environment.
Previously the squadron’s cadet commander and current cadet commander advisor, Fuller was presented the Billy Mitchell Award by Texas Representative John Wray in 2016, which advanced him to the grade of Cadet 2nd Lieutenant.
“He’s the highest-ranking cadet in our squadron,” said 1st Lt. Kimberly Fuller, Deputy Commander of Cadets for the Midway Composite Squadron and Andrew's mother. “He takes this position seriously and works hard to mentor our officers and help our squadron.”
Less than 15 percent of cadets nationwide earn the Billy Mitchell Award, while less than one percent earn the General Carl A. Spaatz award. Andrew is the only one in Ellis County to receive both honors.
“The next closest one we know of is in San Marcos,” Kimberly said.
GENERAL CARL A. SPAATZ
Founded on Oct. 1, 1942, the CAP cadet program was created as the official civilian auxiliary for the United States Air Force. According to a fact sheet, CAP saves an average of 80 lives per year and consists of approximately 56,000 volunteers nationwide, who have contributed to nearly $167 million in person-hours for disaster relief and community emergency services.
Recognized for his commitment and contributions to the Air Force, Carl “Tooey” Spaatz is widely remembered for being the first Air Force Chief of Staff and for setting a flight endurance record of 150 hours and 40 minutes in 1929. According to a fact sheet, he served a pivotal role throughout World War II, including commanding the Allied Air campaign against the Nazis and directing the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After his retirement, Spaatz served as the first chairman for the Civil Air Patrol National Board from 1948 to 1959. He served on the Committee of Senior Advisors to the Air Force Chief of Staff until his death on July 14, 1974.
Named in his honor, the General Carl A. Spaatz award is the highest cadet honor for CAP. With ceremonies held far and few between, Kimberly said there had been a little over 2,200 recipients of the Spaatz award nationwide since its creation.
“My son’s Spaatz’s number is 2203,” she explained.
TO TRAIN AND STUDY
Kimberly explained that there are four portions to the exam to earn the Spaatz award: a physical fitness test, an essay exam testing the applicant’s moral reasoning, and two comprehensive written exams on leadership and aerospace education.
If applicants falter on any portion of the test, they fail the entire exam.
“They have to pass all their tests with 80 percent or better,” Kimberly explained.
Andrew said he had studied and exercised for many months before taking the Spaatz exam in August earlier this year. But even with all of his preparation, the exam was still a challenge to pass.
“It was very difficult,” Andrew said. “It took a lot of studying, a lot of preparation, a lot of exercise to really think that you have a shot at obtaining it. You never really think that it’s a sure thing.”
“The biggest thing that was intimidating about the whole exam is that you only had three attempts at each of the exams,” he continued. “If you failed any of the four parts in three tries, you couldn’t earn the award.”
When Andrew found out he earned the Spaatz award the next day, he was elated that all of his hard work paid off.
“It was very unreal,” he said. “It was a moment that you only dream about for the majority of your career. It’s when you really start to get very close that you think it’s possible, so whenever I found out, it was a surreal experience.”
THE NEXT RANK
Since the Spaatz award represents the top of the cadet program, Kimberly explained that recipients that choose to become senior members have the option to advance in rank since they’ve learned so much of the cadet program and aerospace material.
She explained that many of the cadets learn most of the material taught in the actual Air Force program, so upon graduating most of the criteria just transfers over.
“It is very prestigious,” she explained. “When they turn 21 and choose to become a senior member, they jump way ahead to the grade of Captain. They don’t have to go through the lieutenant ranks, because they’ve already covered so much material.”
Kimberly explained that recipients also receive a Senior Rating in Cadet Programs and receive their Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager Award from completing the extensive aerospace curriculum in the cadet program.
Not only does Andrew plan to advance toward accreditation as a senior member — but he also plans to enroll in the University of North Texas and pursue a computer science degree.
Regardless of his higher education goals, Andrew said he plans to remain with CAP as a cadet until he’s 21 and help his fellow squad members in their pursuits towards the Spaatz award.
He said that just because you earn the Spaatz award, doesn’t mean that your experience as a CAP Cadet is over.
“It’s a very big program,” Andrew said. “And it has a lot to offer.”
To learn more about the Midway Composite Squadron and Civil Air Patrol, go online at www.midwaycap.org and www.gocivilairpatrol.com.
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX