Flying High: Civilian Air Patrol Cadet Wins Top Honor

As a very young 12 in the program, Aiden Alvarez wasn’t even sure he wanted to be a member of the Civil Air Patrol.

Fast forward six years; in April, Cadet Col. Alvarez of the Kona Composite Squadron, now 18, received the highest honor in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program: the General Carl A. Spaatz Award. Since 1964, when the award was created, Alvarez has been only the 15th Spaatz award recipient in Hawaiian history.

What triggered such a turnaround? It wasn’t until after his first trip to Oahu for a combined training school with all the other units across Aloha state that Alvarez finally got hooked.

“The first of those I did was when I fell in love with the program,” Alvarez said.

Civil Air Patrol proved to be a perfect outlet for what Alvarez described as a shy, homeschooler kid, and he dove headfirst into the organization. Civil Air Patrol describes itself as a partner and auxiliary to the US Air Force, assisting in search and rescue and providing support and training to youth ages 12 and older.

“It’s really all about leadership development,” Alvarez said of the cadet program. “They get aerospace, search and rescue courses, we do physical training, military customs and courtesy. But our main goal is to prepare them to enter adulthood with good life skills to apply to any career path they choose to enter.

Cadets are eligible for promotions every 56 days, with 16 achievement awards and a total of five stages, the latest being the Spaatz award.

Awarded only after passing a four-part exam, approximately one in 200 cadets nationwide will receive the award. Upon completion of leadership, aerospace, character and fitness tests – the equivalent of the Air Force Academy entrance physical assessment – Alvarez became one of the few recipients of the award. Spaatz.

“Alvarez is the perfect embodiment of what a Spaatz recipient should be; someone who puts the needs of others before their own, leads by example and never stops fighting for the greater good, ”Kona Composite Squadron 1st Lt. Tony Mitchell said in a statement. “He’s a real role model and we’re excited to see what the future holds for him.”

“It’s a bit surreal,” Alvarez said. “Other cadets who trained me and taught me leadership skills, two of them won the Spaatz award. It was cool to be at the same level as those who trained me.

This mentality of reaching for and surpassing the accomplishments of those who came before him is an ideal that Alvarez hopes he instilled in those who will follow him as well.

“It’s a great thing that I was told during the program, these leaders who say to me, ‘I want to see you go beyond me’. This is what I often tell my students, ”added Alvarez. “This is really where we get our gratification, seeing our students go so far and really become these amazing leaders.”

While considering moving from the cadet program to the adult program, Alvarez is now aiming for a degree in human resources management at Western Governors University. Interest arose out of the time he spent organizing projects and activities within Civil Air Patrol.

“All of my CAP experiences – my project management skills to lead these large-scale activities, as well as conflict resolution, all that – is really what got me interested in doing HR and management… C ‘ is definitely set up where you don’t need to have a military career; it will prepare you for whatever you want to do.

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