Not one, not two, not three, but four Georgia Wing cadets were presented Dec. 5 with Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet achievement, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award.

CAP’s national commander and national vice commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Phelka and Brig. Gen. Regena Aye, were on hand for the award ceremony for newly promoted Cadet Cols. Gabrielle Brown, Harrison Haley, William Laine and Hannah Neal. Phelka and Aye both received the Spaatz award as cadets.

Present as well were Col. Jeffrey Garrett, Georgia Wing commander; Maj. Gen. Thomas Grabowski, assistant adjutant general of the Georgia Air National Guard; and Lt. Col. Joshua Fry, commander of CAP-USAF Detachment 4, Southeast Region liaison.


Brown, who serves as cadet commander of the Gwinnett County Composite Squadron, just received a congressional nomination to the U.S. Air Force Academy. A CAP member since October 2017, she reminded younger cadets in attendance that “great power comes with great responsibility and great sacrifice.”

Neal served as cadet commander of the Peachtree City-Falcon Field Composite Squadron and also sat on the National Cadet Advisory Council. At her request, her award was presented by CAP’s Southeast Region commander, Col. Andrea Van Buren, who previously commanded the Georgia Wing anbd has presented all of Neal’s milestone achievements since she joined CAP in July 2016.

Haley, the Cobb County Composite Squadron’s former cadet commander, joined CAP in 2013. He received a CAP lifesaving award after performing CPR on his father during a cardiac arrest in 2018.

Laine, also s former cadet commander of the Cobb County squadron, is a private pilot and served as vice chair of the Georgia Wing Cadet Advisory Council. He has been a CAP member since November 2016.

During his special remarks to those assembled, Grabowski gestured to the new cadet colonels and said, “This is what’s right with America. Our future is in good hands.”

“Their journey has only just begun,” Garrett told the audience.

Aye then reminded the award recipients “to not be reservoirs, but to be rivers, nourishing those who come after us.”

The Spaatz award is presented to those who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness and aerospace education. Less than one-half of 1% of all cadets qualify for the award after devoting an average of four years to progress through 16 achievements in the CAP cadet program. Along the way they develop self-discipline, a strong sense of personal responsibility, the ability to lead and persuade, and the foundation necessary for pursuing a career in aviation, space or technology.

The award comes with a promotion to cadet colonel, the highest cadet grade possible. Spaatz cadets are expected to serve as role models for junior cadets and become leaders in their communities as they enter adulthood.

Senior Member Abigail Palmier
Public Affairs Officer
Gwinnett County Composite Squadron
Georgia Wing

Photos by 1st Lt. Ethan Berg, Georgia WIng