1st Lt. Ethan Berg
Public Affairs Officer
Two Georgia Wing siblings – Cadet Cols. Kay McAbee and Leland McAbee of the Ellijay Composite Squadron– have been awarded Civil Air Patrol’s top cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, with Maj. Gen.-select Ed Phelka presenting the pair with their framed certificates.
Less than one-half of 1% of CAP cadets achieve the Spaatz award. Despite the rarity of a brother and sister earning the honor, the Ellijay squadron can point to another such pair – Cadet Cols. Robert and Nikki Mallinak, who received their Spaatz awards in 2016 and 2019, respectively.
“It’s an absolute privilege to get to recognize such outstanding cadets like the McAbees,” said Phelka, CAP national vice commander, who will become national commander in August. “but to have two sets of Spaatz siblings in one squadron? Something is going very, very right here.”
After receiving their awards and having their new rank of cadet colonel pinned on by their parents, both cadets had words of encouragement for the younger cadets looking on from the audience.
“Never, ever quit,” Kay McAbee said. “When you feel like you can’t read one more page in your leadership book, turn the page and read another one.”
Her brother paraphrased a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sow a seed and you will reap a habit. Sow a habit and you will reap a character. Sow a character and you will reap a destiny.”
The siblings joined CAP in 2015 and have served in leadership positions for more than a dozen CAP cadet program activities in Georgia, Idaho, Colorado and elsewhere.
Also in attendance for the award ceremony were Col. Andrea Van Buren, Southeast Region commander; Col. Jeffrey Garrett, Georgia Wing commander; Lt. Col. Michael Willis, wing vice commander – North; and Lt. Col. Michael Crowe, wing vice commander.
The Spaatz award requires devoting an average of five years to progress through 16 achievements in the cadet program. Cadets doing so 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 final step in earning the award is a rigorous four-part exam consisting of a physical fitness test, an essay exam testing moral reasoning and comprehensive written exams on leadership and on aerospace education.