Two Arizona Wing cadets were honored during a ceremony at Arizona National Guard headquarters on June 17. Cadet Col. Weiss O’Connor, Deer Valley Composite Squadron, and Cadet Col. Viet Zaengle, Willie Composite Squadron, received their Spaatz Award certificates from Maj. Gen. Kerry Muehlenbeck, Adjutant General of Arizona and director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. The Spaatz Award is Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet honor and recipients are promoted to the grade of cadet colonel.
O’Connor is a 2021 graduate of Boulder Creek High School in Anthem. He is a member of Deer Valley Composite Squadron in Phoenix. He joined CAP in 2016 and became the cadet commander at Deer Valley in February 2020. He has served on the Cadet Advisory Council at the squadron, wing, regional, and national levels. In 2020, he was selected to attend the Civic Leadership Academy in Washington, DC. At Boulder Creek High School, O’Connor played in the concert and marching bands and was co-captain of the soccer team. Earlier this year, he was named the 2020 Arizona Wing Cadet of the Year. On June 23, he will report to Colorado Springs as a member of the class of 2025 at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Zaengle joined CAP in 2016 and currently serves as the cadet commander for his squadron. He just completed his junior year at Hamilton High School in Chandler, where he also holds the grade of major in the Junior ROTC and is a member of the choir and cross-country team. He also is an Eagle Scout. A recipient of the 2021 Air Force Chief of Staff Private Pilot scholarship program, Zaengle currently is attending a flight academy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott where he will earn his private pilot certificate and six college credits.
Muehlenbeck spoke about Civil Air Patrol as part of the Total Force, a designation that came six years ago. “The National Guard is ‘always ready, always there’ and then I look at the Civil Air Patrol’s mission, which is ‘always vigilant,’ and we see you and we use your resources and we partner with you in the context of civil support during emergencies,” Muehlenbeck said. “I think we take for granted that you are always vigilant, you’re always prepared, you’re always there.”
She described some of the missions the Arizona Wing has undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as flying National Guard members across the state to scout areas for vaccination and testing sites, transporting personal protective equipment, and volunteering at mass vaccination sites.
“It always amazes me when organizations continue to do their mission, and at the same time, they pivot and they give more,” Muehlenbeck said. “In the time of this pandemic, Civil Air Patrol did exactly what we needed them to do in the context of supporting the community – its regular mission, but then, of course, pivoting to take on this new mission as well.”
“Working with cadets, watching them develop their leadership skills, seeing them choose to continue to serve as CAP volunteers as Colonels O’Connor and Zaengle are doing – it just doesn’t get much better than that,” said Arizona Wing Commander Col. Rob Pinckard. “CAP cadets like these two give me hope for the future of our country.”
On average, only 0.5% of CAP cadets earn the Spaatz Award. It is presented to cadets who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness, and aerospace education. Cadets qualify for this prestigious award after devoting an average of five 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 foundations necessary for pursuing a career in aviation, space, or technology.
The final step a cadet must complete to earn the Spaatz Award is a rigorous four-part exam consisting of a challenging physical fitness test, an essay exam testing their moral reasoning, a comprehensive written exam on leadership, and a comprehensive written exam on aerospace education. Upon passing the Spaatz Award exams, the cadet is promoted to the grade of cadet colonel.