The sky is the limit for 13 area Civil Air Patrol cadets following a promotional award ceremony held Thursday evening.
According to 1st Lt. Todd Hanson, it takes quite of bit of hard work for the cadets of the Civil Air Patrol to earn a rank promotion.
"Our ranks, rules, regulations and dress code follow the United States Air Force because we are a civilian auxiliary and other than the fact that we are volunteers everything we do is based on those principles," said Hanson. "They start out as a cadet airman and can work themselves all the way up to become a cadet colonel."
Pictured is Civil Air Patrol cadet 2nd Lt. Colin Cleland, of Westfield, receiving the Billy Mitchell award from Lt. Col. George Fillgrove, New York Wing director of Aerospace Education.
P-J photos by Dusten Rader
Among the highlights of the evening was the dedication of the Billy Mitchell award, which was presented to cadet 2nd Lt. Colin Cleland, 19, of Westfield. The award, and the other cadet promotions, were made by Lt. Col. George Fillgrove, New York Wing director of Aerospace Education and constituent of New York state Senator Catharine Young, R-Olean.
"I want to extend my deepest congratulations to all of you for your achievements," said Fillgrove. "I take great pride in coming here on Thursday nights to teach Aerospace education to you because I appreciate the commitment that you make coming here. At a time when you face a lot of peer pressure in the schools and from friends, to make a commitment to conduct yourself in such a disciplined manner, to strive the achieve the goals that you are doing, such as the Mitchell award and the other promotions that you've earned tonight - it's no small feat.
"These cadets are in training to take their place as future leaders in this country," continued Fillgrove. "They will go through the cadet program to strive to achieve rank before going into the military, they can vie for scholarships or even placement at the air force academy; as long as they continue to strive to achieve what they are doing."
The award Cleland received is named in honor of General Billy Mitchell. As one of the milestones of the cadet program, the award is earned upon completion of the first eight achievements of the program. The cadet must also pass an exam on the topics of leadership and aerospace.
"This award is probably the most important award of the cadet program," said Fillgrove. "It is a transition award from cadet enlisted person to a cadet officer. It is also the award that is important for 2nd Lt. Colin Cleland's future because he wants to join the Air Force. With this award alone he can go into the Air Force with advanced rank."
Cleland, who was ecstatic upon acceptance of the award, is excited to see what the future holds for him now that he has accomplished one of his goals.
"It's a really big deal for me and I've been waiting two years to get this," said Cleland. "I'm going into the Air Force and getting this award grants me out of basic training the rank of E3. I'm hoping to make a career out of it, but we'll see how the first four years go. I'd recommend this program to anyone interested in flying in general, entering the military, or even for those who are looking to get to know people from out of state and across the country because you're able to do that in this program. You also get the chance to go through our version of basic training for a week, which is strict, but also a blast for everybody. You even get a chance to fly a Cessna plane."
Cleland's parents were present to support their son as he received the award.
"We're extremely proud," said Cleland's mother, Vicky. "From the very first night we came here to sign up, Colin's immediate goal was that he was going for the Billy Mitchell award, and he did. He sets his goal and he goes for it. That's why we're very proud of him."
"I think it's a great program because it allows all these kids from different schools to come together to associate with one another - so it broadens their horizons tremendously," added Cleland's father, Douglas.
The following cadets, who are from Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties, received promotions: Bethany Bartlett, cadet airman first class; Colin Cleland, cadet 2nd Lt.; Alex Disbro, cadet senior airman; Tyler Felt, cadet senior master sergeant; Seth Gibson, cadet airman first class; Clay Hanson, cadet chief master sergeant; Logan Hickman, cadet airman first class; Tristan Kum, cadet airman first class; Ann-Marie Mercer, cadet senior airman; Brandon Powell, cadet chief master sergeant; Andrew Rodriguez, cadet airman first class; Hosanna Snell, cadet technical sergeant; and Dalton Trask, cadet senior airman.
Each cadet received their ranks and a certificate as well as a dogtag engraved with the following, "Integrity, service and excellence in all that we do."
In addition to her promotion, Snell was recognized for receiving Honor Cadet at the New York Wing encampment. She was also named Airman of the Year at the program's annual banquet in October.
The Civil Air Patrol also recognized a new addition to the program, Cooper Stuart, of Falconer.
The Civil Air Patrol meets every Thursday from 6-9 p.m. at the Chautauqua County Airport. For more information visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com.