Ariz. Wing Duo Honored with Top Cadet Award
Maj. Margot Myers
Public Affairs Officer
Two Arizona Wing cadets received their Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award certificates at Arizona National Guard headquarters June 17.
Maj. Gen. Kerry Muehlenbeck, adjutant general of Arizona and director of the state Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, presented the certificates to Cadet Cols. Weiss O'Connor of the Deer Valley Composite Squadron and Viet Zaengle of the Willie Composite Squadron.
The Spaatz award is Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet honor, achieved by less than one-half of 1% of all cadets.
O’Connor joined CAP in 2016 and became his squadron’s cadet commander in February 2020. He served on the Cadet Advisory Council at the squadron, wing, regional and national levels. In 2020, he was selected to attend CAP’s Civic Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year, he was named the 2020 Arizona Wing Cadet of the Year. He reported June 23 to the U.S. Air Force Academy as a member of the class of 2025.
“I’ve learned a lot of lessons in Civil Air Patrol – a lot of them the hard way,” O’Connor said after receiving his certificate. “I can confidently say that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to the academy without the experiences I’ve had in Civil Air Patrol.”
Zaengle joined CAP in 2016 and is 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 Junior ROTC. He is also an Eagle Scout.
A recipient of the 2021 Air Force Chief of Staff Private Pilot scholarship, Zaengle is spending the summer at a flight academy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, where he will earn his private pilot certificate and six college credits.
Zaengle recalled CAP leadership lessons that taught him “any achievement cannot be attributed to one individual, but rather a collective.” He thanked those who helped him earn his Spaatz award –his brother, who introduced him to CAP; his current and previous squadron commanders; several cadets he has worked closely with in his squadron and at encampment; and his parents, who “have motivated me and pushed me farther than anyone else.”
Muehlenbeck spoke of CAP as part of the Air Force Total Force. "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," she 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 Col. Rob Pinckard, Arizona Wing commander. “CAP cadets like these two give me hope for the future of our country.”