Arizona Wing Pair Presented Spaatz Awards
A pair of Arizona Wing cadets received Civil Air Patrol's top cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, from Brig. Gen. Regena Aye, CAP national vice commander and a Spaatz recipient herself during her cadet days.
Aye made the presentation Jan. 6 to Cadet Cols. Joseph Roehrick and Cynthia Liu during the wing change of command ceremony.
Roehrick joined CAP in January 2015. He is a member of London Bridge Composite Squadron 501 in Lake Havasu City. In 2023, he served as the cadet commander for Arizona Wing’s summer encampment.
After receiving the Spaatz certificate from Aye, Roehrick recounted many of the things he learned as a CAP cadet.
“I’ve learned that the way through any and every obstacle is blind optimism.” he said. “I’ve learned that a leader is not his accolades; he is the sum of his followers.”
Roehrick thanked many of the adult members who led him through the cadet program, including his former squadron commander, members of the wing Cadet Programs staff, and his grandfather, Capt. Fredrick Roehrick of the London Bridge squadron.
“I hope they are all even half as proud to have me in their list of followers as I am to have studied under them,” Roehrick said, “more so if my legacy in the program lives on through those I’ve taught and those I’ve led.
"I’ve made lifelong friends out of airmen who couldn’t tie their own boots, and I had the privilege of working with the outstanding young cadet colonel (Liu) being promoted beside me.”
Roehrick said taking on seemingly impossible tasks and working through them made it easier to keep taking on new challenges.
“Civil Air Patrol taught me that if you look at where you want to go with no idea of where you’ve been, you’ll always feel like you haven’t started your journey,” he said.
“When you learn to take pride in what you have done, you will have the strength to do anything.”
Liu heard about CAP from a school friend and liked what she saw when she attended a Willie Composite Squadron meeting in Mesa when at age 11. She was so anxious to become a cadet, she joined the day she turned 12 — the minimum age for membership.
She quickly progressed through the 16 steps of the cadet program, earning her Spaatz award at 15.
Less than one-half of 1% of CAP cadets receive the Spaatz award. It comes after attaining the cadet program’s 16 achievements and passing a rigorous cumulative battery composed of a strenuous physical fitness exam, an argumentative essay on a perennial moral debate, and two 60-question cumulative exams on aerospace and leadership.
Liu now is a member of the Sky Harbor Composite Squadron, where she serves as cadet commander.
“I think part of my drive and motivation came from seeing just how far I could go in this program and just how much I could change for the better. I tried working on myself in all aspects of the program, one of which was promoting,” Liu said.
She recalled her first meeting as a cadet in January 2020.
“During my first meeting, I clearly remember seeing the cadet commander, a few years older than me, walk up during opening formation and speak clearly and confidently,” Liu said. “Watching him, I thought ‘I want to be just like him someday.’ That was the goal I had set for myself.”
In her third year as a cadet, Liu was selected to be part of the Arizona Wing summer encampment cadet cadre.
“Meeting cadets from all over the wing was eye-opening,” she said. “Suddenly, the leaders in front of me weren’t just the examples from the leadership textbooks, but the cadets around me. One of them was Cadet Col. Roehrick, the amazing cadet standing next to me. I had the opportunity to learn from him and observe him. I tried to pick out what made him special.
“Watching him made me realize that I wasn’t chasing a position, but (trying to become) the person fit to be in that position. So, I started experimenting with different leadership styles and working on my leadership skills.”
“I knew that nothing worth having comes easy, but it was still pretty hard when I actually ran into struggles and challenges along the way,” Liu said. “The biggest one was working and training to pass the different aspects of the Spaatz test; I would constantly try to find ways to make a ‘miracle’ happen, but ultimately, you have to put in the work, and there are no easy shortcuts to success.”
She thought earning the Spaatz award would mean she was done.
“But now I realize that this award is anything but an end; it is the start of a new journey, one that I am sure will still be full of rollercoasters, trials, and errors, but one that I’m also so happy to start,” Liu said.
Considering what advice she would give to a new cadet, Liu said, “A good first step of your journey in this program is to find what you want to do. This program provides so many opportunities, so find your ‘what,’ and then find your ‘why.’ Why do you want to pursue this goal?
"Once you have that, half the battle is won. The rest is to work toward your ‘what’ and always remember your ‘why.’”
Maj. Margot Myers
Public Affairs Officer