11:32 AM

Double Spaatz Presentation Highlights Okla. Wing's Air Show Support

Edmond Composite Squadron Brothers Receive Award From Thunderbird

Senior Member Jennifer Hogan
Cadet Activities Officer
Flying Castle Composite Squadron
Oklahoma Wing

It started with anticipation, as Old Glory descended from the sky on the back of a parachutist. It ended with a roar, as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds raced through the sky in complex and dangerous patterns.

In between, not only did dozens of Oklahoma Wing members help make sure things ran smoothly, but also a pair of brothers were presented CAP’s top cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award.

Attendance for the Star Spangled Salute Air Show at Tinker Air Force Base, which coincided with the Oklahoma City community’s observation of the base’s 75th anniversary, totaled nearly 250,000 – a record for the two-day event. For the first time ever, base leadership was forced to close the gates early the first afternoon as the ramp and flight line reached capacity.

Careful planning and dedicated volunteers were needed to stage such a large event. Nearly 100 wing members devoted more than 2,500 hours to doing their part.

Before many spectators were even out of their beds the first morning, the Civil Air Patrol volunteers were hard at work setting up tents and chairs and pulling airplanes out of hangars. Severe weather the night before had prevented air show organizers and vendors from organizing things early.

Early morning participant Cadet Capt. Jackie Harsha, a member of the Edmond Composite Squadron, said she volunteered to help for a simple reason.

“I like planes,” Harsha said. “My mom joined CAP when she was 16. So it has been in the family for a long time.”

The Oklahoma Wing displayed two airplanes next to its recruitment tent, a Gippsland GA8 and a Cessna 182. An aircrew in another CAP Cessna 182 flew photo sorties several times each day to help air show organizers evaluate traffic flow and parking lot capacities.

Wing members talked to interested visitors about the aircraft and the Oklahoma Wing’s mission serving the state. Capt. Matthew Gregory, information technology officer for the Flying Castle Composite Squadron, helped child after child climb up into the pilot’s seat.

“The smile on their faces was priceless,” Gregory said. “Many were interested in CAP and our mission. They like the idea of being able to give back to the community, and CAP is a great way to do that.”

Air Force Col. Kenyon Bell, base commander, felt the CAP volunteers were a large part of the air show’s success.

“The Civil Air Patrol is a huge asset to our air show, and every cadet I spoke with was professional, courteous and a pleasure to work with,” Bell told the Oklahoma Wing members. “The way you jumped in to help us recover from the setbacks created by the severe weather was nothing less than outstanding! Thank you again for all of your support. Our airshow would not be as successful without CAP’s involvement.”

The cadets and senior members had front-row seats for the air show as they stood watch to ensure visitors were safe and didn’t enter the flight line. Tinker airmen flew a trio of aircraft for the massive crowd – an E-3 Sentry, KC-135 Stratotanker and E-6 Mercury.

Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Lauren Shaffer of the Broken Arrow Composite Squadron volunteered to work the show not only because of a love for aviation but also because of the opportunities it offered.

“I enjoy all the activities we do in CAP and getting opportunities other people don’t,” Shaffer said. “I grew up going to air shows, and it has become a hobby. And as a CAP member you get to meet the Thunderbirds!”

The acrobatic Air Force fliers, who stole the show with amazing aerial choreography, took time after their last performance to meet with the Oklahoma Wing volunteers.

Thunderbird No. 3, Maj. Nate Hoffman, is a former Illinois Wing cadet. He surprised two of the Oklahoma Wing cadets by presenting them with the coveted Spaatz award, which less than 1 percent of all CAP cadets ever achieve.

New Cadet Cols. Jarod Murphey and Jarel Murphey, brothers in the Edmond squadron, were nearly speechless.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be like this,” Jarod Murphey said. “This was the last big checkmark for my CAP career. Every cadet should try [to attain the Spaatz]. It is attainable.”

The brothers were each given a Thunderbird challenge coin in addition to an ornately framed Spaatz award certificate. Hoffman offered some encouraging words to the pair and to their fellow wing members that summed up not only the Murpheys’ accomplishment but also the extraordinary community service the entire team of volunteers had just completed.

“What these guys have accomplished is incredible,” Hoffman said. “This is the beginning for you to take the leadership lessons you have learned and cultivate an environment of mutual respect focused on community service.”