12:29 PM

Giving Back

Air Force Academy Cadet from Wis. Mentors Local Colorado Wing Unit

Russell Slater
Contributing Writer

Capt. Mike Ebert knows all about giving back and giving credit where credit is due.

Currently a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy, Ebert also volunteers with the Colorado Wing’s Air Academy Cadet Squadron in Colorado Springs. The Wisconsin native assists the squadron, whose cadets range in ages from 12 to 18, with fulfilling their missions of leadership, aerospace education, physical fitness and character development.

Not For Self, But For All
In April 2013, Ebert received the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, CAP’s highest cadet honor, as a member of the Wisconsin Wing’s La Crosse Composite Squadron. Spaatzen (a term for award recipients) No. 1,884 joined the ranks of a very select few to receive the honor, which less than one-half of 1 percent of all cadets achieve. Introduced in 1964, the award – named after the first Air Force chief of staff and later first chairman of the CAP National Board – recognizes cadets who pass a rigorous series of exams after first progressing through 16 achievements in the CAP cadet program, a process that takes several years.

Ebert joined CAP in October 2007 because he wanted to fly.

“Little did 13-year-old Mike Ebert know that it’s pretty hard to start learning to fly until you’re a few months shy of 16,” Ebert remembers. “So instead, I started working my way through the cadet program and started working on Ground Team ratings.” He continued to work in all three missions areas of the organization – emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education – until he finally earned his Ground Team Leader rating on his 18th birthday.

“I honestly believe CAP was the reason I was able to attend” the academy, Ebert said. “I was a fairly average student before coming out here and wasn’t a big-time athlete. My advantage came from opportunities in CAP.

“CAP allowed me to experience leadership in a military setting and … at various levels, from an element leader to flight commander to cadet commander of a squadron,” he said.

Ebert had the opportunity to serve as a flight sergeant and squadron commander at a CAP encampment before going to the Air Force Academy. Later, during his second year at the academy, he served as a cadet commander during a summer encampment. He participated in CAP programs like Cadet Officers School and the International Air Cadet Exchange and was able to learn about leadership from different perspectives.

“Also, through CAP, I had the opportunity to experience interviewing for positions and sitting before review boards for some promotions – a very unique experience before interviewing for nominations to the USAFA. The basic military tasks I was expected to do here were easier, which put less stress on me than some of my peers,” he said.

The Right Thing to Do
Capt. Mike Fournier, Air Academy Cadet Squadron commander, said Ebert offers his unit the benefit of his CAP experience and knowledge, as well as first-hand insight into what it means to be a cadet.

“As a SET (Skills Evaluator Training)-qualified instructor in emergency services for ground team, he has prepared many of us to participate in the emergency services mission of Civil Air Patrol,” Fournier said. “Capt. Ebert worked closely with cadet staff to advise them on managing the complex leadership challenges that come from being in a large cadet squadron.

“As a Spaatz cadet, it was easy to tell that Capt. Ebert believes in the cadet program, and that it was a catalyst for him to achieve into the future,” the squadron commander said.

Ebert says he decided to help at the squadron because he “owed CAP a lot.”

“I felt, and still feel, that I shouldn’t waste the experiences I had by not sharing them with others and trying to convince them to work hard so they too could take advantage of the opportunities CAP has to offer,” he said.

“I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do. Sometimes cadets lose sight of just what is possible, and seeing as I had the opportunity to do pretty much everything in the cadet program, I like to be there as a reminder that nothing can hold them back except for lack of effort and vision.”

Ebert admitted that finding the time for CAP participation can be difficult at times, but “it rarely seems like work. Going to the meetings was, and is, always so much fun!”