12:09 PM

National Commander Honors Top Air Force Academy Graduates

Forty-five years after his own graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Civil Air Patrol National Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Smith was on hand Tuesday to congratulate two 2019 graduates.

“Of all the Civil Air Patrol cadets who are part of the Class of 2019 at the Air Force Academy, Cadet 1st Class Christopher Clark is graduating the highest,” Smith tweeted shortly after the 2019 Tapping Ceremony in Arnold Hall. He shared a photo of himself with Clark, acknowledging the cadet’s achievement as this year’s CAP Award recipient.

The CAP Award annually goes to the former CAP cadet who graduates from the academy with the highest grade-point average.

Clark was a CAP cadet from 2013-2015 in the Florida Wing's North Tampa-Lutz Cadet Squadron, earning the rank of cadet senior master sergeant before going to the Air Force Academy. His academic major at the academy has been astronautical engineering. He plans to continue his studies as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Clark said soloing in a glider, jumping out of a plane and working as a Basic Cadet Training element leader were his favorite Air Force Academy experiences. His cadet career highlights at the academy include a 2017 semester abroad in Nanjing, China, and internships at Intel/SpaceX.

After graduate school, he will report to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, for Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training. He wants to be an Air Force pilot.

In a separate ceremony in Fairchild Hall, Cadet 1st Class Pierce Kassmeier was presented the Outstanding Cadet in Military Strategic Studies Award, which goes to the graduating cadet in the academy’s Military Strategic Studies department with the highest grade-point average.

Kassmeier ie headed to Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, to become an intelligence officer. His ultimate goal is to go into special tactics.

A 1974 graduate of the Air Force Academy, Smith said he was honored to be on hand for both presentations. “I’m proud of the accomplishments of Cadet Clark and Cadet Kassmeier,” he said. “They serve as great role models for the many young men and women now serving in CAP’s cadet corps.”

Smith added that he experienced many strong emotions during his visit to the Air Force Academy. “For me,” he said, “my four years at the academy were extremely difficult. However, those four years helped to mold me into an ethical leader with a heart for service. I am forever grateful for that experience.”