Natl. Capital Wing Achieves Quality Cadet Unit Awards Sweep
The National Capital Wing is the first Civil Air Patrol wing to have each of its squadrons recognized with Quality Cadet Unit Awards, having achieved that distinction in 2019.
“As a former cadet, cadet programs officer and wing director of cadet programs, it’s important to me that our squadrons run a strong cadet program,” said Col. Janon D. Ellis, wing commander since March 2017. “I challenged each of my squadrons to achieve this due to its well-established, detailed and objective criteria and a gauge of the best cadet units in Civil Air Patrol.”
The National Capital Wing consists of six squadrons:
- Arlington Composite Squadron, which earned the Quality Cadet Unit Award for the ninth straight year.
- Andrews Composite Squadron
- Fairfax Composite Squadron, also honored this year as the National Capital Wing Squadron of Merit and the Mid-Atlantic Region Squadron of Distinction
- Mount Vernon Composite Squadron
- Tuskegee Composite Squadron
- Challenger 1 Cadet Squadron
“When new squadron commanders are appointed, they are charged with striving to assist the wing in meeting its goals and objectives and to earn the QCUA each year and strive for Squadron of Merit,” said Ellis, adding that the wing has seen cadet membership rise more than 30% over the last year. “QCUA metrics for each squadron are tracked and briefed at the wing’s monthly command and staff update.”
Lt. Col. Joe Frech, the wing’s director of cadet programs, said that what he likes most about the position “is that I get to know all the cadets in the wing rather than just the cadets at the squadron level.”
“I also enjoy seeing cadets joining CAP at age 12 and seeing them progress into adults going off to college and on to their careers,” Frech said. “I like to feel that I played a part in their success.”
Achieving the award is each squadron’s responsibility. “The wing keeps a monthly tally of how each squadron is doing in reaching its goals in each of the 10 tasks,” Frech said. “The wing can easily monitor their progress and provide support in the areas that are not up to the QCUA standards.”
Cadet 2nd Lt. Tevin Adams is cadet commander for the Andrews unit.
“To achieve our QCUA goals, we kept our cadets well-informed about what our goals were and our plan in accomplishing them,” Adams said. “To keep morale up, we motivated the cadets with morale nights.
“We worked as a team to complete our goals — not all of our goals were always met, but we worked together as a team.”
The opportunities CAP provides its cadets are extraordinary, Adams said. “Had it not been for CAP, I wouldn’t have experienced many eye-opening things, like visiting Congress and talking to representatives about our program, or cool things like riding in a Black Hawk helicopter,” he said.
Cadet Capt. Stephen Gordon, Mount Vernon cadet commander, has particularly enjoyed such challenging CAP National Cadet Special Activities as Hawk Mountain Ranger School in Pennsylvania and the Pararescue and Survival Orientation Course at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
To achieve QCUA goals, his squadron pushed heavily on recruiting and organized several flights, Gordon said. “We also made sure to have a fun element to keep cadets interested in the program. Due to the amazing abilities of our senior leadership, we’ve had some pretty cool experiences — one of the best was riding in a KC-135 refueling plane, among other activities,” he said.
Cadet 2nd Lt. Michaela Melancon, cadet commander for the Tuskegee squadron, said achieving the QCUA goals prompted her unit to work hard to achieve emergency services qualification, to ensure all cadets attended basic encampment and to focus on drill.
Melancon has enjoyed the leadership and social opportunities the cadet program has presented her, and in October she sang the national anthem during a joint color guard performance at Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters at Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington.
“I’ve been able to improve my communication skills, step out of my comfort zone as a leader and make friends from all around the country,” she said.
“I also love the disciplined military atmosphere — the program has inspired my dream to serve in the U.S. military one day.”
What Does It Take to be a Quality Cadet Unit?
Award recipients were determined by their performance from Aug.31, 2018-Aug. 31, 2019. Units had to meet at least six of the following 10 criteria:
- 45% of cadets have attained the Wright Brothers Award
- 70% of cadets have participated in at least one flight
- The unit retained 50% of its first-year cadets
- The unit has at least three Training Leaders of Cadets graduates
- 55% of cadets have completed an encampment
- The roster increased by 10% or 10 cadets
- The unit earned the Aerospace Excellence Award or sent in an after-action report after ordering a CAP STEM Kit
- The roster includes at least 35 cadets
- The unit participated in the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Education Program Team, the AFA’s StellarXplorers National High School Space Challenge or the America Rocketry Challenge or hosted a Red Ribbon Leadership Academy
- 60% of cadets have achieved General Emergency Services certification