N.C. Cadet Overcomes Obstacles to Achieve Spaatz Award
1st Lt. Hazard Bentley III
Assistant Public Affairs Officer
North Carolina Wing
Achieving the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, Civil Air Patrol’s top cadet honor, is a stiff challenge for anyone. After all, less than one-half of 1% of cadets ever manage it.
For Capt. Casey Carnes of the North Carolina Wing, the path to the Spaatz award was especially daunting.
Carnes, a CAP member since December 2011, all but gave up on ever earning the Spaatz after being involved in a serious roll-over automobile accident in July 2015. She suffered severe traumatic brain injury and had to relearn just about everything, including how to read, and her memory of anything before the accident was next to nonexistent.
With time and an intense rehabilitation program, though, she slowly began to regain her memories and functionality. In August 2018, after much encouragement from fellow North Carolina Wing members, she took the Spaatz exam and passed it just before her 21st birthday – the deadline for doing so, since cadets become senior members upon reaching that age.
She received her Spaatz award in May during the Alabama Wing Emergency Services School graduation. Col. Jayson Altieri, former chair of Civil Air Patrol’s Board of Governors, presented the award. Cols. Barry Melton, Southeast Region commander, and James Harris, Alabama Wing commander, were also present.
“Casey Carnes' dedication and personal tenacity following her automobile mishap reflects well on the caliber of the young men and women serving as Civil Air Patrol cadets,” Altieri said.
“She and previous Spaatz recipients, like CAP Brig. Gen. Richard Anderson (national commander from 1993-1996, who received the 193rd Spaatz award in December 1972), represent the highest traditions of excellence established by our first chairman of the National Board – Gen. Spaatz himself.
“That Casey elected to remain a senior member speaks well for the future of CAP’s leadership,” Altieri said.
To earn the Spaatz award, cadets must complete leadership and aerospace exams and a rigorous physical fitness test and demonstrate leadership abilities, including principles of officership and the responsibilities of command.
Carnes joined CAP after attending an airshow at Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport in Union County. A short time later both of her parents, now-Majs. Paul and Grace Carnes, joined – though the family joke for years was that she made them do it so she could earn her recruitment ribbon. She was promoted on a regular basis and became heavily involved in emergency services, first learning and then giving back by teaching and leading.
She has served on the leadership staff for seven cycles of the National Emergency Services Academy and for five cycles of the Alabama Wing Emergency Services School.
Carnes attended the North Carolina Wing encampment for the first time in June 2012 and then returned almost yearly as a staff member. In 2016 she received a Region Commander’s Commendation for her work as cadet operations officer at the North Carolina Wing encampment, and the next year she served as cadet commander for the encampment.
She also served as cadet commander for the Winston Salem Composite Squadron and the Composite Squadron of the Waxhaws, and she was the first cadet commander for the North Carolina Wing’s Drill and Ceremonies Academy.
“Casey represents the best of our program not in just our wing but across the nation,” Maj. Grace Carnes said. “I’m not only proud of her for receiving the Spaatz award but also in overcoming her injuries and making her dreams come true.”