07:22 AM

New York Cadet Becomes Wing's Youngest Spaatz Recipient

Cadet with commanders

NYWG patch (final design, 7-21)Cadet Col. Arielle Nickerson is the New York Wing’s youngest ever cadet to achieve Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet honor, having received the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award this month at age 15. 

The Westchester Cadet Squadron 1 member received her award March 2 at the Spaatz Association Gala in Washington, D.C., from Gen. David W. Allvin, U.S. Air Force chief of staff. 

"Over a CAP career which began in 1960 I have been privileged to mentor dozens of cadets aspiring to the Spaatz award,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Vreeland, who became the 27th cadet honored in September 1966. “In all of that time, I have never seen a candidate with more focus, confidence, energy, and enthusiasm working to prepare for her Spaatz examinations.” 

“Her exceptional leadership knowledge and skills, moral reasoning, and physical abilities, were successfully demonstrated, after just three years and five months, on her first try at the day-long comprehensive Spaatz examinations.   

“Cadet Col. Nickerson stands out among her outstanding peers, and she has single-handedly reset CAP expectations for excellence,” said Vreeland, a former member of CAP's governing body, the Board of Governors.  

Less than one-half of 1% of CAP cadets receive the Spaatz award. It comes after attaining the cadet program’s 16spaatzawardachievements and passing a rigorous cumulative battery composed of a strenuous physical fitness exam, an argumentative essay on a perennial moral debate, and two 60-question cumulative exams on aerospace and leadership.

Nickerson joined CAP in September 2020 at age 12. From the beginning she immersed herself in her aerospace and leadership classes. 

She also distinguished herself through participation and leadership in her squadron’s space program, focused on the design, construction, testing, launch, and tracking of a variety of medium- to high-altitude balloons. 

Spaatz award trio

During the pandemic she volunteered to conduct online aerospace and leadership courses and to provide remote flight training, all of which contributed to the success of her squadron, earning it the national Squadron of Distinction award in 2021. 

Nickerson is the New York Wing’s youngest CAP small Unmanned Aircraft Systems pilot. She participated in the General   Aviation Manufacturers   Association Aviation Design Academy in the summer of 2022 and the CAP National Glider Flight Academy at Hartness State Airport in Vermont a year later, 

She has been recognized as her squadron’s Air Force Association Cadet Officer of the Year and Veterans of Foreign Wars Cadet Officer of the Year and honored with the squadron’s   Leadership Spotlight Award and the   EXCELSIOR!  Award for the core values of excellence  and integrity.   

She  attended  Wing  Leadership Encampment at Norwich University  in  Vermont  in  2021, and she graduated the  Northeast Region Leadership Academy in December 2022.   

An honor roll student at Mamaroneck   High School who's completing  advanced courses in math while  progressing through a challenging dual-language program since kindergarten, Nickerson is an accomplished track athlete and was named varsity captain her freshman year. As a competitor in women’s indoor and outdoor track events, she’s ranked nationally and in New York among the top 20 10th-grade athletes. 

She has been designated as a 2024 Nike Indoor “national emerging elite athlete,” qualifying her for the 2024 Nike National Championships. 

Nickerson plans to prepare for and take her Federal Aviation Administration private pilot certificate exam and to continue building UAS flight proficiency and experience. She intends to explore a career at the intersection of behavioral health, human performance, and aerospace.     
Lt. Col. Franklin Birt
Assistant Public Affairs Officer
New York Wing