13:02 PM

Rare Feat: Overseas Cadets Become 2nd, 3rd to Earn Spaatz Award

Sheila Pursglove
Contributing Writer

Attaining Civil Air Patrol’s top cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, is rare enough; less than one-half of 1% do so. Earning the Spaatz as a member of one of CAP’s overseas squadrons is far rarer still, even though the number of cadets who can make that claim has tripled in the last few weeks.

When Cadet Col. Linus McFarland, a member of the Wiesbaden Flight, Ramstein Cadet Squadron, in Germany, achieved the Spaatz award, he was the first overseas cadet in 35 years to do so — and the first in Europe.

The previous — and very first — overseas cadet recipient was Jeff Morris. who achieved the Spaatz in 1984 as a cadet in a Japan-based squadron.

“It’s good to hear there are now other overseas Spaatzen,” said Morris, now a CAP lieutenant colonel who serves as inspector general for the North Central Region and is also an active-duty U.S. Army sergeant.

“Linus’ accomplishment is a great milestone for all overseas squadrons,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Blank, commander of the Ramstein squadron. “Typically, people are unaware we even exist, and the additional logistical problems we have here makes his achievement that much more impressive.”

Hot on the heels of McFarland’s achievement came news of a second overseas Spaatz award recipient — Cadet Col. Zane Fockler, cadet commander of the Mildenhall Cadet Squadron in Suffolk, England. He’s the first Spaatz cadet from the United Kingdom.

The Spaatz is presented to cadets who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness and aerospace education. McFarland and Fockler have achieved all that in spades.

Born and raised in Germany, McFarland joined CAP at age 15, drawn by the opportunities to give back to the community and for training, education, and experience with an eye to a future as a military pilot. Late this month he will start at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The path to the Spaatz award required a lot of preparation, grit and perseverance, McFarland said, but the outcome was rewarding because he accomplished what he set out to achieve.

After the phases of the cadet program have been completed, the final step is a four-part exam consisting of a physical fitness test, an essay exam testing moral reasoning, and comprehensive written exams on leadership and on aerospace.

“The PT (physical training) test is challenging, and there is a greater breadth of what topics are covered in the exams,” McFarland said. “At the end of 2014 when I joined, I took it one promotion at a time, thinking that getting this far will never happen.

“But then you enter Phase IV of the cadet program — and wham, it’s not that far to go.”

McFarland’s ribbons and ratings include the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Unit Citation Award, Recruiter ribbon, Red Service ribbon, three encampments. six National Cadet Special Activities (NCSAs), Distinguished Graduate of the Cadet Aviation Ground School, Distinguished Graduate of 2017 Basic small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) course, second Community Service ribbon and Ground Team Member 3 and Aircrew Member ratings.

He most enjoyed the NCSAs, which included five stints at the National Emergency Services Academy — one Ground Team Member 2 course, one basic and two advanced sUAS courses, one Aerial Photography and Mission Scanner combined course, and one time at Cadet Aviation Ground School

“The C-130J Hercules ride in the jump seat was a neat experience during the European Wing 2017 Summer Encampment,” McFarland said. “The C-130J is a fun ride because it flies like a sports car. The bottom line: I enjoy anything emergency services-related.”

McFarland’s first noncommercial flight experience was an orientation ride with the Indiana Wing’s Fort Benjamin Harrison Squadron, which hosted him and his sister, Cadet Maj. Lena McFarland, during summer breaks to continue their CAP training.

“Flying gives a sense of freedom, and the time spent away from Earth makes me want to come back down,” he said. “Also, it makes me appreciate the place we live in.”

Capt. Bradley Whitacre, commander of the Wiesbaden Flight, said McFarland’s milestones proves cadets can now complete all 16 steps of the cadet program in Europe once the European Regional Cadet Leadership School begins in 2019 for the first time as the last missing piece.

Whitacre has known McFarland since he was a cadet senior master sergeant and has watched him grow from a quiet cadet into one of the most mature, responsible and trustworthy cadets he has had the pleasure of working with. He’s the first Spaatz cadet Whitacre has mentored.

“The biggest contribution Linus gave to the squadron was his passionate advocacy for emergency services training and commanding the European encampment as a cadet first lieutenant,” Whitacre said. “As the squadron emergency services officer, I had the pleasure of working with Linus and teaming with him to make the ES training vision a reality. Ramstein has since hosted four multi-way weekend training activities.”

Whitacre commanded Wiesbaden Flight for two years, with McFarland serving as his cadet commander the first year.

“Linus led the way on mentoring subordinate cadets, developing the training schedule and instilling the discipline required to execute Civil Air Patrol’s mission,” he said. “I look forward to seeing his leadership in action at the Air Force Academy.”

The Ramstein squadron, with 122 members, 67 cadets and 55 senior members, has flights in Wiesbaden and Stuttgart. Activities include multiday weekend emergency services, orientation flights, military orientation flights, German Technical Museum tours, encampment, RCLS, Air Force facility tours, model rocketry launches, color guard events, tours of Berlin Airlift Headquarters Airfield, placement of flags at American cemeteries and team-building trips.

And across the English Channel …

Fockler is the first Spaatz recipient in the U.K., earning the award just hours after McFarland.

The award was “a tough nut to crack,” Fockler said. He started his review in April before receiving the Gen. Ira C. Eaker Award and spent six weeks studying from 9-5 every day in a library at Royal Air Force Lakenheath.

“I’d like to give credit to Lt. Col. Scott Frohardt, my testing proctor, who took time out of his busy schedule to help administer my exam, to Cadet Col. Jared Harrison, a Spaatz recipient who provided me with extremely valuable tips on taking my test, and last but not least, my parents and Civil Air Patrol senior staff,” Fockler said.

Involved with Air Force Junior ROTC when he heard that a Civil Air Patrol unit was beginning operation at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk in March 2015, he joined the new squadron at age 14.

“The summer encampments at Ramstein Air Base were very fun,” he said. “However, I think the most enjoyable CAP events were the National Cadet Special Activities I participated in last summer — Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Familiarization Course at Columbus Air Force Base and Air Force Space Command Familiarization Course in Colorado.

Fockler’s achievements include CAP’s Air Force Outstanding Organizational Excellence Award, as well as the Air Force Association Award, First Place Color Guard at the European Drill Championships, Top Color Guard Commander in Europe and Top Armed Exhibition Team Commander in Europe, all as a Junior ROTC cadet.

Born in Las Vegas, Fockler lived in Japan until he was 2, when his family moved to England. He will attend Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont, with the goal of becoming a pilot in the Air Force.

“Growing up on a U.S. Air Force base, seeing F15s fly overhead every day, definitely played a big part in my desire to be a pilot,” he said. “I’ve wanted to fly for as long as I can remember, and I enjoy flying in Cessna aircraft when I get the opportunity.”

“We’re extremely proud of his accomplishments,” said the Mildenhall squadron’s commander, Lt. Col. Darren Cruz, a 35-year veteran of CAP who has also served with the Ramstein Cadet Squadron and in the Kentucky, Georgia and New Mexico wings. “Zane is a leader of cadets and thoroughly enjoys sharing his knowledge with his peers and subordinates. His determination and willingness to strive for higher achievements has always been evident as a young cadet.

“We’re all excited that overseas squadrons are producing [Gen. Billy] Mitchell, [Amelia] Earhart, Eaker and Spaatz cadets!”

The squadron, which has 18 active cadet members and six senior members, works with host base RAF Mildenhall and with RAF Lakenheath, providing cadets with tours to different base facilities.

Most recently, cadets participated in a Memorial Day flyover, an F-15 refueling mission and in an aircrew decontamination class/hands-on training. Cadets have had the opportunity to fly an F-15 simulator, visit two air traffic control towers and participate in the yearly RAF Mildenhall Holocaust March. The squadron's activities are spearheaded by Cruz.

National Executive Officer Col. Arlinda C. Bailey, whose job includes serving as group commander for CAP’s overseas squadrons, noted that overseas cadets face challenges that differ somewhat from those for cadets in traditional squadrons.

“Cadet Col. McFarland and Cadet Col. Fockler have adapted to the challenges and have succeeded in achieving CAP’s highest cadet award. Both cadets have bright futures, and I’m proud of their accomplishments. I believe their success will benefit other cadets who serve overseas,” Bailey said.

“I also want to express my appreciation to those commanders and seniors who have worked with both of these cadets,” she said. “I’ve been very pleased with our overseas squadrons and how the seniors give of their time to help our cadets.”