Top Members Honored at National Conference
A former Virginia Wing commander and a former Washington Wing cadet took top honors at Civil Air Patrol’s 2023 National Conference this week in Bellevue, Washington.
Col. David A. Carter was recognized posthumously as CAP’s Senior Member of the Year, while Cadet Col. Bradley Gorham was named CAP’s Cadet of the Year at the conference.
“Receiving this award is a tremendous honor,” said Gorham, now a first-year cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy. “For CAP to name me as Cadet of the Year is truly humbling.”
Carter’s brother, Lt. Col. Les Carter, along with his son, Steven Carter, and daughter, Tracey Lovell, accepted his award.
“The Carter family is extremely proud of Dave,” Lt. Col. Carter said. “I think he would be very pleased to receive this award.”
Carter and Gorham were joined in the conference spotlight by CAP’s Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year, Capt. Julie Sicks-Panus of the New Hampshire Wing, and 1st Lt. Robert W. Newell, commander of the Squadron of Distinction — the South Carolina Wing’s Coastal Charleston Composite Squadron.
Senior Member of the Year
Col. David A. Carter
Carter was posthumously honored as Senior Member of the Year in recognition of his more than a half-century of service.
“Knowing Dave, I'm sure that he would have taken [this honor] with humble thanks and then put it away in his boxes of multiple awards to wait for the time when he would erect his ‘I love me’ wall at his continuing care apartment,” said his brother, also a 50-year CAP member now serving as safety officer in the Maryland Wing’s Col. Mary S. Feik Composite Squadron.
Before his death in March, Col. Carter had served in CAP since 1968 and received multiple Distinguished Service, Exceptional Service, and Meritorious Service medals, along with two region Commander’s Commendations.
He earned the Search and Rescue Ribbon with Clasp, the Find Ribbon, the Disaster Relief Ribbon, the Civil Defense Ribbon, multiple Encampment Ribbons, the Aerospace Award Ribbon, the Air Force Organizational Excellence Ribbon, and the Crisis Service Award.
He also received a certificate for lifesaving.
Les Carter said he recruited his brother to Civil Air Patrol. “Actually. I stole him from the Boy Scouts, where he was a district commissioner,” he recalled. “Dave brought his Air Force skills and training with his extensive scouting skills to my squadron of three senior members and a couple of dozen cadets, then took off running on his newfound search and rescue career.
“He not only climbed the CAP career ladder but took on forming multiple civilian (search and rescue) groups along the way. He was instrumental in creating much of the SAR training that is conducted today in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and when not busy teaching FEMA courses, kept his hands busy trying to assist the Virginia Department of Emergency Management with being a liaison between the major SAR groups in Virginia.”
“Dave served the community, his fellow airmen, both Air Force and CAP, and nationwide with his drive to perfect SAR so that all benefit from his efforts,” his brother said.
Carter served as Virginia wing commander and on leadership staff for the Virginia and National Capital wings and the Mid-Atlantic Region.
He led the Virginia Wing during a challenging period, healing a divide and growing membership to 1,734 from 1,381 members — more than 25%. He also managed to recruit 100% of eligible state lawmakers to the Legislative Squadron, helping ensure state funding.
It could be said, though, that Carter’s greatest contribution came Feb. 13, 1984, when he saved the life of a Mid-Eastern Airlines passenger during a search and rescue mission.
The president of the airline wrote: “I do not think [the passenger] would have made it if she had spent much longer without medical attention.”
Cadet of the Year
Cadet Col. Bradley Gorham
Tri-Cities Composite Squadron
One word describes Gorham, Civil Air Patrol’s Cadet of the Year.
Gorham has served in a variety of leadership roles in Pacific Region encampments. His commitment to excellence in CAP is evidenced by his travels as far as Tennessee, where he graduated from a wing encampment and completed color guard training. Gorham is also a graduate of the Mid-Atlantic Region Leadership School as well as the Cyber Defense Training Academy, where he was a distinguished graduate.
Also a participant in CAP’s National Blue Beret special activity, Gorham served as an assistant member of the National Cadet Advisory Council and as the Washington Wing’s assistant cadet activities officer.
“When I first joined in September 2016, I fully committed myself to making the most of my time in this program,” Gorham said. “Six years, five encampments, four (National Cadet Special Activities), and many more incredible opportunities later, my experiences as a cadet have empowered me to be a better leader and prepared me to take on even greater challenges here at the Air Force Academy.
“The lessons, mentors, and friends I have gained from [the CAP cadet] program will last for a lifetime,” he said. “I can say confidently that Civil Air Patrol shaped me into who I am today.”
In 2021, Gorham received the Meritorious Service Award and Commander’s Commendations from the Washington and Nevada wings. He has been recognized by the Air Force Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Academically, Gorham earned a 4.0 GPA in high school. He also competes in Taekwondo and is a Red Cross-certified lifeguard.
“He sets the bar incredibly high not only for his peers, but also for most adults,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Maxwell, the Washington Wing’s cadet activities officer.
Gorham has made a conscious effort over the last few years of his CAP career to make “a tangible impact” on other cadets. “After earning the [Gen. Carl A.] Spaatz Award and serving as encampment cadet commander in 2021, I was able to transform my focus over my last year and a half from personal growth and achievement to using my knowledge and experience to mentor and lift the other cadets around me,” he said.
“There is great satisfaction to be found in developing others to become better cadets and better people.
“I hope that by receiving this award, I am able to inspire others to reach for their full potential and make the most of what the cadet program has to offer.”
Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year
Capt. Julie Sicks-Panus
Hawk Composite Squadron
New Hampshire Wing
A member of Civil Air Patrol since 2015, Sicks-Panus became director of aerospace education for the New Hampshire Wing in 2022. She has also served as aerospace education officer for the Hawk Composite Squadron and as the wing’s assistant director of aerospace education.
In that role, she planned and organized an Aerospace Education Weekend where 37 cadets earned their Model Rocketry Badge.
A veteran educator, Sicks-Panus has served as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teacher/specialist at Plymouth Elementary School for 23 years and has spent three decades in the classroom.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher, since I was a sophomore in high school,” she said. “From industrial arts to tech ed to STEM, gymnastics, robotics, CAP, and aerospace — I love it all!”
Sicks-Panus has taught kindergarten through college but finds nothing “more fun and fulfilling” than K-8 STEM. “I strive to use my passion to lift up and inspire my students,” she said.
In 2022, Sicks-Panus served as the judging chair for CAP’s High-Altitude Balloon Challenge. Drawing on her vast experience, she developed requirements and scoring criteria for the national judging team in all the activity’s categories: pre- and post-Launch videos and mission patch and poster competitions. The standards she developed will be used by CAP in the years to come.
A member of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, she has developed teaching materials used by STEM teachers across the country. She has presented at state, region and national STEM institutions, and has also helped update and revise state STEM curriculum for New Hampshire schools.
“I feel driven to give back to my field and profession anywhere I can be of assistance — providing professional development for peers, developing standards, curricula, and more,” Sicks-Panus said. “Being recognized this way for my efforts is absolutely the highest honor I can conceive of. I am deeply grateful and humbled at having been chosen.”
Here is a complete list of the other national awards presented during the conference:
Squadron of Distinction/F. Ward Reilly Leadership Award
Coastal Charleston Composite Squadron
1st Lt. Robert W. Newell, Commander, CAP
South Carolina Wing
Already honored as the Mid- Atlantic Region’s Squadron of Distinction, the Coastal Charleston Composite Squadron worked in conjunction with Joint Base Charleston as well as the private sector, public schools, and institutions of higher educationto develop a vigorous and effective STEM and aerospace education program.
The squadron also supports members of the U.S. military in the area, sponsoring a military family and providing support for two air shows.
The cadet program was also energized, producing Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award – CAP’s highest cadet achievement – recipients and Cadet Wings program graduates. Cadet Lt. Cols. Samuel and Andrew Rowe were the squadron’s first Spaatz recipients in five years.
As the squadron's commander since July 2020, 1st Lt. Robert W. Newell is the recipient of the F. Ward Reilly Leadership Award.
Top recogniton also went to the following:
Frank G. Brewer Memorial Aerospace Award — Cadet Category
Cadet Capt. Rylee A. Emaus
Hickory Composite Squadron
North Carolina Wing
Frank G. Brewer Memorial Aerospace Award — Senior Category
Lt. Col. Ronald S. Marks
Deer Valley Composite Squadron 302
Frank G. Brewer Memorial Aerospace Award — Individual/Organization Category
Coles County Airport Authority
Andrew Fearn, Manager
Frank G. Brewer Memorial Aerospace Award — Lifetime Category
Lt. Col. Constance J. Muncy
Winchester Composite Squadron
Air Force Sergeants Association National Cadet Noncommissioned Officer of the Year
Cadet 1st Lt. Verity Gray
Albuquerque Heights Composite Squadron
New Mexico Wing
Inspector General of the Year
Capt. Amrishi A. Chicooree
New Hampshire Wing
Col. Dion E. DeCamp Ground Team of the Year
Air Capital Composite Squadron
Col. Edwin W. Lewis Jr. Incident Staff Member of the Year
Maj. Luis J. Herrera
Puerto Rico Wing
Col. David A. Kantor Operations Support Officer of the Year
Lt. Col. Raymond G. Davis Sr.
Asheville Composite Squadron North Carolina Wing
Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm Aerospace Education Officer of the Year
Capt. Brett G. Russo
Willie Composite Squadron Arizona Wing
Paul W. Turner Safety Award
South Carolina Wing
Safety Officer of the Year
Master Sgt. Damen Therkildsen
Selkirk Composite Squadron
Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Robert P. Taylor Chaplain of the Year
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Theodore J. Jenney
Character Development Instructor of the Year
Lt. Col. Marc Peterson
Air Academy Cadet Squadron
Director of Finance of the Year
Maj. Christopher A. Davis
Group 6 Headquarters
Maj. Gen. Dwight H. Wheless Legal Officer of the Year
Lt. Col. Corey Hamilton
Malcolm C. Kyser Jr. Communicator of the Year
Cadet Capt. Daniel A. Moser
Coeur d’Alene Composite Squadron Idaho Wing
Col. Lester E. Hopper Historian of the Year
2nd Lt. Mark J. Struve
41st Iowa Composite Squadron
Col. Robert V. “Bud” Payton Public Affairs Officer of the Year
Capt. Shannon Babb
Phantom Composite Squadron
John V. “Jack” Sorenson Cadet Programs Officer of the Year
Lt. Col. George A. Stanley
Sumter Composite Squadron
South Carolina Wing
Education and Training Officer of the Year
Lt. Col. Christopher R. Branan
New Mexico Wing
Lt. Col. Norm Edwards Counterdrug Officer of the Year
Capt. Patrick K. Mulvey Jr.
George Texido Legislative Officer of the Year
Lt. Col. Joyce A. Nader
Property Management Officer of the Year
Maj. Astrid H. Phillips
7-6 Air Cavalry Composite Squadron
Health Services Officer of the Year
Maj. Jason A. Hudak
MidValley Composite Squadron
West Virginia Wing
Lt. Col. T. Keith Riddle Aircrew Member of the Year
1st Lt. Jonathan Ritchie
Washington County Composite Squadron
Order of the Daedalians Exceptional Instructor Pilot of the Year
Capt. Brett T. Kollar
Columbus Composite Squadron