WEST ALEXANDRIA — West Alexandria teenager Stephen Garrett has been awarded the Brigadier General Billy Mitchell award for his participation in the Civil Air Patrol.
The award is considered one of the highest honors for cadets in the Civil Air Patrol which is the civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, as only about 15 percent of members reach the award.
Garrett was presented the award by Representative Jeff Rezabek on Thursday, June 9. The state representative also presented Evan McClung and Kaitlin King with the Wright Brothers Milestone award at the ceremony.
According to Garrett ,the Civil Air Patrol started in 1941 when civilians began patrolling coastlines to act as look-outs for potential German attacks. Now he says the Civil Air Patrol is nicknamed the Air Force’s “best kept secret” and they have three main objectives: aerospace education programs, emergency services like rescue missions and the Cadet Program which is in place for kids under the age of 18.
Garrett said the primary focus of the cadet program, which anyone can join at the age of 12, is leadership and teaching kids how to be future leaders. He also said the program concentrates on teaching young people how to fly and introduces them into military style ranking and discipline.
Garrett said for him his curiosity for flying is what drove him to join the program.
“I’ve always had an interest in flying so the opportunity to fly is what really interested me,” he said. He continued by saying cadets in the program get introduced into flying through orientation flights and occasionally get to participate in some flying once the plane reaches a certain point.
Garrett said the cadets who participate in the program have the opportunity to join the military at a E3 level instead of the typical E1 because the Air Force recognizes the training they receive through the cadet program. He also said the Civil Air Patrol offers experience in areas like IT, public affairs and medical fields.
Garrett said he plans to continue to work in the cadet program through college in hopes of reaching the top achievement in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program and hopes to reach Cadet Captain next year some time.
He said his participation in the program has already benefited him when he applies for different things like part time jobs. “I’ve noticed with different things I’ve applied for, like applying for a part time job, the things I’ve done with the cadet program have really been helpful already and I haven’t even really done anything like apply to schools yet.”
Garrett says he plans to continue his participation in the cadet program when he goes on to college next year.
“One thing I noticed is when people go to college they kind of fizzle out in the program so I want to get as much done before I go to college and work on it during the summers,”he said.
He is also currently working toward getting his private pilot’s license.
He said the best thing about being in the program was flying but also realizes the importance of the leadership training he has received. “The chance to be a leader among peers and to develop skills that go along with that like organization and developing management skills has been a really good experience,” he said.
Garrett said to join the program one must attend three meetings to make sure they want to be involved in the program. He is a member of 288th Composite Squadron which meets at the Trenton Army Reserve Center on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m.