As Commander of the Tri-Cities Composite Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary: Civil Air Patrol based at the Richland Airport, I was happy to see the Herald highlight Cadet Col. Skeetz Guilbeau in an article and editorial earlier this year. We are proud that Guilbeau is the sixth cadet from our squadron to earn this highest cadet achievement, the Carl A. Spaatz Award.
He is indeed a fine cadet and everyone in his family has been outstanding in their support of his cadet career and the overall CAP Cadet Program at our squadron. Committed parents partner with officers to assist these young people, even as they do in the schools; it's a team effort.
I was struck by the editorial's closing remark: "What a great example for the grownups."
I couldn't agree more, and I've been watching examples of that caliber for 14 years now.
I watched three Tri-City cadets -- now all Air Force pilots -- Maj. Joshua McIntyre, Capt. Zachary Miller, and one of our sons, Capt. Paul Kawaguchi, strive for the Spaatz Award.
Once achieving the pinnacle of the cadet program, they didn't stop there.
Before completing their cadet careers, they applied for CAP's premiere National Cadet Special Activity, the 65-year-old International Air Cadet Exchange program. When appointed, they became American goodwill ambassadors to Australia and Japan.
The examples of their excellence have spurred me on in my own CAP career.
I am honored to say I will be following in their footsteps this July, having received my appointment as an International Air Cadet Exchange escort to the United Kingdom.
The annual exchange of visits by air-minded youths of the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, and the Pacific promotes international understanding, goodwill and fellowship among the youths of the world.
Civil Air Patrol's participation in the exchange began in 1947. CAP sponsors U.S. participation in the exchange by arranging housing, educational and recreational activities for the foreign cadets while they are in the United States. The host organizations of the participating countries perform these same services for the American cadets.
Cadets are selected for participation based on demonstrated leadership ability, character and good citizenship. Each year, cadet and escort applications are reviewed and only the top rated applicants are chosen.
Why "aim high?"
CAP officers are granted the same privilege as cadets to study and achieve through service to the U.S. Air Force and our nation, by serving our communities. That service is recognized by the rank and ribbons you see on their uniforms.
The CAP Cadet Program is only as strong as the corps of CAP Officers who volunteer to serve and mentor them. The stronger our commitment and the more we train, the better leadership we can provide to the future leaders of America.
As I answered one of the 40 essay questions on my exchange questionnaire -- one of many requirements in the application process -- I paused to reflect; essay questions are designed for that purpose. Since each question has a point value and is graded individually by members of the selection committee, every answer needs a best complete response.
Why did I want to become an escort ambassador?
The heart of Civil Air Patrol is two things intertwined -- teamwork and mentoring. Support one another through the academics, training and our congressionally mandated missions. When you learn something new, turn around and pass it on to others.
As my answer formed, it brought me back to where I'd begun: the example of these exceptional cadets. They were who they were and had accomplished those great goals because they worked as a team, serving other members, then passed on their new knowledge and experience to younger cadets (and older officers quietly watching).
With these thoughts, my response came easily:
"As I've progressed through officer achievement levels, it has become increasingly clear that without officers, opportunities like IACE don't exist for cadets. Someone has to make them happen. One of our sons had the privilege of attending IACE in 2002, and I'm grateful his escort volunteered."
CAP has a rich sacrificial 65-year history of volunteer service to our nation; officers serving today need to build on that by paying it forward. CAP is always looking for other like-minded people who want to continue the brave and hard-working tradition of "Integrity first; Service before self; and Excellence in all we do."
-- Maj. Deborah Salter Kawaguchi recently was awarded the Fourth-Phase Officer Achievement -- Paul E. Garber Award, the second highest achievement in the Civil Air Patrol officer professional development.