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Three Spaatzen in 3 Days

January 29, 2020

North Central Region presents 3 Spaatz in 3 days

What do you get when you combine strong character, focused determination, and an opportunity to serve?  Three astonishing young men who have attained Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet recognition.

Brig Gen Edward Phelka, CAP National Vice Commander, and Col Regena Aye, North Central Region Commander, attended the presentation of 3 General Carl A. Spaatz Awards in 3 days to 3 commendable cadets who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness, and aerospace education.  General Phelka said, “I was truly inspired by Cadets Atwell, Smith, and Leonhardt.  Their enthusiastic pursuit of excellence in all three missions and the growth and maturity they have demonstrated in the process sets an ideal example for all cadets to follow.”

Cadets qualify for this prestigious award after devoting an average of five years to progress through sixteen achievements in the CAP Cadet Program.  Along the way, they develop self-discipline, a strong sense of personal responsibility, the ability to lead and persuade, and the foundations necessary for pursuing a career in aviation, space, or technology.  Less than one-half of 1 percent of cadets achieve the award.

C/ Col Ethan Atwell  

Focused drive and determination are words that describe C/Col Ethan Atwell.  In five short years, he achieved what only a select few have ever accomplished. 

He began his career in 2015 with the Jesse Jones Composite Squadron located in Lititz, PA and later transferred to Springfield Regional Composite Squadron in Springfield, MO.  He currently serves as Cadet Commander for his squadron, sits on the MO Wing Cadet Advisory Council, and has served as Deputy Commander for Missouri Wing Encampment.

His focus on academics and aviation demonstrates the drive needed to reach new heights.  He graduated high school with a 3.95 GPA. His choice in Civil Air Patrol activities emphasizes his desire to learn more about leadership and aviation.  Highlights include National Powered Flight Academy, Model Rocketry, Regional Cadet Leadership School, and Legislative Day in Washington, D.C.

C/Col Atwell stated that he is thankful to all the leaders in Civil Air Patrol who encouraged him and shared their knowledge with him.  He is also thankful to Lt Col Brian Heberlie, Ret., who he looks up to as a role model of a servant-leader.

C/Col Atwell has received multiple scholarships and is currently studying mechanical engineering at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, Florida.

Capt Donald Leonhardt  

With quiet confidence, C/Col Leonhardt embraced the ability to lead from anywhere.  His strong sense of character and his ability to share his knowledge and experience have helped guide and shape this cadet.

He began his career at New Century Composite Squadron and in 2012 and transferred to the newly formed Heartland Cadet Squadron.  He has been instrumental in the expansion and development of the members under his command creating the squadron’s honor guard, implementing an active Orientation Flight program, and working with the Young Eagles to extend additional flight opportunities for cadets. He has served as Squadron Cadet Commander, Kansas Wing Cadet Advisory Council Chair, Region Cadet Advisory Council Vice-Chair, and North Central Region to the National Cadet Advisory Council.

Highlights include Flight Academies, National Blue Beret, National Emergency Services Academy, Great Lakes Region Glider Academy, Legislative Day in Washington, DC and staffing multiple encampments.

“C/Col Leonhardt is the 20th Cadet in Kansas history and the 1st cadet from the Heartland Cadet Squadron to complete this achievement.  His dedication to service has helped shape the cadet program at his squadron. We're very pleased to celebrate his successes in the cadet program with him.” Col Linette Lahan, Kansas Wing Commander.

After earning the Spaatz Award, C/Col Leonhardt transitioned to senior membership.  Capt Leonhardt is currently pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

C/Col Justin A. Smith

A strong desire to be of service to the community and to others is what drives C/Col Justin A. Smith. 

C/Col Smith started his career in 2012 at the Wentzville Composite Squadron in Lake St Louis, MO where he serves as cadet commander.  He also serves as the Cadet Leadership Officer for Missouri Wing and on National Headquarters sUAS staff.

His choice in National Cadet Special Activities demonstrates his desire to serve.  Highlights include National Blue Beret, National Cadet Competition, National Emergency Services Academy, Pathfinder Technical School, Pathfinders Field Medic Course, and the USAF Pararescue Orientation course.

C/Col Justin A. Smith is currently pursuing a Health Science and Biology major at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri.  While attending school he works as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for the Newton County Ambulance District. He enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard and plans to serve as a Combat Medic (MOS 68W).


Each of these young men approach leaderships with their own unique style. However, they all embrace the Civil Air Patrol Core Values of Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence, and Respect.  Guided by these values, they have shaped their lives and developed a strong character, focused drive and determination and always seek an opportunity to serve their community and their country.

Totaling more than 20 combined years of service to the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program these three cadets will leave a legacy now and into the future.  Col Aye stated, “I am humbled and inspired by the dedication, achievements, and commitment to serve others demonstrated by these cadets.  They give us a glimpse of a bright future for our country and Civil Air Patrol.”


For More Information:

Author: Daren Jaeger, Kansas Wing Public Affairs Officer
Photo Credits: KS Wing PAO and MO Wing PAO staff, respectively

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