Local CAP cadet gets history-making award

Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, Adjutant General Georgia Department of Defense, left, CAP Cadet Col. Hannah Neal, center, and CAP Col. Andrea Van Buren, Southeast Region Commander, at the ceremony where Neal was the recipient of the Spaatz Award. Photo/ CAP Maj. Angela Bartow-Best.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, Adjutant General Georgia Department of Defense, left, CAP Cadet Col. Hannah Neal, center, and CAP Col. Andrea Van Buren, Southeast Region Commander, at the ceremony where Neal was the recipient of the Spaatz Award. Photo/ CAP Maj. Angela Bartow-Best.

The Peachtree City Falcon Field Composite Squadron, SER-GA-116, has made unit history with the first female recipient of the prestigious “General Carl A. Spaatz Award.”

The General Carl A. Spaatz Award is Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet honor. It is presented to cadets who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness and aerospace education, according to the Spaatz Association.

Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Public Affairs Officer Candice Serafin said Cadet Col. Hannah Neal, 20, passed her Spaatz exam on July 18 at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. Neal was promoted to the grade of Cadet Colonel by Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, Adjutant General of the Georgia Department of Defense and CAP Col. Andrea Van Buren, Commander of the Southeast Region.

“I am excited to give back to the next generation of cadets and planning to transition to Senior Member when I turn 21,” said cadet Col. Hannah Neal, as she continues to serve in CAP.

She is currently in pursuit to become a registered nurse in the emergency department with a Level 1 Trauma Center and eventually become a flight trauma nurse on a helicopter, Serafin added.

Neal is the 2,286th Spaatz recipient since the award’s inception in 1964.

“We have been in existence here in Peachtree City for 35 years. Cadet Col. Neal is the sixth cadet to become a Spaatz recipient and the first female to do so,” Serafin said.

Also present at the ceremony were Colonel Jeffrey Garrett, Commander of the Georgia Wing CAP and Major Angela Bartow-Best, Deputy Commander of Cadets, SER-GA-116.

<b>CAP Cadet Col. Hannah Neal. Photo/Submitted.</b>
CAP Cadet Col. Hannah Neal. Photo/Submitted.

“Cadet Col. Neal stood out early in her CAP career. As I watched her progress through the cadet ranks and achievements, I had no doubt that she would reach the pinnacle of the cadet program, and we are all so proud of her,” said Lt. Col. Joel Seidband, Squadron Commander. “The Spaatz award is achieved by less than 1 percent of all CAP cadets. Col Neal has truly joined an elite fellowship.”

Neal joined the Civil Air Patrol in July 2016 at age 16 and set her sights to attain 21 achievements, five major milestone awards, all of which include exams on aerospace and leadership, participation in character development activities and passing a physical fitness test, said Serafin.

“In the Cadet Program, cadets develop self-discipline, a strong sense of personal responsibility, the ability to lead and persuade. They develop the foundations necessary for pursuing careers in science, technology, mathematics and engineering with a focus on aviation and space,” Serafin explained.

In April 2019, cadet Col. Neal became the Cadet Commander of the Peachtree City Falcon Field Composite Squadron with over 130 cadets, one of the largest cadet units in the nation.

“One of her goals was to help her squadron not only attain the Quality Cadet Unit Award but to attain all 10 out of the 10 criteria. Through careful planning, determination and motivation, the squadron met this goal and was also recognized as a Georgia Wing Squadron of Merit in 2019,” Serafin said.

Serafin said Cadet Col. Neal attended and staffed many Civil Air Patrol events at the Squadron, Group, Wing and National levels. Through various squadron emergency services training events, she has attained the Ground Team Leader qualification and is currently in training as Ground Branch Director. These are positions not usually held by a cadet. She served as flight commander and squadron commander at the Florida Wing winter encampment and Georgia Wing (GAWG) summer encampment, respectively and has been selected to serve as Cadet Commander of the joint North Carolina – Virginia Wing encampment this year.

Serafin said Neal continues to serve as GAWG Cadet Public Affairs Officer to ensure that Civil Air Patrol is relevant on social media. She assisted with creating standardization and evaluation videos for the 2019 GAWG summer encampment and was the cadet activities director for the GAWG cadet public affairs training day. At the National level, she attended the Blue Beret special activity and Cadet Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Serving on the GAWG Cadet Advisory Council as Wing Recorder, cadet Col. Neal recognized the need for more cadet involvement at the Wing, Regional, and National level. She currently serves as GAWG Chair, Southeast Region Vice Chair, and Southeast Region Cadet Representative to the National Cadet Advisory Council. She is also the Strategic Communications Coordinator for the National Cadet Advisory Council, Serafin explained.

In addition to her CAP responsibilities, Serafin said she is also laser-focused on pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at a local university and maintaining a GPA of 3.61. Simultaneously, she was able to complete Emergency Medical Technician training and pass the national registry so that she may serve her community as an Emergency Medical Technician.

“Hannah is an amazing cadet. It has been a pleasure to watch her develop into a true servant leader. I’m so proud of her for obtaining the Spaatz and look forward to seeing her become Wing Commander someday, ” said Maj. Angela Bartow-Best, Deputy Commander of Cadets, SER-GA-116.