By Dan Hust
WHITE LAKE August 8, 2003 Four young men from opposite corners of Sullivan County even Pennsylvania were lauded Wednesday for each earning one of the highest awards in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
Approximately 30 CAP members and their families attended the awards ceremony at the Sullivan County Airport in White Lake, where Adam Nebzydoski of Jeffersonville, Mike Meeker of Milanville, Pa. and brothers Chris and Noah Belcher of Burlingham received the General Billy Mitchell Award and were commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant.
CAP is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and is open to teenage men and women. Founded in 1941, CAP encourages growth in leadership, discipline, personal skills, and knowledge, especially about aviation. Although its not a requirement, many CAP participants go on to serve in the military, starting a step ahead of most other Air Force recruits as an Airman First Class.
The Sullivan County chapter of CAP has been training young people in aviation-related fields for 20 years, said Major Barbara Martin, who oversees the 40-member squadron. A primary focus is assisting in search-and-rescue, which the Belcher brothers will be training for next week in Owego.
Martin and local attorney and pilot Ron Hiatt, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, handed out the awards and promotions that evening. Hiatt has long served as the Sullivan County CAP chapters Air Force liaison.
Receiving promotions were Nicole Poladian, Robert Madsen-Smith, Alex Madsen-Smith, Mario Cassase and Anthony Cassase (each is now a Cadet Airman); Robert Macedonio and Matt Burns (Cadet Senior Airman); and Lonnie Buchholz (Technical Sergeant).
The squadron itself received an award from the national headquarters for Aerospace Excellence, in recognition of the outstanding program offered to members.
But the big one of the night was saved for last and repeated four times over.
This is a first in the Sullivan County Cadet Squadrons 20 years, remarked Martin. And presenting four thats almost unheard of.
The first of a series of four top CAP awards, the Mitchell Award is given to those cadets who demonstrate leadership, integrity, attention to detail, community service and excellence, said Martin. The cadets had to advance through the entire program, surpass nine achievement levels, pass leadership and aerospace education tests, and display physically fit performance.
Each in turn Nebzydoski, Meeker and the brothers Belcher received their pins and certificates, and Meeker handed over command of the squadron to Chris Belcher.
Although Meeker, 18, is headed off to the ROTC program at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and Chris Belcher, 16, likely has too short a time left as a CAP cadet to earn the higher level of awards, Martin seemed confident that Noah Belcher, 13, and Nebzydoski, 14, may very well reach CAPs highest achievement: the Carl A. Spaatz Award which only about 1,500 cadets have ever earned in CAPs 62-year history.
Its going to be a race to see, said Martin.