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Medina Teen Receives Civil Air Patrol's Highest Cadet Award

By Ryan McNeilly, Captain
04 May 2023


Major General Edward Phelka, National Commander of the Civil Air Patrol, made a visit to Medina to present Cadet Colonel Zurich Begin with the General Carl A. Spaatz Award, CAP's most prestigious cadet achievement. 

The Civil Air Patrol was founded in 1941 to provide a corps of volunteer airmen to defend the United States at the onset of World War II. Eight decades later, CAP continues to provide auxiliary services in support of the U.S. Air Force and Department of Homeland Security, including a leadership training program for more than 27,000 teens. 

Zurich Begin joined CAP in 2019 at the age of 12 and has accelerated his way to the top of the cadet ranks to earn the Spaatz Award, which signifies a cadet's accomplishment of the highest cadet grade: Cadet Colonel. The Spaatz Award, named for the first Chief of Staff of the Air Force, is CAP's rarest cadet award earned by only half-of-one percent of cadets in the program. 

Achieving the Spaatz Award takes approximately three-and-a-half years and requires cadets to complete a comprehensive knowledge exam over leadership and aerospace principles as well as a scored fitness assessment. Begin is the 2427th recipient of the Spaatz Award since its introduction in 1964 and at the age of 15 years, 10 months is the youngest cadet to have earned the award. 

Edward Phelka, who resides near Detroit, Michigan and also serves as CAP's Chief Executive Officer—an unpaid position in which he commands 63,000 volunteer members—piloted one of CAP's aircraft into the Medina Municipal Airport to meet with Begin, who serves as the Cadet Commander of the Medina County Skyhawks Composite Squadron which meets weekly at the A.I. Root Middle School in Medina. 

Begin also serves at the state level as the Cadet Activities Officer, helping to plan and direct activities for nearly 500 cadets living in Ohio. In addition to presenting the Spaatz Award, Phelka spent time with the Medina cadets to encourage the continuation of their leadership development and to promote the future of aerospace and technology careers. 

"Remember that this award is not being 'finished' with the Cadet Program," Phelka exclaimed to Begin. "Learning never ends."

Begin remarked, "I don't intend to stop. This is just the beginning; pun intended." His words of wisdom for his fellow cadets: "Never give up on your dreams. It's not difficult; it just takes effort." 

In addition to receiving the Spaatz Award, Begin was recently awarded 2022 Cadet of the Year for CAP in Ohio. 

Begin, who carries a 4.5 GPA at Medina High School at the age of 16, is preparing to graduate two years earlier than anticipated. He has recently been accepted by and starting this fall plans to attend Kent State Unviersity, where he will study architecture. 

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