RAPID CITY | A Piedmont teen has earned the Civil Air Patrol's highest cadet award. Major General Timothy Reisch, Adjutant General of the South Dakota Air and Army National Guard, presented Cadet Colonel William Small with the Spaatz Award on Friday, Aug. 10, during a ceremony at Camp Rapid.

On average only two cadets in 1,000 earn the award, which is named for Carl "Tooey" Spaatz, the first Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. In presenting the award, General Reisch noted that the work and efforts associated with achieving the Spaatz Award will serve William well in his adult pursuits and have helped prepare him for higher leadership. Reisch also presented C/Col Small with a South Dakota National Guard Major General Challenge coin, noting that these mementos are given only rarely and then only to those who have significant accomplishments.

In order to qualify for the Spaatz Award, cadets spend an average of five years progressing through sixteen achievements to develop self-discipline, personal responsibility, and the ability to lead. The final step is a rigorous four-part exam that includes a physical fitness test, an essay exam testing moral reasoning, and comprehensive written exams on leadership and aerospace education.

"When I became an officer I started thinking about the Spaatz Award some and came to the conclusion that I was not the right type of person for that. Then as I came closer to it, I realized I BECAME that type of person … I am amazed at how going through the cadet program has changed me to the extent that I was able to earn the Spaatz Award," says Small, a home-schooled high school sophomore and member of the Lookout Mountain Composite Squadron in Spearfish.

Squadron commander, and Small's father, Captain David Small, Jr., said his son had dedicated himself to earning the distinction. “William has always been self motivated and was frequently seen studying from a binder that he put together with all of the Spaatz study material. As recently as June 2012, William was studying Spaatz material while vacationing on an Indonesian beach.”

South Dakota Wing commander Col. John Seten, who was also on hand at the ceremony, said “Cadet Colonel Small is very active with the South Dakota Wing and it comes as no surprise to me that he has earned his Carl A. Spaatz award. His dedication is a great reflection upon himself, his squadron, the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and the United States of America.” Small is only the tenth South Dakota cadet to earn the Spaatz Award.

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