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President commends cadet

By Staff | Feb 6, 2009

Shepherdstown’s David Hill, center, was unexpectedly greeted by President Obama during a ceremony Jan. 27 in Washington. Hill, accompanied by his father D. Frank Hill III, back, was awarded the highest honor given by the Civil Air Patrol. Also pictured is W.Va. CAP Chief of Staff Lt. Col Dennis Barron.

When Civil Air Patrol Cadet Col. David F. Hill IV of Shepherdstown traveled to Washington to receive the CAP’s highest honor, he did not expect congratulations from the President of the United States himself.

The Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award was formally presented Jan. 27 to Hill – of the Martinsburg Composite Squadron – by U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller and Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito at the U.S. Capitol.

The Spaatz Award is earned by less than one half of 1 percent of all the cadets in the Civil Air Patrol. Hill is the third cadet in the history of the Martinsburg Squadron, and the 20th in the West Virginia Wing, to earn the coveted award since its inception in 1963.

Shortly after the award presentation, it was announced that President Barack Obama wanted to meet with the group. Obama left a luncheon and meeting with Republican senators to personally meet and greet each of the 15 members of the Martinsburg Squadron.

“I think it’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hill said this week. “It’s an incredible feeling. … To finally cap it all off with that is pretty phenomenal.”

Lt. Col. Dennis Barron, West Virginia Wing Chief of Staff, accompanied the group to the Capitol and explained the significance of the Spaatz Award to President Obama and introduced Hill and his father D. Frank Hill III to the President. Obama congratulated Hill on his achievement and praised him for his dedication and commitment to the cadet program. The President shook hands and spoke with all the other members present, then posed for a group photo with the Martinsburg Squadron members.

Hill has been a member of the Martinsburg Squadron since October 2003. A lifelong interest in the military and his mother Becki Hill M.D.’s having served in the CAP drew him to the program, Hill said. He has earned numerous awards in the CAP cadet program, including the Air Force Association Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Award, the Community Service Award, Commander’s Commendation, Red Service Ribbon, and Unit Citation. He has attended two wing summer encampments, serving as a flight commander during the 2006 encampment. In addition, he attended the Cadet Officers School, at Maxwell AFB in 2007. He is a ground team member of the squadron and currently serves as the Advisor to the Squadron Commander and is the unit’s primary representative to the Wing Cadet Advisory Council.

Hill is a senior at Mercersburg (Pa.) Academy and plans to go to college, attend law school, and become a JAG officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“The CAP members were thrilled and extremely excited to meet the President of the United States,” said Lt. Col. Robert Mills, commander of the Martinsburg Squadron, who also attended the awards ceremony. “This was one of those rare life-time experiences, and for Cadet Col. Hill, the ultimate in award presentations!”

Hill explained the Spaatz Award requires a 37-month commitment, which includes various achievements and milestones along the way related to leadership, aerospace knowledge and physical fitness. The quest culminates in a cumulative exam based on 600 pages of material, including everything from “how airplanes work to the planets to the basic laws of physics,” Hill said. The physical training component required Hill to meet various timed challenges in pushups, sit-ups and a 1-mile run.