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Less than 15 percent of Civil Air Patrol cadets qualify for the Gen. Billy Mitchell Award.
“It's a long process,” said Lisa McCroskey of Kingston.
She knows from experience. McCroskey received the award last month during a ceremony in Oak Ridge.
“I felt very, very accomplished because it was a long road and a lot of work,” she said.
McCroskey, 16, is a member of the Civil Air Patrol's Oak Ridge Squadron. She attends Roane County High School.
The Civil Air Patrol considers the Mitchell award one of its most prestigious honors.
Capt. Lisa Worthington, public affairs officer for the Oak Ridge Squadron, said cadets must pass comprehensive written tests on aerospace education and military leadership, show their leadership skills and provide training and mentoring to newer cadets.
“The minimum time to earn it is two years, so she has spent more than two years earning the award,” Worthington said.
Candidates for the award must also pass a physical fitness test and attend a military style encampment.
“It's not as bad as boot camp, but it's a style kind of like that,” McCroskey said. “You have to wake up early. You have to have everything clean and pristine. Everything has to be in order.”
McCroskey’s road to earning the award wasn't without obstacles. She said she doubted herself at one point.
“But I just kept at it,” she said. “I was determined to get it, and I eventually did.”
The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Its primary missions are aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services.
McCroskey has been a member since she was 12.
“I joined as a service to the community because they teach you emergency services, and you actually get to go out and perform search and rescue,” she said.
“It also trains you in aerospace and leadership, and being part of CAP has helped me become a good leader.”
McCroskey was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant because she earned the Mitchell award.
“It's nice to have a female higher ranked,” Worthington said. “You don't always get to have that.”
McCroskey has two brothers attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., but she said she's undecided about her future plans.
“The academy is an option, but I'm not sure if that's the path I want to take yet,” she said.
McCroskey doesn't plan to stop with the Billy Mitchell Award. She's also planning to go after others, including the General Carl A. Spaatz Award, which is the highest award in the Civil Air Patrol cadet program.