Thomas Powless, a member of Civil Air Patrol Unit KY-11 of Paducah, received the prestigious Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell Award on June 3, promoting him to the rank of second lieutenant.
Earning the "Billy" Mitchell Award is a milestone for Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets. It marks the end of the enlisted phase of their cadet program as awardees are made cadet officers.
To earn the award, cadets must pass several tests in leadership, physical training and knowledge of aerospace dimensions. They must also have graduated from an encampment or equivalent program.
Powless, 14, will be an eighth-grade student at Lone Oak Middle School. He is the son of Chris and Ellen Powless of Lone Oak.
"I didn't think I would make it because it is such a hard award to get," he said. "The top 10 percent of all cadets get it -- only a few thousand out of the hundreds of thousands of cadets make it."
Powless said he would like to enroll in the U.S. Air Force Academy to study avionics and become a pilot flying air-to-ground missions.
Fellow Unit KY-11 member Payton Merrick earned the Mitchell Award on March 25. Lt. Tom Hines, the Unit KY-11 commander, said having two cadets earn the award in a short period of time speaks well for the unit.
"Our cadets are really stepping up their game, as far as promoting and studying and working hard to make progress," he said. "(Mitchell Award winners) have a good, promising future in life and in the military, if they choose to go that way.
"(Cadets) have got a leg up in a lot of areas, including leadership -- even if they don't stick with CAP, which I think they will. They're being well-prepared for the next phase of life."
Mitchell Award recipients are eligible to attend Cadet Officer School and the Civic Leadership Academy. If they choose to enlist in the Air Force, they may enter at the grade of E-3, or airman first class -- comparable to a private first class in the Army, a seaman in the Navy and Coast Guard or a lance corporal in the Marines.
The award is looked upon favorably by admissions staff at Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The award is named for Brig. Gen. William Mitchell, known as "the Father of the Independent Air Force."
In the 1920s, Mitchell advocated building a strong air force to complement the Army and Navy. Leaders in those military branches were dubious about the effectiveness of military aviation. After being proven right in World War II, Mitchell earned a Congressional gold medal for his pioneering service and forethought in military aviation.
Civil Air Patrol cadets range in age from 12 to 21 and meet at 6 p.m. every Monday at the Armed Forces Readiness Center. Hines invited those who might be interested in joining to attend the meetings.