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Current Tips: September 2013
On the motivation to become a Spaatz cadet…
I didn’t initially have the goal of becoming a Spaatzen. It probably wasn’t until just before I became an officer that I started taking it more seriously. It was mostly seeing how my squadron was nearly falling apart, and knowing that the few cadets left would have to rise up to newer heights to meet those challenges.
I was challenged to pursue it when I first joined CAP. I also like challenge and wanted to take the cadet program through to its completion.
I met the wing commander at my first encampment. He earned his Spaatz award and gave a presentation during our encampment. He told us about how few cadets earn the Spaatz Award. I told myself that I wanted to one day earn my Spaatz Award and be part of the 0.5%.
The sense of accomplishment of completing a cadet career with the programs highest honor. The prospect of joining a group of highly successful individuals who I respected.
To show everyone who ever doubted me that I could do it.
Becoming a Spaatz cadet has been a goal of mine since I joined CAP. Towards the end I did not think it was going to happen for me. Honestly were it not for the members of the organization that I respected (Spaatzen and otherwise) constantly bugging me about taking the exam I probably wouldn’t have. It definitely helped that quite a number of cadets I had come through the ranks with had gotten the Spaatz award, it made it seem more possible.
Preparing for the exam…
Study!! Practice physical requirements. It was so long ago that what I have to offer in specific suggestions is probably useless. I suspect it has changed quite a bit.
I took the Spaatz Exam two times. The second – and obviously more successful time – I knew it was harder than all but one test I ever took before, so I studied everything until I could hardly sleep at night with the information bouncing around inside my head. I also used Microsoft Word documents to make study guides for myself so that I could have a form of ʺquick reviewʺ. This proved very helpful for the leadership portion. The day before the exam, I only studied lightly and let myself calm down and focus. It seemed to have worked quite well.
The biggest issue was PT. Self-discipline of daily exercise got me there.
I took my books with me everywhere and read things about a million times. I knew PT would be hard for me so I was running/PTing multiple times a day. I wrote outlines and made flashcards. I had people quiz me on all fair game material. I asked other people who had taken the exam if they had any tips, advice, or study materials.
The most challenging thing…
The mile run. Oddly enough, however, the leadership test held me up.
The leadership exam is not like any other CAP leadership test because the questions don’t have the obviously incorrect answers like we are used to. This was the only section I failed on the first attempt and I definitely needed some more study time, but taking it once helped me to understand what I was getting into.
The leadership questions were sometimes vague and harder than the fairly straightforward essay and Aerospace Education.
The physical fitness examination — specifically the mile run. Fortunately, I passed the shuttle the first time when I ran on an indoor track and the air was very dry.
Leadership exam, PT — the mile run.
I think it was the moral leadership because it was an essay versus multiple guess. However, I had good grades in high school and a topic that was relevant to CAP leadership.
I knew the hardest part for me would be the PT portion of the exam. Other than that, the AE and leadership were almost on par with one another. I was never worried about the essay.
Advice for New Cadets
It’s long and hard the journey is very rewarding and well worth it. Keep learning and promoting as fast as you can and soak in as much knowledge as you can. But always remember that the fact that the award is completely worthless unless you become a better leader and person through the process.
Find an accountability partner, like another cadet who joined as the same time as you (to compete with) or a cadet mentor to make sure you stay on track with promotions. The Spaatz road is a long one and too many cadets were waylaid in there early years a cadet and failed to promote fast enough to have the time to do so. Second, find a senior member, regardless of rank, who can help you plan out your CAP Career and make the necessary steps possible for you.
It’s just that – a journey; one step at a time. Learn the practical side of the ranks – the leadership, the experience. It’s not about the diamonds – it’s about everything you learn along the way.
Be persistent. Persistence will get you further than any other attribute. Also take every opportunity open to you on the journey there. The CAP program has much to offer.
Be consistent. Set goals. Focus. Don’t expect others to carry you. Study the material, learn it, just like in school. It’s not going to be easy and takes a lot of effort. There will be disappointments, but persevere. Try to stay on track with a regular test/promotion schedule. Every 3 months is just about perfect.
CAP is what you make it. You will get out of it what you put in to it.
Advice to C/Major and C/Lt Colonels
You aren’t finished yet….I’ve never meet anyone who regretted achieving the Spaatz. But many who regretted not persevering to finish.
Study, study, and study some more. Don’t get discouraged if you fail the first time because that is a valuable experience. Be prepared for what you can prepare for like the physical fitness, and be extra prepared for everything else.
If you’ve made it this far, there’s no real reason you can’t finish. The hardest part is done! You will need to dedicate time and effort to finish. Stretch. Seriously, you can only blame yourself if you’ve come this far and don’t at least attempt to finish.
Make sure that you have good motives for getting the Spaatz Award. It is an individual Award. Yet even as such, the team – your home squadron – should be your constant focus and reasoning for whatever great things you set out to achieve.
The Spaatz Award is a much honored place in CAP and something that should not be taken likely. Participating in your squadron, wing, regional and national activities are some things that will greatly prepare you for being a Spaatzen, but also show to other you are ready. Do not assume that because you took tests every two months and wrote some SDA’s that you deserve the Spaatz, no one ʺdeservesʺ it. Instead, prove your leadership and commitment to CAP to others through continued action and support of the cadet program. By doing so, you make the test easier and earn the respect of other as a Spaatz cadet.
Don’t quit, and don’t let ʺmy life is too busyʺ become an excuse for not completing the program.
Remember, it’s not all about the diamonds – or being a C/Col. It’s about being a leader, a mentor, someone who will be such for the rest of his or her life.
The road to Spaatz is a long one, but the skills and experiences you gain along the way are very valuable and a lot of fun.
My mantra when preparing for the exam was “winners practice until they can win, champions practice until they can’t fail.” It has served me well, both [in] preparing for the Spaatz exam and almost every other challenge I have faced since. Make a goal and put everything into it. Chances are you won’t fail, and even if you do, it is a failure you can be proud of.