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Stafford teen gets prestigious honor

 Celebrating at the recent ceremony are (from left) Chuck Papandrea (Matthew's father), Cadet Capt. Matthew Papandrea, Col. Anthony Kissik (Matthew's stepfather) and Brig. Gen. Joseph Vazquez.
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Date published: 1/27/2013


A Stafford County high school student was honored earlier this month with the Civil Air Patrol's elite Amelia Earhart Award and the rank of cadet captain.

Matthew G. Papandrea, 16, received the award from the Civil Air Patrol's national vice commander, Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Vazquez, during during the Fredericksburg Composite Squadron's annual "Dining Out," a military-style dinner and ball at the Fredericksburg Country Club.

The Earhart Award is named after aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, who was the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean, and who disappeared trying to circumnavigate the globe.

That award is the third-highest in the CAP program. Approximately 5 percent of cadets nationwide have received it since its creation in 1964. There are currently 26,000 Civil Air Patrol cadets nationwide.

To qualify for this award, Papandrea passed a 100-question comprehensive exam covering leadership and aeronautics, a demanding physical fitness test and showed that he embodied the CAP core values of integrity, volunteer service, excellence and respect.

This was in addition to completing 11 prior achievements, each with multiple tests of their own.

In a press release, Papandrea, a sophomore at Mountain View High School, said he joined the Civil Air Patrol in 2009 because, "I was interested in being part of an organization where I had the opportunity to contribute to saving the lives of others."

Papandrea currently serves in the Fredericksburg Composite Squadron as deputy cadet commander and honor guard commander.

He has attended the Civil Air Patrol Honor Guard Academy three times, receiving, respectively, the Honor Cadet award, the Honor and Pride Cadet award, and the Honor Guardsmen award.

At Mountain View, he holds letters in band and swim team, and was named most dedicated swimmer and freshman of the year in 2012.

He is also a section leader in the marching band. He plans to attend a four-year state college or service academy when he graduates in 2015.

In the press release, Papandrea said, "CAP has provided me with a tremendous amount of leadership experience. Hopefully I will be able to use this experience in my future [career]."

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft.

CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

The organization is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.

Members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to nearly 27,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs.

CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 71 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans.

gocivilairpatrol.com capvolunteernow.com