The Path to Excellence

It is not uncommon to find a young child who is eager to grow up and serve his or her country, playacting the role of a hero. It is, however, quite a task to find a young adult who has actually pursued this dream, putting in years of hard work to achieve their goal of serving others. 18-year-old Kellin Tompkins is one such person.

Mr. Tompkins was born in Missouri, but spent the majority of his life in Frisco. He is currently a freshman at Texas A&M University and he is studying economics with an intended minor in Russian. He is a member of the Corps of Cadets and plans on commissioning in the Air Force as a member of the Office of Special Investigations or as a pilot. “It is my ultimate goal to work for the Central Intelligence Agency,” he shares.

Mr. Tompkins recently received the General Carl A. Spaatz Award for his achievement with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). However, his journey to accepting this honor began many years ago. While he was a middle school student, a friend introduced him to the CAP and its Cadet Program. As Mr. Tompkins and his parents learned more about this demanding program, they realized it was a chance for Mr. Tompkins to develop leadership and teamwork skills, gain discipline and learn about the science of aeronautics. His father, T. Lynn Tompkins, Jr., jokingly states, “It is like Boy Scouts on steroids.”

The CAP, which hosts the Cadet Program, was created on Dec. 1, 1941. The Patrol is a congressionally chartered, federally supported nonprofit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The CAP is a volunteer organization with an aviation-minded membership that performs congressionally-assigned key missions including emergency services, search and rescue (by air and ground), disaster relief operation, aerospace education and the Cadet Program. In addition, the CAP has recently been tasked with homeland security and courier service missions. The CAP also performs non-auxiliary missions for various governmental and private agencies, such as local law enforcement and the American Red Cross.

The Cadet Program, designed for students ages 12-18, helps instill the values and the mission of the CAP and offers unique experiences for students to develop in discipline, knowledge and service. Cadets meet weekly to learn various skills. Through the week, cadets are expected to study materials, improve personal fitness levels and practice different drills and procedures. In addition to weekly meetings, Cadets are invited to participate in summer and winter encampments to train, study and participate in select activities.

Mr. Tompkins shares, “In the CAP, I have served in a wide array of positions ranging from logistics, public affairs, recruiting and multiple command level positions. I did spend most of my time at the local unit level serving as the Cadet Commander. My duties consisted of long-term planning in order to ensure growth of the unit, while maintaining a high standard of training. I was also chosen to represent the CAP in the International Air Cadet Exchange as a Cadet ambassador to China, where I spent two weeks this summer.”

As Mr. Tompkins progressed through the

Cadet ranks, his father points out that the skills and leadership he gained had a strong role in his development and allowed him many exciting opportunities that few others have at such a young age. The program even offered him the opportunity to go to China and receive his pilot’s license. His father believes his son’s success within the program was also instrumental in his receiving a four-year Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) scholarship upon graduation from Wakeland High School this past year.

While in the Cadet Program, Mr. Tompkins proved he was a strong leader, facilitating many encampment opportunities and serving as Commander of the Frisco Squadron before joining the Thunderbolt Composite Squadron. As his parents watched him become increasingly dedicated to serving in the program, they continued to support him to achieve each Cadet’s ultimate goal, the receipt of the General Carl A. Spaatz Award. “We are really proud of him, and we are really excited for him,” states Mr. Tompkins’ father.

The General Carl A. Spaatz award is the CAP’s highest cadet honor and is given to select cadets who have reached a level of excellence in leadership, character, fitness and aerospace education. To qualify for this award, Cadets must devote an average of five years to progress through 16 achievements in the CAP Cadet Program. Cadets must complete a demanding four-part exam comprising of physical fitness challenges, an essay exam testing moral reasoning, a comprehensive written exam on leadership as well as a comprehensive written exam on aerospace education. Those achieving recognition are promoted to the grade of Cadet Colonel. “When I realized that I completed all the requirements for the Spaatz exam, it took me a couple of minutes to comprehend the achievement. It was the culmination of five years of hard work, which took a lot of effort and time to achieve. It was rewarding to be acknowledged for reaching the ‘end’ of the cadet program,” Mr. Tompkins says.

The General Carl A. Spaatz Award is given in honor of Carl A. Spaatz, the first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. He became the first chairman of the CAP National Board after his retirement from the Air Force.

Captain Stephanie Oliver, the Deputy Commander of the Thunderbolt Composite Squadron, speaks highly of Mr. Tompkins and notes his leadership within the program. “He was incredibly responsible and very respectful to all people. He was a great mentor to the younger boys coming into the program. He (demonstrated) a high level of integrity,” she says.

Lieutenant Nathan Touvell and Lieutenant Edward Korona, who both serve as a Deputy Commander of Cadets (DCC), each worked closely with Mr. Tompkins as he sought to achieve the General Carl A. Spaatz Award. In response to Mr. Tompkins achieving the award, Captain Oliver states, “We were thrilled! It is a very difficult award to achieve. We were simply thrilled!”

Mr. Tompkins shares, “While the Spaatz Award is an individual achievement, no one earns it on their own. Throughout my time in the CAP, I have had outstanding Cadets and senior members supporting me with my progression. The Spaatz Award is recognition of perseverance to the individual who achieves it. It speaks of the quality of the unit who helped the Cadet achieve the award.”

Mr. Tompkins understands the importance of serving his community, even at such a young age. He shares, “I believe it is important to serve your community because it brings individuals to be a part of something greater than themselves. It also teaches selflessness and teamwork that is important for anyone who plans to be a leader in the military or in the civilian career field.”

As Mr. Tompkins continues to grow in his service to the community and country, he serves as a role model to others for his outstanding perseverance, dedication and loyalty.