MIDDLE RIVER — Early on in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program, Greggor Hines had set his sights on earning the coveted General Carl A. Spaatz Award, the highest honor for a cadet in the program. It is an award only a mere handful of cadets in the program’s history have been able to earn, and on June 21, Hines did what once seemed unthinkable to him. He successfully completed the three-phase test required to earn the award and a promotion to the grade of cadet colonel.
“It was an amazing honor and experience,” he said. “I hope to set an example and show other students that anyone can do it.”
Despite failing the grueling physical phase of test twice, he persevered and never gave up, and on his third and final try, he gave it everything he had left in him and passed it.
“By the end, I was destroyed. I could hardly breathe, and I even threw up a couple of times,” he said. “But in that moment, I knew I gave it my all, and it was a mix of relief and joy.”
In addition to an essay and a written exam including questions on aerospace and leadership, Hines had to complete three aspects of a physical fitness test – 62 pushups in two minutes, 81 sit-ups in two minutes and a 6:30-minute mile. He also had to progress through 16 achievements in the cadet program to qualify for the Spaatz Award.
For reference, the cadet program has tens of thousands of active cadets across the country, and only 2,343 cadets have received the Spaatz Award since it was added to the program in 1964. Hines said that a lack of willpower is the most significant barrier for other cadets to earn it, though he had learned throughout his cadet career to push himself and aim high.
In fact, one of the most important lessons he has taken away from the program was from his mentor in 2017, who told him that even when things are not going his way, he should never give up.
He was appointed Cadet Commander of Maryland Wing’s Glenn L. Martin Composite Squadron in Middle River – the unit through which he earned the award – and was responsible for managing orientation flights. He said that things were falling apart at the time and not going well for him as a leader. He was dispirited and wanted to give up, but his mentor reminded him that he needs to set the example for others on how to act.
“She said, ‘The moment that you want to give up is the exact moment that you can’t, because success is right on the other side,’” he said. “It has made me more resilient in moments when I want to give up.”
Hines, who is originally from Arizona, joined the cadet program at 12 years old in 2011, as part of the Oregon Wing’s Salem Composite Squadron. In 2014, he moved to Baltimore and transferred to the Maryland Wing’s Glenn L. Martin Composite Squadron.
He had joined the Civil Air Patrol’s cadet program because he had been passionate about aviation ever since he was two years old, and he had a strong interest in learning to fly. His parents searched for ways to him to fly for cheap, and they discovered that the Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer, nonprofit auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, has a youth cadet program in which members have the opportunity to fly airplanes.
Only two weeks after joining, Hines participated in an orientation flight, in which he was able to handle the controls of an aircraft above 1,000 feet, and that got him hooked. Every cadet in the program is entitled to five flights in gliders and five in powered aircraft that are each accompanied by a licensed Civil Air Patrol pilot.
Hines said that although he joined the program because he wanted to fly, he stayed because it helped him develop character. As he continued to rise through the program and increase his rank, he found that he enjoyed the challenge of military life and learning about leadership and aerospace.
Integral to the cadet program is the challenge to lead other cadets, and at 16 years old, Hines was given that opportunity as Cadet Commander of the Glenn L. Martin Composite Squadron, and he set strategic and operational objectives and delegated authority to other cadets to meet those objectives.
He was also appointed as Cadet Commander for Tri-Wing Encampment (Delaware, Maryland and D.C.) in 2021, a week-long period of military basic training during which he had even more hands-on leadership development. He learned to love the challenge of responsibility, leadership and motivating others.
Hines is now a rising senior and ROTC student at Towson University, and he is majoring in physics, which he said has helped him understand the forces of flight and how planes fly. He plans to commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force after graduation, and eventually pursue a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
Hines said that he will continue to carry the lessons he learned from the program with him for the rest of his life.
“Everything I have learned from the program is absolutely incredible, and I have been able to use that through everyday life,” he said. “I’d also like to thank all of those who have inspired and supported me along the way. I would not have been able to do this without them.”