High-Flying High School Senior Earns Top Civil Air Patrol Award

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Pleasantville High School senior Grant Becker, a Civil Air Patrol cadet. Becker was recently awarded the highest cadet achievement, the Carl A. Spaatz Award, a prestigious honor for cadets who have worked for five years to complete 16 required achievements in the CAP Cadet Program.

When Grant Becker was 13, he sat in the co-pilot’s seat of a small Cessna 172 plane that was taking off at Westchester County Airport.

At an altitude of 1,000 feet, he was allowed to take control and do basic maneuvers.

“I loved it,” he said, recalling the flight that marked the first leg of his pilot training.

A member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) since 2016, Becker, a Pleasantville High School senior, just earned his private pilot’s certificate through the Civil Air Patrol’s Cadet Wings program, which provides cadet scholarships funded by the United States Air Force to cover the cost of flight training.

When Becker initially received his private pilot’s license, he said he took his mother for a ride in one of the flight school planes.

“She really liked it a lot,” he said.

Becker was recently awarded CAP’s highest cadet achievement, the Carl A. Spaatz Award, a prestigious honor for cadets who have worked for five years to complete 16 required achievements in the Cadet Program. He has served as his squadron’s cadet commander and graduated from Region Cadet Leadership School, a school that specializes not only in leadership training but offers officer training courses as well.  

Becker’s list of accolades also includes graduating from the Hawk Mountain Ranger School, a search-and-rescue training facility operated by Pennsylvania’s Civil Air Patrol, and completing the field medic course, a one-week program for future combat medics.

The local CAP is based at Westchester County Airport, and there is occasional squadron training at Camp Smith.

During the summer Becker said he had basic training at Stratton, the National Guard based near Scotia, N.Y. and has trained privately at a local flight school at the airport.

Becker is currently an emergency medical technician and volunteers with the Pleasantville Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Innovation and construction played a big part in Becker’s childhood. At 10 years old, Becker was one of 13 finalists, out of thousands of applicants, in the 2014 Grow Your Own Business challenge, flying out to Omaha, where he met Warren Buffett.

“My grandpa and I fabricated the wheelchair bike together,” Becker recalled. “One of my classmates was in a wheelchair and since I enjoy riding a mountain bike, I thought why shouldn’t my classmate with a disability be able to do that? I showed the bike to Warren Buffett.”

For 80 years, the Civil Air Patrol has been the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Becker said he always wanted to pursue service and hasn’t ruled out entering the military. Since he was 12, Becker said he has dreamed of going to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

To be accepted to the academy, Becker needed to be nominated by his congressional representative. Just a few weeks ago, Becker was notified that Rep. Mondaire Jones had officially nominated him.

“That means there is a slot at the academy for me,” said Becker. “It’s like a conditional acceptance.”

As a future enrollee at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Becker said he will probably take undergraduate courses towards a Bachelor’s Degree in science and then apply to medical school.

“My hope is to pursue a medical degree as a flight surgeon with a flying squadron,” he said. “They have a few different paths to go down in terms of medical school that leads to the air force or the military in general.”

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