Socorro Cadet Earns Civil Air Patrol’s Highest Cadet Award

Socorro Cadet Earns Civil Air Patrol’s Highest Cadet Award

October 18, 2017

SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech student Hugh Shortt has earned the organization’s highest cadet honor, the General Carl A. Spaatz Award for his high performance in the Socorro Civil Air Patrol.

Shortt received the award in a ceremony at the old Base Theater at Kirtland Air Force Base. The Spaatz Award is the Civil Air Patrol’s highest award, presented to cadets who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness, and aerospace education.


Hugh Shortt, NMT student and captain in the Socorro Civil Air Patrol. Shortt won the prestigious and competitive Spaatz Award from the national Civil Air Patrol.


Shortt, 21, is pursuing a double major in petroleum and mechanical engineering, and expects to graduate in May 2019. He is now the Cadet Commander of the Socorro Composite Squadron.

Shortt said the Spaatz Award is the most prestigious designation that junior cadets can achieve in the Civil Air Patrol. Less than one-half of one percent of Civil Air Patrol cadets earn the Spaatz Award. Shortt is only the 24th winner in New Mexico and the 2,067th to achieve the honor in the nation since 1964.

“Earning the Spaatz Award is an impressive accomplishment and is the peak of achievement in the CAP cadet program. We’re very proud of his success and that he did it while a member of our unit,” said Socorro Composite Squadron Commander Major Dennis Hunter, who is also the safety officer at NMT’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center.

“It’s extremely gratifying to see one of our cadets reach the top and join the ranks of those who have set an outstanding example of excellence for the rest of our cadets. On behalf of all New Mexico CAP members, I congratulate Cadet Colonel Shortt on reaching the ultimate goal in our cadet program and wish him the best as he continues his education and his service to CAP,” said Col. Mike Lee, New Mexico Wing Commander.

Shortt is the son of Bruce and Lan Tuyet Shortt of Spring, Texas. Home-schooled, he completed graduation requirements for high school in 2014 and enrolled in New Mexico Tech. He speaks five languages – English, Spanish, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese. He learned the languages from foreign exchange students his parents hosted as he was growing up. He has served as a volunteer court translator.

He also is an accomplished musician. He started playing piano at age 7, and has earned the Piano Guild’s Early Bach Medal, Sonatina Medal, Advanced Bach Medal, Sonata Award, and the Paderewski Medal, the last requiring him to pass ten years of piano auditions at the national and international level. Each of these awards required memorizing and playing lengthy musical compositions.

Spaatz Cadets are expected to serve as role models for junior cadets, and become leaders in their communities as they enter adulthood.

Shortt said he gained many valuable lessons from his experiences in the Civil Air Patrol, including leadership, time management, and, of course, aviation and aerospace.

“The Civil Air Patrol takes raw recruits and creates capable leaders,” he said. “We encourage a mindset of self-discipline, time management, and group discipline. This is important because we take a typical teenager and, when they have finished, they have matured as cadets at a faster rate.”

As Shortt progressed through the ranks, he eventually was an instructor in ballistics, rocketry, and cyber security for younger cadets in ground school. Through the U.S. Civil Engineering Academy, he learned about improved-explosive-device detection, biochemical haz-mat defense, water purification, and runway construction and repair – all while still in high school.

Shortt joined CAP in January of 2010 as a member of Delta Composite Squadron in Spring, Texas. There, he earned steady promotions, becoming a cadet noncommissioned officer in September of 2010, and earning CAP’s General Billy Mitchell Award to become a cadet officer in September of 2011.

Shortt attended CAP encampments in Texas and a number of CAP’s national special cadet activities, including glider flight academies and powered flight academies. He earned the cadet solo pilot rating in 2013. Other CAP special activities included the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineering Academy and the Pararescue and Survival Orientation Course at Kirtland AFB.

In 2013, Shortt was selected to participate in CAP’s prestigious International Air Cadet Exchange Program, traveling to South Korea and visiting the South Korean Air Force Academy, the Demilitarized Zone, and other parts of that country. From 2013 to 2014, he served as Delta Composite Squadron’s Cadet Commander.

Shortt transferred to the Socorro squadron in 2016 and was appointed its cadet commander. Shortt’s career as a CAP cadet will come to an end in October, when he turned 21 and automatically becomes a CAP officer with the rank of captain.

“As our Cadet Commander, Hugh made an immediate, large positive impact on our younger cadets, bringing his wealth of CAP experience and his leadership to teach and inspire them. We look forward to having him as one of our adult officers where I’m sure he will continue to be a positive influence on cadets and expand his contributions into other CAP activities as well,” Hunter said.