Freshman receives national award from Civil Air Patrol

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
It's a bit easier to spot Cadet 4th Class Sara Fishbein these days: She's the one with a brand new feather in her cap.

The Civil Air Patrol recently named Fishbein, a native of Dayton, Ohio, the top CAP cadet in the nation.

"I found out during Basic (Cadet Training)," Fishbein said. "I found out as soon as I got back from basic that CAP had coordinated with the Academy and was actually going to let me travel to the event."

Fishbein joined the CAP when she was 13 because she believed the Air Force Academy considered CAP experience on applications, she said.

"I ended up completely falling in love with the program," she said. "CAP kept me really focused and headed in the right direction."

Retired Gen. Stephen Lorenz, a 1973 Academy graduate and head of the USAFA Endowment, was the guest speaker at the award ceremony. Several other Academy alumni also attended.

"It was my first time talking to Academy graduates outside of the Academy since coming here," Fishbein said. "It was really neat, seeing where I could potentially be in 10 or 15 years."

She said highlights of her CAP experience included a trip to Australia for an International Air Cadet Exchange and a Pararescue orientation course at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

"I got the chance to meet (Defense Secretary) Leon Panetta when he was the director of the CIA ... just a number of super-cool opportunities," she said. "But I also spent a lot of time in my local squadron and worked through some of the leadership positions there."

Those leadership positions prepared Fishbein to take an active role in her squadron, said Lt. Col. DeAnna Franks, air officer commanding for Cadet Squadron 17.

"In a very short time, Fishbein has set the bar high for all four degrees in CS 17 and other squadrons in the wing," Franks said. "Her impressive Civil Air Patrol background and her experience attending a preparatory school comes across in her every move in squadron military training, inspections and physical tests. I'm excited to see where her future Air Force journey takes her."

Fishbein keeps in touch with her former squadron-mates, many of whom are active-duty Airmen now, she said.

"Some are in ROTC, some are here and at the other military academies, and some are kicking butt in the civilian world," she added.

She said she plans to continue her involvement with CAP. The Air Academy Cadet Squadron meets regularly on base.

"If I'm a pilot, it'll be pretty tricky to have any kind of significant involvement for a few years," she said. "But it was an extremely invaluable program to me. I know I was super grateful to all the mentors I had, especially the ones from the Air Force and the Academy. I would pick their brains on everything ... they answered a lot of questions for me and provided good examples."

Nominees for the cadet of the year award are first selected to compete at the squadron level. Squadron selectees compete through 52 CAP wings, then in one of eight geographic regions. Those eight finalists meet a national review panel.

CAP provides roughly 10 percent of the Academy's cadets, according to the organization's fact sheet. It conducts roughly 90 percent of Air Force search-and-rescue operations within the U.S. and offers orientation flights in both powered and glider aircraft. CAP is open to anyone 12 years old and older. More information on the Air Academy Cadet Squadron is available at