13-year-old Cadet Second Lieutenant Caroline Shepherd received the General Billy Mitchell Award on Wednesday, April 17th, from Mayor Tim Verzal during Deer Park’s City Council meeting, as a high honor in the Civil Air Patrol.
The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer auxiliary force created on December 1st, 1941, to protect and patrol the coastlines, since the military services at the time were generally inadequate. General Billy Mitchell, the hero for whom the award is named, went to great lengths to agitate his superiors into seeing the need for an air force, and was even court martialed at one point during his career. Nevertheless, Mitchell was posthumously awarded the Gold Medal, and is seen as the “Father of the Independent Air Force”, according to Clay Shepherd, Caroline’s father, who shared the details of the award with the council before the mayor presented the award.
1st Lt Donald F. Morgan Sr, CAP, serves as the Spokane squadron’s public affairs officer, and he spoke with a representative of the Gazette before Wednesday’s meeting to say that Cadet Second Lieutenant Shepherd will probably “get her driver’s license after she learns to fly.” Morgan went on to explain that local and state programs now have scholarships that should assist Shepherd through her time at ground school, flight school, and her solo flight. At that point, she’ll be eligible to receive funding from the Air Force to pay for her flight training through to gaining her pilot’s license.
At 13, Shepherd is one of the youngest recipients in the country of this award. While current statistics are not yet available, at her last promotion she was the youngest cadet in Washington state at her rank, and was the fourth youngest in the nation. Shepherd has been homeschooled by her parents, Clay and Paula Shepherd, up through the 8th grade, and plans to attend Gonzaga Preparatory School next year as a freshman in high school. If she chooses to enlist in the Air Force, this award allows her to skip the lowest two ranks and join as an E3, with the higher pay and privileges that accompany that rank.