By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Not everyone gets the opportunity to be feted by a N.C. Supreme Court justice.
That honor was reserved for Cadet Col. Daniel Donahue June 26 during an awards ceremony for the Franklin County Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
Daniel, 20, of Youngsville, is the squadron’s former cadet commander. He was given two rare awards: one for lifesaving, and another, the Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet honor, the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, presented to cadets who have demonstrated excellence in leadership, character, fitness, and aerospace education. On average, one-half of one percent of cadets earn the honor.
The ceremony took place at the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre. Honoring Donahue with comments was Paul Newby, a sitting justice with the N.C. Supreme Court.
Reading from a letter by N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Newby said, “[Donahue’s] focus on leadership, character, morals, wherewithal, is to be especially commended.”
Citing the importance of service, excellence and integrity in all Donahue does in the future, Newby added, “Daniel, I’m honored to get to commend you on this award, and I’m excited about what the future holds for you.”
The official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, the Civil Air Patrol performs the majority of U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by them with saving an average of 70 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs.
The Franklin County Squadron, the N.C. 145 Falcons, operates at the Triangle North Executive Airport in Louisburg.
Daniel is the son of Frank Donahue, the local squadron commander, and Jennifer Donahue. He is the first cadet from the Franklin County squadron to ever receive the Spaatz award, a national achievement that is earned by the cadet and is not selected locally.
In addition to developing habits of self-discipline, personal responsibility, leadership and persuasion skills and the foundation necessary for pursuing a career in aviation, space, or technology, a Spaatz award winner must complete a challenging physical fitness test, an essay exam testing their moral reasoning, a comprehensive written exam on leadership, and a comprehensive written exam on aerospace education.
Upon passing the Spaatz Award exams, the cadet is promoted to the grade of cadet colonel.
In his seven years with the Civil Air Patrol, Daniel has served in leadership roles in the Blue Beret, N.C. Wing Ranger School, N.C. Wing encampment and Middle East Search and Rescue College; has completed activities involving powered flight, aircraft maintenance, glider flight, and para-rescue orientation; is an airborne photographer and flight line marshal, has piloting and crew certifications and has previously been named squadron cadet of the year three times, as well as winning other commendations.
Daniel’s other award was for an incident at the airport last August in which a fire started in the engine compartment of a Piper airplane while its pilot was attempting to start it, Frank Donahue explained. The pilot was unaware that burning fuel was coming out of the cowling and onto the ground.
Daniel took off running toward the aircraft yelling “Fire! Fire! Fire!” The pilot turned off the fuel and got out. Donahue had already gotten hold of a fire hose, “which he used to actually wash the flame out of the cowling of the airplane and extinguish it,” Frank Donahue said.
The plane was adjacent to a hangar and fuel truck, so the situation could have been serious.
Daniel is currently a pilot and is training both as an airframe and power plant mechanic at the Franklin County airport, and is taking classes at Wake Tech.
He has chosen to stay in the Civil Air Patrol as a senior member.
During the ceremony, Daniel was humble about the recognitions.
“As much as this award was given to me and I love receiving it, it’s so much about so many people in the room,” he said about the Spaatz award, referring to the other cadets and leaders present. “Without a lot of the people in the room, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Other awards presented
Other awards given at the ceremony went to Noah Stange, Nick Siciliano and Korey Floyd. Siciliano and Floyd were given the Gen. Billy Mitchell award, which marks their entry into the cadet officer ranks.
Stange was recognized as the first cadet in the Franklin County squadron to achieve solo flight in a glider.
Glider planes have no motor and are towed into the air by another aircraft. Stange had to keep the glider stable to prevent it from destabilizing the towing aircraft, and upon release, he glided it safely to the ground.
It’s one skill that could come in handy during a flight in a powered aircraft with engine failure.
Referencing his son’s and Stange’s achievements, Frank Donahue said, “These firsts — you guys have opened doors, you have shown the way, led your peers and opened the path to success.”