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Lt. Col. Paul Adams Willard II, Virginia DAE and current Brewer Lifetime Achievement award recipient, reflects on long CAP career

Posted on February 10, 2022 at 9:51 AM by Virginia Smith

Lt. Col. Paul Adams Willard II shares Civil Air Patrol information at the Virginia Aviation Business Association Legislative Reception.

February 7, 2022

Meet Lt. Col. Paul Adams Willard II, Director of Aerospace Education for Virginia Wing. He is a 50 Year member of Civil Air Patrol, starting as a cadet at the suggestion of a friend. "I advanced in the Cadet Program as fast as I could," he says. He earned the Spaatz Award in 1972. He is the 2021 winner of the Frank G. Brewer, Sr. CAP Memorial Aerospace Award in the Lifetime Achievement Category. After working in other mission areas earlier in his career, he began working in CAP's Aerospace Education when he became an Air Force JROTC instructor. "STEM is the need for the future of our country," he says. "It is a critical field!" Through his work through several STEM programs in Virginia, he has reached thousands of students. His AFJROTC career followed a career in the U.S. Air Force. Now he is a university professor. In his almost 53 years in CAP, he has seen the organization grow. We asked him some questions about his CAP career and his answers follow.

When and why did you get involved in Civil Air Patrol?

I joined CAP as a Cadet in 1969 with the Roanoke Composite Squadron. In Roanoke, Virginia. A high school classmate told me about CAP and the possibility of learning to fly airplanes. We went to a meeting and learned about CAP. He didn’t stay involved, but I did. I was a Cadet 1-striper for a long time until the revised cadet program was developed by Jack Sorenson. After that, I advanced in the cadet program as fast as I could and achieved the Spaatz award, and then the Falcon Award.

How many years have you been in Civil Air Patrol? Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current roles. 

This year, 2022, will make 53 years that I have been involved in CAP. While in college I stayed active in CAP and was a squadron Public Affairs Officer.  After college I took a commission in the Air Force and remained active in CAP with every assignment I had in the Air Force. I have been a Deputy CC for Cadets, Wing PAO, Wing Chief of Staff, Safety Officer, Air Force Base Liaison Officer, National CC Advisor, Air Force Association Advisor, and am currently Wing DAE.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your Civil Air Patrol experience?

There are so many benefits I had from CAP.

Special Activities:  I was awarded a Solo Scholarship as a Cadet and actually was able to fly an airplane. When I was a college student, CAP was critical in awarding me College Education Grants which allowed me to complete a bachelor’s degree. And after having participated in IACE (International Air Cadet Exchange), it changed the way I think of the world and the role of the United States in the world arena. I learned so much from the way the IACE program is conducted, not just about world aviation but world cultures.

As a Fifty-Year member of CAP, please tell us how you’ve seen the organization grow through the years from the time you first joined.

The Mission of Search And Rescue has expanded so much to where it expanded far beyond SAR and taken on a role of Emergency Services in multiple areas. The impact of AE and Cadet programs has grown unbelievably from when I was a Cadet. When you look at the opportunities for Cadets compared to when I was one, it truly boggles my mind. It is so much more than just flying or aviation. The Special Activities

A portrait of Cadet Willard
Current CAP portrait of Lt. Col. Paul Willard

Lt. Col. Willard's CAP career started as a cadet more than 50 years ago. Now he is the Virginia Wing DAE.

programs and the variety are incredible. The AE program is truly rich in STEM for a young person.

Tell us about your career outside of Civil Air Patrol.  Why did you choose this career?

I am currently on my third career! I was a career Air Force Officer and then an AF JROTC instructor. Now I am a university professor.

Is there anything else about your aerospace education background (such as awards) that you'd like to include within and outside of CAP. 

After retiring from the Air Force, I began a second career as a Air Force JROTC Instructor.  My experience in CAP and in particularly the classroom materials enhanced my ability to deliver a quality program in the classroom.  I extensively used materials from the old CAP supply depot, and when STEM kits came out, that provided me with a hands-on experience for my students. My JROTC class became the most popular elective class in the school curriculum that was offered. I usually experienced more students in my classes than I had seats for them.

I took to education, and that led to my current position as a university professor. I teach for the Defense Acquisition University as a full professor and am an adjunct professor for Florida Institute of Technology. I teach business-related courses.

Awards and recognition:

I was very honored to receive the National 2021 Brewer Award for Lifetime Achievement in AE. Read more about Lt. Col. Willard's achievements here

Tell us about some of the outreach projects you have worked on.  

Mission Tomorrow, a program of the Virginia Department of Education, is a joint industry two-day event where about 9,000 middle school students attend an industry fair about possible careers. CAP provided a hands-on STEM experience for these students.

I would also like to share with you where we supported the Virginia Air Force Association and the Legacy Flight Academy in conducting an “Eyes Above the Horizon” program, where we provided a day-long aviation experience for over 50 middle school students from lower income backgrounds. CAP provided a hands-on STEM experience using multiple STEM kits, and the AFA and Legacy Flight Academy provided an orientation flight in a small plane.

During the AE award recipient panel discussion at the 2021 CAP National Conference, you mentioned meeting a number of prominent names in the aerospace industry during your career.

I met so many aviation celebrities: Paul Garber, Jimmy Doolittle, George Gay, Gabby Gabreski, Chuck Yeager, Chauncey Spencer, Alan Sheppard, Mary Feik and Scott Crossfield. There are many more, but these are the ones that jump out.

I think the best exchange was with Dr. Paul Garber. We had a one-on-one discussion about his experience from being a small boy holding a photographer’s camera while they demonstrated their airplane for the Army Signal Corps. He then led me on his quest through the years to develop the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 

Why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area? Why do you encourage youth in the Aerospace Education area?

My first association with AE was as an AFROTC Instructor. The materials and STEM Kits that I was able to utilize enhanced my classroom instruction. The materials and resources made the difference between a good class and a great class. STEM is the need for the future of our country. It is a critical field!

What is the best advice you have for a new AE Officer working with cadets?

Embrace the STEM Kits!

Do you have any suggestions for how to conduct outreach in schools (recruiting AEMs)?

You have to show the teachers how the program will enhance their classroom delivery and that they will be able to provide for little or no cost a hands-on application of the theories they are teaching in their classroom. 

Do you have an interesting anecdote from your career that you would like to share?

After meeting Alan Sheppard, he approached me about wanting to meet a fellow member of the Air Force Association, gave me his personal phone number and asked me to make the connection. I responded, "no problem" but "could I get your autograph?" He said, "No problem!" The first American in space! 

Clockwise from top left, his first flight as an Air Force Cadet; CAP Cadet Willard as a radio operator; the Virginia governor presents Spaatz Awards, (from left) Warrant Officer Paul Willard, Cadet Col. Richard Anderson and Virginia Wing CC Earl Vanstavern

Vintage photo of Lt. Col Willard and other Cadets receiving Spaatz awards from the Virginia Governor


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