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Quality Cadet Unit Award



Any cadet unit that displays strong program fundamentals can earn the Quality Cadet Unit Award. This award motivates squadrons to pursue goals that will inevitably lead to their having a vibrant Cadet Program. The award is purely objective. Cadet and composite squadrons who meet the challenging criteria below automatically earn the award. The award can serve as a helpful management tool. Local leaders can use its award criteria to gauge the relative health of their Cadet Program. Wing leaders can use the program data to identify squadrons that are flourishing, and perhaps use leaders of those outstanding units to mentor leaders in nearby units that did not earn the award.


2023 - 2024 CRITERIA

Award winners are determined by their performance from 31 August 2023 through 31 August 2024. The award criteria are entirely objective. Units with a minimum of 10 cadets that meet at least 6 of the 10 criteria listed below on 31 August 2024 earn the award.

  • Enrollment: Unit has at least 25 cadets listed on its roster

  • Onboarding: 70% of all new cadets from 31 August 2023 earned Achievement 1 in 8 weeks

  • Cadet Achievement: 45% of cadets on roster have attained the Wright Brothers Award

  • Orientation Flights: 70% of cadets on roster have first flight credit

  • Encampment: 50% of cadets on roster have graduated encampment

  • Emergency Services: 60% of cadets on roster have GES certification

  • *Outside Activities: Unit participated in a Red Ribbon Leadership Academy, AE ACE+ Adopt Program, CAP Solar Eclipse Mission or a STEM competition listed here: CyberPatriot, StellarXplorers, American Rocketry Challenge, UAS4STEM, High Altitude Balloon Challenge

  • Aerospace: Unit has submitted a Aerospace Excellence Award (AEX) Completion Report or sent in an AAR after ordering a STEM Kit during this award cycle

  • TLC Graduates: Unit has at least 3 current Training Leaders of Cadets graduates on its roster

  • Specialty Track: Unit has at least 2 Senior Members with a Cadet Programs Specialty Track rating

* new or adjusted for 2024


All cadet and composite squadrons and flights with a minimum of 10 cadets are eligible


Outside Activities

The goal of the Outside Activities criterion is to encourage units to interact with organizations outside of CAP.  The following activities/competitions are approved for credit:

Red Ribbon Leadership Academy  


America Rocketry Challenge  



High Altitude Balloon Challenge

AE ACE+ Adopt Program  

CAP Solar Eclipse Mission (New for QCUA 2024)

To receive credit for an above STEM competition or RRLA please submit proof of participation here. Credit will be automatically added to the QCUA reports in March/April for CyberPatriot and StellarXplorers, in May for the CAP Solar Ecliple Mission and in late summer for the High Altitude Balloon Challenge and AE ACE+ Adopt. If you're familiar with another STEM competition that you think should be considered to be included for future years, please submit to for consideration.  



Pull the Quality Cadet Unit Report from Member Reports to see how your unit is doing. Please note that this is a tracking report and numbers change throughout the year.

Find a detailed breakdown of your QCUA numbers in eServices > Cadet Programs > Cadet Promotions > QCUA Details



1.  Each September, NHQ will examine every cadet and composite squadron’s performance in the criteria above, as reflected in eServices. Every cadet and composite squadron is automatically considered for the award – there is no application procedure necessary.

2.  Initial data is sent to all commanders for questions and corrections, as necessary.

3.  NHQ will announce the winning squadrons on this webpage. Streamers will be mailed to the respective wing headquarters.  Certificates will be emailed to each wing for printing and presentation at a suitable venue.



Cadet and composite squadrons that qualify for the Quality Cadet Unit Award will receive the following:

1.  An award emblem for the unit’s website, letterhead, recruiting materials, and other publications (available for download on this page)

2.  A Quality Cadet Unit Award streamer and certificate that will be presented by wing headquarters at an appropriate venue

Streamer elements provided by NHQ starting in 2019.  Wings or units may choose to purchase streamers for previous years from Vanguard.



1.    I think our unit should be credited for something that isn't appearing on the report.  How can I make sure we receive the credit?

The award and associated report pull the information directly from eServices.  Most likely you'll need to make sure the information has been entered into the associated module correctly.  Here's how the award elements are tracked:

  • Adult Leadership: TLC credit granted when the TLC director sends the CAPF11 of participants to

  • Aerospace Excellence Award: Credit granted through AEX module by completing an AEX Completion Report

  • STEM Kit:  Send in an after-action report on a STEM Kit.  Credit will be given for the year the kit is completed, regardless of when the kit was ordered.

  • Cadet Achievement and Onboarding: Cadet Promotions module

  • Outside Activities: Automatic for CAP Solar Eclipse Mission, CyberPatriot, StellarXplorers, High Altitude Balloon Challenge and AE ACE+ Adopt Proram. Eservices reporting module under construction for other activities. 

  • GES:  CAPT 116 General ES in AXIS 

If you cannot resolve the issue with one of the above links, email us at  

2.    How does the Quality Cadet Unit Award affect the Squadron of Merit Award program? 
The Squadron of Merit Award remains in effect, but only one squadron per wing wins that award each year. The SOM program allows the wing commander to make subjective judgments about which unit is the “best” in the wing, while the Quality Cadet Unit Award is purely objective. One would hope that the SOM winner would also be a QCUA winner, but that is not a pre-requisite.   

3.     My unit experienced a special circumstance this year (new charter, spun off a new squadron, merged with another squadron).  How can I make sure this is taken into consideration?

The data can sometimes give an inaccurate view of what’s actually happening on the ground.  The guidelines for the award are meant to encourage squadrons to stretch and pursue goals they might not otherwise.  They are not meant to discourage recruiting, allowing transfers, nor promoting cadets before they're ready or anything similar.  However, earning the award does require some planning. Units should incorporate QCUA goals into their Cadet Programs goals that are reviewed quarterly. A cohort recruiting approach is recommended to help new cadets reach the onboarding goal during the award cycle. Each year the draft data is sent to all commander in early September.  There is a link included to submit a request for a change or correction.  Please let us know if there's been an extenuating circumstance so we can make sure the data represents the unit. 

4.     Isn’t the Quality Cadet Unit Award basically a return of the “CAP-MAP” program of the 1980s?
Not at all. CAP-MAP measured administrative inputs – Did you complete a chaplain report?, Did you submit an encampment report?, Did you appoint a CAC representative?, etc. In contrast, the QCUA measures outcomes – Are you flying cadets?, Are you sending cadets to encampment?, Is your unit growing? It was conceivable for a CAP-MAP winning unit to be a paper tiger, while a QCUA winning unit will necessarily have an active, flourishing Cadet Program.  

5.  How can I get credit for the Outside Activities category? 

Currently only participation in the CAP Solar Eclipse Mission, CyberPatriot, America Rocketry Challenge, StellarXplorers, UAS4STEM, High Altitude Balloon Challenge and AE ACE+ Adopt Program or hosting a Red Ribbon Leadership Academy will confer credit.  CyberPatriot and StellarXplorers credit is entered in March/April after the final rounds are complete. CAP Solar Eclipse Mission credit will be added in May. High Altitude Balloon Challenge and AE ACE+ Adopt Program credit will be added in the late summer. If you hosted an RRLA or participated in one of the other competitions, please send documentation to and we'll add the credit.  Participating with a local airshow, middle school aviation day, or other community events are outstanding activities, but do not meet the QCUA criteria. 

6. My unit is struggling with the Onboarding category. Can you share some best practices? 

National Cadet Programs presented at the 2021 National Conference on just this topic! Please watch this video to learn more about squadrons who have implemented cohort recruiting to improve their onboarding process.  Cohort recruiting is highlighted in the presentation and is an excellent way  to onboard cadets and help them reach their Curry Achievement. Units are encouraged to choose the timing and frequency of their cohorts to work within the QCUA award cycle. Earning QCUA requires some strategy. We recommend using the Great Start program as an onboarding curriculum for new cadet members.


Tammy Hallihan, Program Manager

Last update: 12 September 2023

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