Perseverance Leads Marietta Teen to Highest Cadet Achievement
|Charcoal Portrait by Emma Merritt
In November 2013, a 13-year-old girl joined Civil Air Patrol and soon set out on her first cadet activity, the Mississippi Wing Cadet Conference, for her first time to ever stay away from home. She was admittedly scared, and she asked her parents to let her stay home the night before we flew to Mississippi. Fast-forward five years and she is a Cadet Colonel with a resume unparalleled in Civil Air Patrol (CAP). But fast-forwarding through these 5 years would be like fast-forwarding though the Appalachian Trail - you would miss some awesome scenes. Events like four major surgeries in less than 2 years, while she was still accomplishing so much at school as well as CAP. Whitney has just graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA. She also dual-enrolled at several universities and completed 60 credit hours before graduating high school. This means that she is now a junior in college at only 18 years old. Outside of CAP and school, she’s a volunteer teacher and mentor at North Point Church and is active in leadership there as well.
“I had my first surgery, a tibial derotational osteotomy, on August 9th, 2018,” said Reuschel. “My second surgery was an arthroscopic procedure on my knee on December 18th, 2018. Nine months later I had my third surgery which was a hardware removal from my first surgery and another operation on my knee. Finally, I had my fourth surgery, a femoral de-rotational osteotomy, in December.” For those counting, that is 4 major surgeries in just over 1 year. These aren’t just deviated septums or fractured bones, two of those surgeries required that surgeons break her leg in two places, turn the bone, and then reset it correctly with steel rods. She did this, back and forth to physical therapy along with being on and off of crutches, in severe pain most of the time, and almost always with an infectious smile.
When asked why she joined Civil Air Patrol she smiled and confessed it was a loving competition between her and her older brother, Major Jacob Reuschel. “My older brother had been a member for two years at this point, and when I was too young to join, I would sit outside at his squadron meetings and watch everything that was going on. I loved the uniforms, the activities, and honestly, I just wanted to do anything my older brother was doing.” Her commitment to CAP had two caveats: she made her brother Jacob promise her she would NOT have to get in “one of those tiny planes”, and she had no interest in encampments. “When I first joined CAP, I had several goals and expectations,” C/Col Reuschel said, “First, as someone who was and is deathly afraid of heights, I promised myself I would never get into one of those tiny planes for an orientation flight. I also hated the idea of encampments, and I was sure that I would only go to one when it was absolutely necessary to achieve my Mitchell Award. As far as goals go, I told the board members of my promotion board to Cadet Airman that I had three goals. I wanted to be a Spaatz Cadet, I wanted to attend the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE), and I wanted to outrank my older brother.”
She has now achieved the highest cadet ranking possible, Cadet Colonel. Along the way she has served as Cadet Commander for Georgia Wing’s Marietta Museum Cadet Squadron, and she completed the
Photo Credit: 2d Lt James Roberts, GAWG/DO
requirements for the Emergency Services qualification of Communications Unit Leader at the age of 14, making her the youngest cadet ever to achieve that status. She has been on staff for cadet conferences, search and rescue exercises, encampments, the National Emergency Services Academy, Alabama Wing’s Emergency Services School, the Southeast Region Cadet Leadership School, and more.
When questioned about inspirations in her life, she was very quick to say “…my faith, my family, my mentors both in and out of Civil Air Patrol. I have always been very persistent (my mom would call it stubborn), and this drive and determination is a huge part of who I am. Once I set my mind on something, I refuse to give up until I’m satisfied.”
There was a time when she wanted to quit the CAP program. There was a period where her peers were critical and she felt like she couldn’t do anything right in their eyes, but like a true leader, she persisted.
Despite her accomplishments, Reuschel still has lofty goals. “Well, my promise to myself regarding those tiny planes lasted approximately two months,” she said. “In January of 2014, I had my first orientation flight, and I fell in love with flying above the clouds. Now I fly every time I get the chance and am even considering a career in commercial aviation.” Encampments proved to be a similar story. “I attended my basic encampment in July of 2015, and the very next year I applied as staff. Since then, I’ve staffed several encampments, and I was selected as the Cadet Commander for the ALWG Encampment this year. I would even go so far as to say that encampments are one of my favorite parts of the cadet program.”
|Photo Credit: C/SMSgt Renee Shaubroeck, GA116
So what happened about the goals she had originally set out for? “I outranked my brother in May of 2019, when I promoted to the grade of C/Lieutenant Colonel. I also achieved my Spaatz Award in December of 2019, as Spaatz Recipient #2265. I have not attended IACE, but I still have over two years left in the cadet program to attain that goal. My goal now is to simply give back to the program that has given so much to me. CAP has provided me with opportunities and experiences that have made me who I am today, and I want to be a part of giving those same opportunities and experiences to the generations of new cadets that are coming after me.”
“Take advantage of every single opportunity that you can. Set your goals and ambitions high and keep your standards even higher. Appreciate the senior members that are voluntarily giving their time and effort to mentor and serve you. Never stop learning and growing; there is always room for improvement. Failure is inevitable; learning from your failures is invaluable.“
These words from an 18-year-old, who like so many CAP cadets, started this journey at only 13. And like the cadets who led her, and the cadets that she has led herself, this young lady is going to do great things; inside and outside of Civil Air Patrol…you can count on it.
For More Information:
1st Lt Richard Rector
Marietta Air Museum Cadet Squadron Public Affairs Officer
(678) 306-6365 ext. 151