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C/Col Nathan Bouffard Earns His Spaatz Award

cadet with Spaatz award
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Representative Julia C. Howard of the North Carolina General Assembly (right) and NC Wing Commander, Col R. Jason Bailey (left) present C/Col Nathan Bouffard with his Spaatz award. Photo Credit: 2d Lt Virginia Khouri, CAP (click image to view full size)
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NC-082 cadet triumphs over tragedy

3/10/2018––On 16 February 2018, during NC-082's Dining Out event, Representative Julia C. Howard of the North Carolina General Assembly and NC Wing Commander, Col R. Jason Bailey, presented C/Col Nathan Bouffard with his Spaatz Award. The Spaatz Award is the highest Civil Air Patrol (CAP) award that a cadet can achieve and is named after General Carl Spaatz. It is a promotion to Cadet Colonel and takes more time and effort than anything else, cadet-wise, in CAP.

The Winston-Salem Composite Squadron (NC-082) has been around a long time: 49 years, 3 months and 8 days at the date of this writing. The squadron has many traditions and a distinguishing one is producing what is affectionately called the "Spaatz Cadet." In the last 13 years, six cadets from NC-082 have achieved the Spaatz Award. So this story is about the squadron tradition of excellence and leadership and a rather unique cadet, C/Col Nathan Bouffard.  
A young Nathan Bouffard accompanied his father, David Bouffard, to the Winston-Salem Air Show in 2009 where there was a CAP booth. Since he was only 11 years old at the time, it took 6 months of waiting but in 2010, the two Bouffards were recruited to CAP. It was a bit of a guilt trip – David wanted his son in the cadet program while he himself pursued the Cadet Programs specialty track. Some time later, David Bouffard became the squadron's Assistant Deputy Commander for Cadets. Nathan meanwhile was busy promoting and attended encampment as a Basic at the grade of Cadet Airman First Class.
Later Nathan was presented with the Wright Brothers Award (which promoted him to Cadet Staff Sergeant) by his father. By the time he headed off to the 2012 Wing encampment, as assistant Cadet PAO, he had made Cadet Technical Sergeant, putting him past the Learning Phase and into the Leadership Phase of the Cadet Program.
Two more promotions left him at Cadet Chief Master Sergeant in 2012. He blames a fear of public speaking for keeping him from ranking up faster. However, he wanted to be a C/2d Lt since he thought then that, “I believed I needed rank to have power.” That was enough motivation for him to earn the Neil Armstrong Achievement in March of 2013.
In the middle of June 2013, 1st Lt and Deputy Commander for Cadets David Bouffard passed away. Nathan’s CAP life continued through that tragedy when a mere few days later, he was promoted to C/2d Lt, receiving the Billy Mitchell Award. “Promotions back then were held at the end of the meeting and I passed the test that night. If I’d achieved the Neil Armstrong Award earlier, my dad would have pinned me before he died.” Bouffard stayed in CAP but his promotions ended for more than a year.  
Nathan quit CAP in 2014 and his attention turned to JROTC. In 2015, while a high school junior, Nathan struggled heavily, as would be expected after such trauma. In addition to poor grades due to depression, he had to deal with recruitment rejection from all four branches of the military. And he was not motivated to attend a four-year college. 
In 2016, Cadet Bouffard came back to NC-082 having been convinced by fellow cadet, Josh Woodard, to return. He used his JROTC experience to stress his new knowledge that: rank doesn’t mean power, it means responsibility. He then set himself up to earn rank much faster. “I had to make a decision about whether to rejoin as a senior or as a cadet. I thought I would be more effective as a cadet and I wanted to make a difference in the Cadet Program.” That August, C/Capt Bouffard became the NC-082 cadet commander. He had some huge ideas. “My dream was to lead a squadron with the idea that it would be as perfect as possible. I wanted to lead parades and have promotions and have a good chain of command.” This impressive youthful idealism was followed by a promotion to C/Maj that fall.
However, Cadet Bouffard had clearly experienced more of life in a few years than most people. He had been dealt a serious trauma and had handled the aftershock at a particularly young age. He now had the reasoning skills to realize what he could really accomplish as a cadet commander. “Halfway there, after getting my Major, I realized that I couldn’t make my dream happen alone. I had to guide them. So I changed my long-term goal and reorganized the (cadet) squadron to help the next Cadet Commander.” That realization led to a promotion to C/Lt Col and earned him the Eaker Award at the squadron's Dining Out event in 2017.  
This put him less than a year away from promoting to Cadet Colonel by earning the Spaatz Award. It was an intense time. He had started training in emergency medical services – considered one of the most stressful careers available – and he was sacrificing study time for the Spaatz Exam due to his other responsibilities. He was definitely ready and even eager to transfer to the Senior Member side of CAP. At one point, it was pointed out to him that he should at least attempt to “get Spaatz” because he was still eligible. (Senior Members cannot even attempt the Spaatz Award.) 
The squadron's Senior Members knew without any doubt that Cadet Bouffard could achieve the Spaatz Award. The squadron was alerted with the great news of Cadet Bouffard's Spaatz accomplishment on 27 January 2018, when he officially passed all the elements to promote to C/Col. 
In persevering to earn his Spaatz Award, C/Col Nathan Bouffard turned a great tragedy into a great triumph. His father, David Bouffard, would be proud.