Lt. Col. Connie O’Grady holds her Exceptional Service Award after receiving it from Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr, CAP national commander. At her left is Col. Chris Hayden, Northeast Region commander.
NEW JERSEY – Lt. Col. Connie O’Grady, assistant government relations officer for the New Jersey Wing, was honored Oct. 13 with Civil AIr Patrol's Exceptional Service Award at the Northeast Region Conference in Melville, N.Y., in recognition of a program she began in 2004 aimed at helping ensure her wing’s cadets get into college.
Through the program, cadets receive a state legislative resolution, signed by the president of the State Senate and speaker of the General Assembly, noting the cadet’s accomplishments in CAP.
O’Grady traced the project’s beginnings to her days as public affairs officer for the Northeast Region. Her duties included receiving quarterly report from the nine wing PAOs, and she noticed that those from the Massachusetts Wing’s 1st Lt. Joseph Mixter included such legislative citations.
That inspired her.
“Back in 1968, I was an aide to the State Senate minority leader,” O’Grady said, “and as such, I had to go to the Senate every Monday and Thursday when the Legislature was in session. When opening a session in the morning, there is a flag salute, followed by the prayer by the chaplain, and then there was the clerk, who read aloud resolutions honoring various citizens within the state of New Jersey.
“I remember all of this, and I decided to help our cadets get into college by this project.”
Her first effort involved getting in touch with the state senator for a cadet who had received CAP’s Amelia Earhart Award – Cadet Capt. Jonathan Standley of the Raritan Valley Composite Squadron, O’Grady’s home unit. The senator secured approval of a legislative resolution commending Standley’s achievement.
“In 2006, when he was a senior in high school, he and his parents went out to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University,” O’Grady recalled. “The interviewer was very impressed with what was on the state document – so much so that there was no question that he would be received as a student.”
Standley, who’s still a New Jersey Wing member as a CAP first lieutenant, was hired by the Federal Air Administration after graduating from Embry Riddle in 2010. He’s a project manager for research and development efforts in support of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen.
O’Grady hopes to see similar programs for college-bound cadets pursued in other wings.
She cited a 2006 newspaper story in the Home News Tribune in New Brunswick, home of Rutgers University, that she said “indicates that colleges and universities are most interested in what a prospective student does besides attending high school.”
“Civil Air Patrol fits that bill to a ‘T,’” she said. “Our cadet program is wonderful, because our cadets are our future leaders of our country.”