An uplifting surprise

March 19, 2019

ROCK FALLS – Dameon Johnson knew his cadets of the Whiteside County Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol would be receiving some sort of prestigious award at their weekly meeting Monday, but it turned out to be a surprise for the Chief Master Sgt. himself.

Johnson, a Sterling High School freshman, not only received a promotion to the final level of his rank, but also the Bronze Medal Good Citizenship Award from the Kishwaukee Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

For years, the award has been given to members of Junior ROTC, Eagle Scouts and law enforcement. Johnson became one of the Rockford-based chapter’s first Civil Air Patrol recipients, as this is the first year that the SAR has given awards to the CAP. 

The award, according to SAR Chapter President Jason Sturges is “for high school kids who have demonstrated a lot of service to their local community.”

“I’m honored, to be honest,” Johnson said. “It’s great to have this award. I was really surprised. I’m happy to get it from an organization that’s going around and honoring those who help their community, and showing who stands out.

“Our squadron is pretty old, and we’ve had a few awards. I’m glad to add to the list.”

Johnson was nominated by his commanding officer, 1st Lt. Rick Smith. Sturges presented Johnson with a certificate and a medal, which was pinned onto his cadet blue uniform by his grandfather, 2nd Lt. William Johnson.

“He’s at our meetings all of the time, and he does a lot of work with the fundraisers that we do,” Smith said of Johnson. “He’s been at all of the events that we’ve had, and he’s our leader of the squadron.”

Johnson remembers the very day he joined the CAP – Oct. 10, 2016. He trains cadets in various ground-based teamwork emergency duties and search and rescue missions. They also help with community events, and will help give out helmets during an upcoming children’s bike ride event. The CAP also helps out at Whiteside County Airport, the location of their weekly meetings, when needed. 

Cadets range from ages 13 to 15, and Johnson would like to see more young men become involved.

“If you want to lead in the military, this is a great step if you want something nice on a resume,” Johnson said. “If you’re interested in search and rescue, or gear toward aerospace education, we go on flights five times a year. Civil Air Patrol also is trying to get more into the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] field, with robotics and drones, and things like that.”

Johnson took on a leadership role about a year and a half ago, and his commanding officer likes what he sees. He’s recently become more interested in aerospace. Smith said that Johnson loves to fly, and he’ll have more opportunities to do that this summer.

“He’s done real well with it,” Smith said. “I know he does some sports and other activities at school as well. He’s a very busy guy, and he does a lot of work.”

Also receiving promotions were Rock Falls High School sophomore Koby Juarez and Morrison Junior High eighth-grader Andrew Scachette. 

Juarez’s brother, Airman 1st Class Joseph Juarez Jr., is stationed at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea. He was home on break to see the promotion, and pinned the new Sr. Cadet Airman insignia on his younger brother, having been promoted from Cadet Airman 1st Class.

“I’ve been in the military for 3 years now, and I feel like where he’s at in his age, I’m missing out on some of the important things,” Joseph said. “To see him on the right track and doing the right thing makes me happy that I’m able to do that for him.”

“I look up to him every day, and it’s great to have my brother come down and pin my achievements,” Koby said.

Scachette was promoted from Cadet Airman Basic to Cadet Airman.

“It feels good,” said Scachette, who had long awaited the promotion. “It definitely feels good to be in a higher rank.”