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Quality Cadet Unit Award

Any cadet unit that displays strong program fundamentals can earn the Quality Cadet Unit Award. This new award motivates squadrons to pursue goals that we think will inevitably lead to their having a vibrant Cadet Program. The Quality Cadet Unit Award is purely objective. Cadet and composite squadrons who meet the challenging criteria below automatically earn the award. 

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

2014-2015 CRITERIA (Data from 1 September 2014 through 31 August 2015)
The award criteria are entirely objective.  Any unit that meets at least 6 of the 10 criteria listed below, as of 31 August, qualifies:

  • Adult Leadership: Unit has at least 3 Training Leaders of Cadets graduates on its roster
  • Aerospace: Unit earned the Aerospace Excellence Award (AEX) or send in an after-action report on a STEM Kit during the school year
  • Cadet Achievement: 40% of cadets on roster have attained the Wright Brothers Award
  • DDR Participation: 20% of cadets on roster have completed DDRx or unit participated in RRLA
  • Encampment: 50% of cadets on roster have completed encampment
  • Enrollment: Unit has at least 35 cadets listed on its roster
  • Growth: Unit’s cadet roster increased by 10%, or 10 cadets
  • Orientation Flights: 70% of cadets on roster have participated in at least 1 flight
  • Retention: Unit retained 40% of first year cadets (cadets that joined from 1 September 2013 through 31 August 2014)
  • CyberPatriot: Have one or more teams competing in CyberPatriot


First, we are combining the AEX and STEM requirement.  Accomplishing either one will earn that criterion.  Second, we are increasing the Orientation Flight requirement to 70% from 60%.   We are at 66% nationally, so it’s time to raise the bar on that criterion. Finally, with the addition of the Cyber requirement we are increasing the number of items that need to be met by 1 to 6 out of the 10.  In previous years, it was 5 out of 9, but this past year we introduced Cyber and STEM as separate criteria (after the registration for Cyber was closed) and simply added them to the list (still requiring 5, but increasing the number of criterion to 11).   

You can see if your unit is on track to receive the award throughout the year by using the calculations file (excel 2007).  Just fill in the yellow cells.  (Updated for the 2014-15 criteria).


  1. Each September 8th, 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. Each September, NHQ will announce the winning squadrons on this webpage. Award elements will be mailed to the respective wing headquarters, for 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.
  2. A certificate that will be presented by wing headquarters at an appropriate venue


1.    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.   

2.     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.  
3.    Management Tool 
The Quality Cadet Unit 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 QCUA program 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.

Joanna Lee, NHQ Program Manager

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