Nicolas Zaster Receives Civil Air Patrol Award

nicolas zaster holding awardSeventeen-year-old Nicolas Zaster received the prestigious General Billy Mitchell Award from the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) on November 21, 2023, at a ceremony held at their meeting location, the American Red Cross Northern New Jersey Headquarters located in Fairfield, NJ. Presented by Major Jimy Menoutis and Lt. Colonel Carol McCloud, the Mitchell Award recognizes Zaster’s sustained excellence in all four areas of cadet life: leadership, aerospace, fitness, and character. 

Only about 15% of cadets who join CAP earn this award. Civil Air Patrol has approximately 25,000 young adults ages 12 to 18 in its cadet program.

As a recipient of the Mitchell Award, Zaster is elevated to the rank of cadet officer and promoted to the grade of Cadet Second Lieutenant. As an officer, he takes on more responsibility for leading junior-ranking cadets while continuing to develop himself as a “dynamic American and aerospace leader.” 

Zaster joined the Civil Air Patrol four years ago and immediately embraced the missions of the Civil Air Patrol, which include aviation, aerospace, volunteerism, and emergency services. He pursued opportunities to learn and lead in his home squadron, the Curtiss-Wright Composite Squadron. Currently, Zaster serves as Cadet Commander for his home squadron, where he commands two flights of cadets (45 teens.) He has held other squadron roles of Deputy Cadet Commander and Flight Sergeant, as well as duty assignments supporting public affairs and IT/technology.

Zaster has also participated in CAP activities at the New Jersey Wing and Northeast Region levels. In March, Zaster traveled to Washington, D.C., with 12 other cadet delegates to meet with elected officials and legislators about CAP’s impact and mission. He also served as photographer and public affairs support at the NJ Wing Cadet Conference (2023) and Rhode Island Wing 2022 basic encampment training. In 2021, Zaster attended the Wisconsin Cadet Academy at Camp Douglas.

Bilingual, speaking Russian and English, Zaster is a 3.75 GPA honors student and an active community member. He is a photographer for the Livingston High School Media Association and an executive board member for the National Art Honor Society chapter at Livingston High School. Last summer, he held an internship in Israel, working with a 3-D printing start-up. 

Zaster has been working to obtain a private pilot’s license for the last two years. He has logged over 30 hours of airtime and expects to complete his FAA private pilot licensing in early 2024. After graduation from high school, he plans to study aerospace as he continues to work towards a full-time career in commercial aviation.

Zaster lives in Livingston, NJ, with his siblings and parents, who are first-generation immigrants from Ukraine. 

About the Curtiss-Wright Composite Squadron

Curtiss-Wright Composite Squadron is a local unit of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) that has 45 cadets plus adult members who reside in West Orange, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, East Hanover, Fairfield, Livingston, Morristown, Parsippany, Roseland, and Wayne. The squadron meets on Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the American Red Cross Northern New Jersey Headquarters, 209 Fairfield Road, Fairfield, NJ.

More about the CAP Curtiss-Wright Composite Squadron is here:

About Civil Air Patrol

Founded in 1941 and established as the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force seven years later, Civil Air Patrol is chartered by Congress as a nonprofit organization for the purposes of youth development, aerospace education, and to promote general aviation. In an auxiliary role as a Total Force partner of the Air Force, CAP operates the world’s largest fleet of single-engine aircraft for search and rescue, disaster relief, training, and education. Civil Air Patrol is dedicated to serving America’s communities, saving lives, and shaping futures.

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CAP has three core programs — Emergency Services, Cadet Programs, and Aerospace Education. 

CAP plays a leading role in aerospace and STEM education in the United States. Each year, CAP's nationwide cadet program provides over 25,000 young people access to training, education, and mentoring to develop future leaders in aviation, engineering, aerospace, cyber security, community building, and leadership. 


The Gen. Billy Mitchell Award was established in 1964. This award honors the late Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, aviation pioneer and staunch supporter of an independent Air Force for America. The award is earned after completing the first eight achievements of the cadet program. Mitchell recipients must pass a series of examinations on leadership and aerospace topics and have completed a week-long encampment immersing them in a challenging leadership and STEM environment.

Mitchell Award recipients are eligible to attend CAP’s Cadet Officer School and the Civic Leadership Academy.

Eventually, if they choose to enlist in the US Air Force, they may enter at the grade of E-3, Airman First Class. The award is also looked upon favorably by the admissions staff at the USAF Academy and the AFROTC.