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Air Force Chief of Staff names MIT cadet as cadet of the year

Cadet Col. Ryan W. Castonia was recently named the 2009 United States Air Force Cadet of the Year by the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz. (Courtesy photo)

Cadet Col. Ryan W. Castonia was recently named the 2009 United States Air Force Cadet of the Year by the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz. (Courtesy photo)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, recently named the 2009 United States Air Force Cadet of the Year.

Cadet Col. Ryan W. Castonia, a senior, majoring in Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was notified of the honor in an official letter signed by the general. He is a member of the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps Detachment 365 in Cambridge, Mass. 

Cadet Castonia, who served as the cadet wing commander at the time of nomination, is scheduled to graduate in June 2010 with a Bachelor and Masters in Science degree.

The award recognizes the most outstanding cadet in one of the three Air Force commissioning programs - Officer Training School, the Air Force Academy and Air Force ROTC.

Last year's winner, 2nd Lt. Kenny Grosselin, was from the Air Force Academy.

Established in 2000, the award was created by British citizens of the Air Squadron, an organization comprised of high-ranking aviation enthusiasts, to recognize the contributions of the U.S. military to the United Kingdom. 

"The British Air Squadron has been very kind and generous in starting and continuing this award," Cadet Castonia said. "I am honored to be among one of the first to receive it."

Each nominee was evaluated on military performance, academic achievements and physical fitness.

Lt. Col. Lawrence McLaughlin, the Detachment 365 commander shared that in addition to a perfect grade point average in Aerospace Engineering, Cadet Castonia has also completed Phase II of the Combat Rescue Officer selection process and will report to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., upon receiving his Air Force commission June 4, 2010.

"The entire staff at detachment 365 does an amazing job of ensuring the cadets that come through the program are placed in an environment where they can learn extensively about how to become a great Air Force officer," Cadet Castonia shared. "I look forward to commissioning and putting my training to use."

In 2008, Cadet Castonia was also recognized by the Air Force Association as the Outstanding ROTC Cadet of the Year.

Cadet Castonia's name will be engraved alongside those of previous award recipients on the Air Squadron Sword at the Pentagon. The sword is on permanent display and serves as a reminder of the British-American partnership.

The presentation of the award citation and a sterling silver coin will be made by General Schwartz in a ceremony later this year at the Pentagon. 

Air Force ROTC is the largest commissioning source for the Air Force at 42.6 percent, according to the most recent AF demographics snapshot. There are currently 13,000 cadets enrolled at 144 AFROTC detachments around the world. 

"The AFROTC program provides a unique experience that allows future officers to blend together the best of both the civilian and military environments," Cadet Castonia explained. "This allows cadets to learn and grow into better leaders not only through the military framework of the formal ROTC program of Aerospace studies classes, leadership labs and physical training, but also through interaction with a diverse student body through class projects, extracurricular groups and activities, athletics and the day-to-day functions of college life. I am very glad that I found and chose to participate in the AFROTC program and have had an excellent experience."

For more information on Air Force ROTC, visit www.afrotc.com.