558th FTS student receives 2020 Cadet of the Year award

  • Published
  • By Maj. Richard Smith
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force announced the winner of the 2020 U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet of the Year earlier this year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the award ceremony was postponed.

Currently, a remotely piloted aircraft student pilot at the 558th Flying Training Squadron, 2nd Lt. Jeff Gerlica excelled in various roles while at the Air Force Academy.

From being a four-year baseball letter-winner and Cadet Wing Vice Commander to his academic excellence and having his research paper published, Gerlica said, “It was a great honor just to be in the conversation for this award, but to be selected is something that I will forever be grateful for.”

In virtual attendance for the ceremony were Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Dr. The Honorable Gilbert Greenall, Commodore of Great Britain’s Royal Air Squadron. Presenting the award in person was Lt. Col. Corey Hogue, 558th FTS commander.

In his remarks upon receiving the award, Gerlica spoke about the support from his family and friends and how he was able to foster new connections that were key to his success at the Air Force Academy.

“I was fortunate enough to build relationships with mentors that pushed me to lead and better the people around me,” he said.

Some of the people instrumental to his development included his then-Air Officer Commanding at the Academy, Lt. Col. Justin Brockhoff, as well as his Air Force Falcons baseball coach Mike Kazlausky for always challenging him and helping to develop as a player and an Airman.

He also noted his time working for Maj. Gen. Michele Edmondson, USAFA Commandant of Cadets, during which he was influential in crafting the cadet wing’s response to COVID-19, in addition to advising with the Academy’s graduation plan.

When asked about his motivation to achieve all that he had accomplished, Gerlica said, “It’s because I have a lot of drive and a desire to compete. I want to know that I gave it everything I was capable of.”

Having been awarded Cadet of the Year, he’s prepared to move on to bigger and better things.

“As great as this award is, my focus is on the future,” he said. “The job is not finished. We have the opportunity to directly affect the mission of our nation’s defense and contribute to something bigger than ourselves.”

Upon completing his training at JBSA-Randolph, Gerlica will attend graduate flight training at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.