Around the Region

By Lt. Col. Jeff P. Carlson
September 14, 2017
Heavy damage to Marco Island Senior Squadron, Marco Island, Fla. left part of a building in shambles thanks to #HurricaneIrma but noone was hurt. But. . .business goes on as usual and will return to normal sometime down the road. A microburst or smal ...
By Lt. Col. Judy Steele
September 9, 2017
National, region, and wing leadership keep a close eye on Hurricane Irma as preparation have been completed and impact with Florida is impending.
By Lt. Col. Judy Steele
September 9, 2017
With aircraft evacuated to the Florida Panhandle, members of the Florida and surrounding wings wait as Hurricane Irma makes her way to land.
By Lt. Col. Judy Steele
September 7, 2017
Civil Air Patrol members work on recovery in the Caribbean and prepare for possible land fall in Florida.

National Headline

 

Hurricane Maria Response Mission Wrapping Up; 239 From 21 Wings Participate
Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:56:52 -0500

Twenty-two days into the massive federal response to Hurricane Maria, Civil Air Patrol is beginning to ramp down its air operations in Puerto Rico and the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands. CAP has been supporting flying operations for the full-scale disaster relief mission in Puerto Rico since Sept. 22, two days after Maria made landfall on the Caribbean island.

“We’re starting to wrap up our current mission in Puerto Rico,” said John Desmarais, CAP’s director of operations. Nearly 250 members from the Puerto Rico Wing and 20 other CAP wings and regions across the U.S. have been involved in the mission, providing local first responders, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other U.S. government agencies with aerial photography to document damage on the islands.

CAP planes from the mainland are expected to return home this weekend, but flights are expected to continue through the early part of next week – likely supported by Puerto Rico Wing aircraft and crews with minimal augmentation by mainland crews.

To date, CAP aircrews have flown nearly 500 hours on 236 sorties over the affected areas in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On those flights, CAP photographers have taken 62,721 aerial images, which were provided to FEMA and emergency personnel to help focus on recovery efforts.

Puerto Rico took a direct hit from the Category 5 storm two weeks after a previous encounter with Hurricane Irma, another powerful storm that tracked just north of the island on Sept. 7. Irma greatly affected the U.S. Virgin Islands, much as Maria did Puerto Rico.

Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has posed challenges CAP members, particularly the local CAP wing’s nearly 400 adult officers. One is Capt. Luis J. Herrera, the wing’s inspector general, who lives in Bayamon, just south of San Juan.

“The last four weeks have been challenging, to say the least,” he said. “Power, water, cell phones, everything that we took for granted has been taken away from us. We did prepare for a hurricane, but we weren't prepared for a disaster.

“Hurricane Maria has been the worst event with the biggest devastation I have ever experienced,” Herrera said.

Slowly but surely, progress is being made toward recovery.

 

"My family and I are living within a schedule that we’ve created,” Herrera said. “We have a portable generator that can be run for several hours a day. So we run it several times a day to try to keep the fridge as cold as possible, to charge our electronic devices from time to time, and to turn some fans on to try to cool down the house a little.”

Herrera said his CAP training has prepared him and others to adapt and respond during such emergencies. “Some of our members lost their jobs, their houses were damaged, and others lost everything,” he said. “And yet they reported for duty, day after day, volunteering their time to help.

“In CAP, we train for situations like this, and when the time comes we are honored to step forward and be able to help. In a sense, serving with CAP in this emergency has helped me to focus my thoughts into productive ideas that can contribute to the mission's goals,” he said.

In addition to air operations, CAP members have also volunteered in shelter centers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That work is expected to continue for weeks, even months to come.

 

 

Scenes from a Southeast Reigon aircrew's photo damage assessment flight over hurricane-devastated areas of Puerto Rico can be viewed in a new YouTube video.

Aircrews 'Helping Get Life Back on Track' in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria
Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:47:35 -0500

2nd Lt. Alysia English
Public Affairs Officer
Georgia Wing

When the sun comes up each day over Puerto Rico, Civil Air Patrol members from the Southeast and Middle East regions of the continental U.S. are already on their way to the local mission base.

The hours are long and the conditions, rudimentary, but Lt. Col. William Wallace of the Georgia Wing, incident commander, says he has never before been so proud of a group. “In situations where ‘normal’ is gone, the true test of people and capability comes to the forefront," Wallace said.

"Clearly, our Civil Air Patrol training has prepared our personnel to respond to situations just like this. This is an evolving situation, and our staff is performing above and beyond all reasonable expectations,” he said.

The island of Puerto Rico was devastated by a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma on Sept. 7 and then a direct hit by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20. CAP members from the U.S. mainland have been on the Caribbean island for nearly three weeks now, working with members of the Puerto Rico Wing to support the federal response to Hurricane Maria. The challenges wrought by the Category 5 storm are many, but progress is being made.

“When we arrived, none of us were exactly sure what to expect," Wallace said. "So many things we take for granted are literally put together down here with a wing and a prayer. It is a highly stressed environment on all fronts. CAP is working to re-establish our repeaters and mission base communications capability. In the meantime, we are still getting the job done.

“It is important for everyone to know that the island is dealing not only with the hurricane but ongoing weather conditions as well," he said. "Flooding is a big problem every day, and in some low-lying areas there can be 3 feet of rapid-velocity water over the road, so our drivers have to be very cautious. It’s incredible, but we have local Puerto Rico CAP personnel assisting us who literally have no roof on their houses.”

The air operations branch director, Lt. Col. David English, also of the Georgia Wing, added, “As a 24-year U.S. Air Force veteran, I have never worked with a more professional group. They are as dedicated, qualified and capable as anyone I have ever worked with, either in active or reserve duty.

"It is amazing. They come in and get the job done. The pilots, the aerial photographers — all are conscientious, dedicated, checking and rechecking their equipment, checking inventory, double-checking their mission instructions, carefully evaluating picture quality. We solve problems as we go, thinking outside the box,” English said.

One of the more poignant sights comes as CAP members are driven to the airport each day. People are standing outside the fence at the airport holding signs that say, “THANK YOU FOR ALL THE ASSISTANCE FROM THE U.S.” The crews say they find it deeply humbling.

For the past two weeks, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and CAP — the auxiliary of the Air Force — have needed to obtain photographs of the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, a highly restricted area. Because of that restriction, it had been impossible to obtain permission to fly missions over that portion of the island.

Incident command post personnel went to work and, in an extremely complex coordination effort, secured permission for CAP’s Puerto Rico Wing and the Federal Aviation Administration to execute much-needed aerial photography flights in the area.

Daily Sorties and Then to Bed, Exhausted
FEMA and other U.S. government agencies frequently use the services of Civil Air Patrol to document disaster conditions through aerial photography. These CAP missions are approved by and coordinated through the Air Force. Each day in Puerto Rico, members are flying five to eight times daily over the island and taking hundreds of aerial photographs, each marked with an exact GPS location. The photographs are used to accurately assess damage, danger and conditions on the ground.

One such flight, performed this week by 2nd Lt. Steven Chamberland of the Georgia Wing, is an example of aircrew activities.

“Our flight today was a photography mission just to the west of the airport. At this particular airport, a lot of Black Hawk helicopters and tilt-wing Ospreys were flying in and out on their missions," Chamberland said."Needless to say, we were very active in the cockpit, monitoring three radios and watching the skies. Mission Pilot 2nd Lt. Steven Stigler (another Georgia Wing member) was listening to San Juan approach control, and I was listening to the other tower and to CAP mission radio.”

CAP flights are assigned specific areas to photograph, with aircraft using a grid pattern to ensure all parts of the area are included. “We made sure we were flying our grid and watching for all of the aircraft in the area. Helicopters were below us, heavy aircraft was above us and there were some landing aircraft right at our altitude. It was a very busy cockpit,” Chamberland said.

In the rear seat, the aircrew’s aerial photographer, 1st Lt. Richard Marko, a member of CAP’s Maryland Wing, was taking photos. “His eyes were totally focused on the camera and out the side window most of the flight,” said Chamberland. “Of course, he could hear all of the radio chatter, but he could not turn away from his job.

"His focus was impressive: bouncing around in a small aircraft, listening to all the air traffic instructions and not turning away for a second is tough. But he was absolutely focused.”

After all CAP aircraft returned to base, incident command held a large briefing to prepare for the next morning’s flights. All aircrews plan their flights the night before, and everyone in this aircrew knew they were getting up early.

“Tomorrow, I’m flying ‘high bird,’ which is an airborne communication relay for all of our other aircraft across the island,” Chamberland said. “This sortie will basically fly a race track holding pattern at about 8,000 feet over the center of the island, land to refuel after all other aircraft land, then take off and be on station ready for when the other aircraft get back in the air for their second sortie.”

The plan also assigned several more sorties with additional pilots: two missions south; one east and one west mission; and two west grids to be flown by just-arrived pilots from the Virginia Wing. To maximize efficiency, the goal is to fly one long grid, land, refuel and then launch again for the second grid, returning to mission base before afternoon storms come through.

Asked about the condition of the island, Chamberland said, “It’s 9 p.m. now ... past my bedtime for what I am assigned to do tomorrow. We are all exhausted and ready to hit the bed. But I was able to get a cell signal and was able to call home for once.”

Returning to the question, he said, “Actually, some of the devastation is so bad here that it’s hard to see and talk about. Whole neighborhoods are scattered. The magnitude of this disaster is unbelievable. The scale of the relief effort is equally unbelievable. So many people are here and helping get life back on track for our Puerto Rico family.”

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Wing News

 

Tenn. Wing Member Devotes 'Hard ... Very Satisfying' Week to Puerto Rico Hurricane Damage Mission
Fri, 13 Oct 2017 15:20:06 -0500

Maj. Larry Stewart
Public Affairs Officer
Group II
Tennessee Wing

Capt. W. Deming Gray, Tennessee Wing Group II commander, has returned from a challenging but rewarding week taking damage assessment photos in Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Gray, a professional photographer, was asked to fly to Puerto Rico last week. When he reported to the incident commander in San Juan, fellow Tennessee Wing member Lt. Col. Ande Boyer, he found the command post based in a closet at a local hospital.

There wasn’t a lot of room, Gray said, but everyone was thankful for electricity, air conditioning and internet access, especially considering that 84 percent of the island is still reported to lack power.

“We awoke at 5 a.m. and got to work as soon as we could,” he said. “At the end of a long day, we returned to our rooms and crashed.”

Gray was one of 10 Tennessee Wing members who took thousands of photographs as requested by the Federal Emergency Response Agency. The agency had requested Civil Air Patrol flights over Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands to photograph and assess storm damage to structures and infrastructure, search for individuals and communities in need of help and monitor situations that might lead to additional loss of life or property.

The aircrew was also tasked daily to photograph Puerto Rico’s dams, given the possibility of potential dam failure – which continues to be an immediate concern. During his stint in Puerto Rico, Gray spent about 30 hours aloft – a lot of time in a small aircraft. He served as mission pilot for all but two flights, one spent in the CAP Cessna’s back seat as mission scanner and photographer, the other in the role of mission observer, tasked to assist the pilot from the right front seat.

“Everywhere we flew, we saw horrific damage from the fierce winds of Hurricane Maria,” Gray said. “On all the islands, we saw power lines down everywhere. We saw many power-line towers down, which means extensive work required just to restore electrical power. The damage done to houses and buildings on the islands was extensive.”

“On one sortie we identified one small town that was completely isolated, due to a bridge being washed out on one end of town and a mudslide covering the road on the other,” he added. “We found folks who had painted messages on roofs and parking lots, requesting food, water or other immediate needs.”

Gray said, “This was a real team effort in Puerto Rico. We had CAP members from Tennessee, Alabama and Puerto Rico serving with us. Additionally, we utilized CAP members stateside to help form a virtual incident command post.

“We were not alone in Puerto Rico. CAP members everywhere were willing and able to assist us as needed. We had five aircraft that we tasked daily to conduct photographic reconnaissance of the island.”

In addition, he said, “there were three different times during the week, talking to people around the area or in the hotel’s elevator, when FEMA or military officials recognized my CAP uniform and expressed extreme gratitude for the work that Civil Air Patrol was accomplishing.”

“It makes you realize that all the training we have done can actually be put to work,” Gray said, “and we can deliver a service and product that has real value.

“It was very satisfying,” he concluded. “It was a hard week, but I’m so glad that I went, and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to serve our country in this way.”

La. Wing Prepares for Hurricane Nate Response
Sat, 07 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Lt. Col. Amos A. Plante
Public Information Officer|
Louisiana Wing

The Louisiana Wing has prepared its air and ground assets throughout the state and has called all its members to alert status for Hurricane Nate.

The wing is preparing to provide immediate support to the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for recovery efforts following the storm

At present and until Nate passes through, wing assets are secure. Airplanes normally based at airports in Nate’s path have been flown to safe locations, and Civil Air Patrol aircrews will be ready to receive taskings immediately after the hurricane.

As Nate drives relentlessly towards the coastlines of southeast Louisiana and Mississippi, flooding and strong storm surges are expected in both states. Both local and state emergency management agencies will require immediate assessments of the storm's impact so they can mitigate damage and direct recovery efforts in the most efficient manner.

Louisiana Wing efforts will be directed by Col. Art Scarbrough, incident commander as well as the wing's vice commander, who has had many years of experience in leading the wing’s emergency services activities.

“In the case of Hurricane Nate, we can serve as our customer’s eyes by providing high-resolution aerial and ground based images to help identify points where lives and property are in greatest jeopardy," he said.

When tasked, the wing can quickly launch its aircraft for not just aerial photography but also for damage assessment, search and rescue, assistance to law enforcement agencies, and transportation of critical cargoes such as organic tissue,” Scarborough added.

He also noted that the wing can roll out as many as 20 vehicles for transportation, ground- level searches and damage assessment missions.

Fla. Wing Squadron Resuming Operations Despite Hurricane Damage
Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:27:55 -0500

By Lt. Col. Judy Steele
Southeast Region

The Florida Wing’s Marco Island Senior Squadron, based near Hurricane Irma’s landfall, plans to resume operations after receiving significant damage from the storm’s northward track up the center of Florida’s peninsula.

The storm blasted the Florida Keys with 130 mph winds before traveling north to deliver a second strike to Marco Island as a Category 2 storm. Squadrons in the Florida Wing Group 5, including the Marco Island squadron, sustained the worst damage.

“Most members evacuated prior to the storm, with only four deciding to hunker down and stay in the area,” said Maj. Robert Corriveau, Marco Island Senior Squadron commander.

Many of the Marco Island unit’s 55 members are “snowbirds” who live in the area only during the winter months. During summer, the number shrinks to 15 to 18 members.

Since the storm, Corriveau has heard from about 10 members typically in the area during the off-season. The rest are still in locations after they “left for higher ground,” he said.

Most of the damage to members’ homes consisted of missing shingles, broken rain gutters, shredded landscaping and damage to pool screens, Corriveau said. Some areas aren’t expected to have power for several weeks.

The damage to the squadron’s facility — at the north end of Marco Island Executive Airport in a building that includes a hangar for the unit’s plane, offices and a squad room — was more severe.

Corriveau said a microburst or small tornado made a direct hit on the hangar door wall and shoved it into the squad room and office area. Damage estimates aren’t yet known, but the plan is to rebuild, “just maybe not to (the original) extent,” he said.

Luckily, he said, the airplane was not in the hangar during the storm, having been moved to Daytona, Florida, for a 100-hour inspection and maintenance.

While the squadron rebuilds, Corriveau said the plane will be housed in an undamaged general aviation T-hangar at the Marco Island airport. A covered walkway only 10 feet away from the squadron’s building was still intact. “Not a single piece of metal was displaced,” he said.

“The community helped the squadron raise the finances for the building about seven years ago when their meeting place was about to be condemned, and we have a reserve built up to cover expenses,” Corriveau said.

The building will be closed until rebuilt, even though the offices and squad room weren’t damaged. The local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit, which also includes some CAP members, offered to lend its squad room to the unit.

More than 13,000 have reacted to social media posts by the squadron, with many expressing concerns about their fellow CAP members and asking how to help. Asked what message he would like to share from the unit, Corriveau replied, “It is only a building and it will be repaired, and things will be back to normal eventually. Also, our people are OK.”

“We want to get back up and operational, as soon as possible,” he said. “We are part of the coastal patrol.”

The coastal patrols, a service to Florida communities provided since the early 1940s, are performed on the weekends. CAP pilots fly along the shoreline looking for hazards to navigation and for boaters in distress.


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