6/4/2011–MIDDLE RIVER, MD–The Maryland Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) received the top rating of Highly Successful on its biennial U.S. Air Force evaluated exercise, during which the wing’s capability to safely and effectively execute the Air Force’s non-combat search and rescue mission is assessed. Lt Col Kevin Hubbard, commander of CAP-USAF Middle East Region, noted that the Successful rating is the baseline and ratings of Highly Successful are rare.
The wing’s Incident Command Post (ICP) at Martin State Airport has been a hive of activity since this morning when the exercise’s Second Operational Period began and things kicked into high gear. Besides a full compliment of ICP staff members, including one from Utah Wing, there were also numerous U.S. Air Force evaluators observing and providing scenario injects. Throughout the day the wing actively worked multiple simulated and actual emergency missions. The evaluated portion of the exercise has now been completed, but the wing is still hard at work. Some members continue to utilize the opportunity for training, while others complete documentation and close out the real-world missions that also occurred today.
Maj Kristin Gillham, the U.S. Air Force evaluation team lead, specifically noted the outstanding performance of all participating personnel. She specifically noted the excellent job that was done prioritizing missions, ensuring all affected personnel were promptly made aware of injects, utilizing cadet staff, collaborating and communicating across the board, leveraging information technology, having backup plans to immediately shift to paper-based operations in the event of electronics failures, and planning for a notional Third Operational Period.
Lt Col Hubbard specifically noted the contributions of Cadet 1st Lt Katie Kerr, naming her the outstanding cadet performer of the exercise for her critical role in keeping communications flowing. She was presented with a region coin. Lt Col Hubbard also recognized Chaplain (Lt Col) Richard Bower for his exemplary performance as Mission Chaplain, naming him the outstanding senior member performer of the exercise.
Maryland Wing Commander Col John Knowles expressed his gratidute for “everyone who helped earn this highly successful rating,” with a “special thanks to the overnight staff, who gave us a huge head start!”
Simulated missions began Tuesday night with notional tasking from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to prepare for a hurricane. Friday night, the wing was also tasked to find an overdue aircraft and a received additional notional tasking from the MEMA to take damage assessment photos of various areas of the state in response to the notional Hurricane Herewegoagain, which was simulated to have passed over Maryland. The photographs were notionally accepted by MEMA this morning, closing out that task. However, the simulated overdue aircraft scenario continued throughout most of Saturday.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) had informed the ICP on Friday night that overdue aircraft had taken off in poor weather during Hurricane Herewegoagain. As this scenario developed on Saturday, the ICP received more information related to the aircraft and pilot through phone calls from Air Force evaluators role playing local citizens as well as friends of the pilot. Additionally, one evaluator role played a reporter who was both looking for information from the ICP staff and had valuable clues to provide those who asked the right questions. Arundel squadron’s Ground Team conducted ramp checks on the eastern side of the Bay Bridge in support of this task. In the mid-afternoon, Frederick squadron’s ground team was directed to a simulated search target located near the Pennsylvania border by the aircrew from Hagerstown. The search target, which was later positively identified as the simulated missing aircraft, was first located by Hagerstown squadron’s aircrew.
All tasks were being executed smoothly when, as often happens in evaluated exercises such as this, the exercise leadership was removed to provide an opportunity to observe the rest of the staff’s response. In this case Col Jerry Weiss, the Incident Commander (IC) for the Second Operational Period, suffered from a simulated probable heart attack. Col Knowles stepped in as IC for the mission without missing a beat.
Although the evaluation portion of the exercise has ended, Maryland wing is taking advantage of the good weather to continue training. As of the late afternoon, ground teams from Bethesda Chevy Chase and Carroll squadrons are carrying out hasty searches in continued support of the lost hiker operation. A hasty search involved quickly covering a large amount of trail in the vicinity of where the simulated hiker was last seen. Supporting the boat collision, an aircraft recently returned from its mission to document the number of boats involved in the notional crash, which occurred near Dobbins Island on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, the air crew had been tasked with identifying suitable helicopter landing zones in the vicinity.
In addition to these exercise tasks, Maryland Wing prosecuted three actual real-world Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) during the evaluation. The Bethesda Chevy Chase ground team honed in on and, in coordination with the aircraft’s owner, deactivated an ELT in a Piper PA-34 at Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersberg, MD. Captain Traylor, the on-duty AFRCC watch commander, noted that this was “one of the fastest ELT resolutions I’ve handled.” “The paperwork took longer than the find,” added Lt Col Jon Royer, who is assigned to the Middle East Region Headquarters. Lt Col Royer was serving on the exercise ICP staff but was reassigned to serve as IC for all three real-world ELT searches that occurred during the exercise.
The second real-world search was also brief. A strong ELT signal was detected coming from Dover Air Force Base. It turned out to be from an airplane with a known issue; an Air Force team was already working on correcting the problem.
The third actual ELT proved to be a unique situation. A weak real-world emergency beacon signal was detected by Annapolis and Frederick squadron aircrews, then confirmed by a National Capitol Wing aircraft conducting Orientation Flights. A ground team from Wicomico squadron were tasked to prosecute the search, which lead them (with Middle East Region approval) into Delaware. The ELT signal was sourced to a seaplane on the water in the Rehoboth Beach area and the United States Coast Guard was alerted to assist. Ultimately, the ELT was successfully deactivated by a CAP member and the aircraft owner.
Throughout all of this, Maryland Wing’s routine Bay Patrol mission has been ongoing. This mission is carried out on behalf of the United States Coast Guard and involves having aircraft serve as their eyes in the sky on summer weekends. These CAP aircraft monitor the area for boaters in distress, emergency transmissions, or any other unusual activity.
Between the exercise and actual emergency missions and Bay Patrol, Maryland Wing fielded 12 aircraft that conducted 16 air sorties and 7 ground teams that conducted 17 ground sorties. 31 persons staffed the Incident Command Post and, across all missions, 123 emergency services personnel were active on Saturday.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 113 lives in fiscal year 2010.
Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the more than 26,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 69 years. It is the largest sponsor annually of Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. For more information on Civil Air Patrol, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com.
More than 1,600 members of CAP serve in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 42 search and rescue missions and were credited with 31 finds. For more information, visit www.mdcap.org.
As originally posted, this article incorrectly listed the two aircraft involved in the third actual ELT search as being from Annapolis and Wicomico. The two aircraft were in fact from Annapolis and Frederick. Additionally, the confirming plane was incorrectly listed as a Congressional Squadron aircraft when it was in fact a National Capitol Wing aircraft. Lastly, a Wicomico ground team prosecuted the search into Delaware; there was no involvement from a Wicomico air crew.