News

 National News

Giving Back
Fri, 20 Oct 2017 12:29:15 -0500

Russell Slater
Contributing Writer

Capt. Mike Ebert knows all about giving back and giving credit where credit is due.

Currently a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy, Ebert also volunteers with the Colorado Wing’s Air Academy Cadet Squadron in Colorado Springs. The Wisconsin native assists the squadron, whose cadets range in ages from 12 to 18, with fulfilling their missions of leadership, aerospace education, physical fitness and character development.

Not For Self, But For All
In April 2013, Ebert received the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, CAP’s highest cadet honor, as a member of the Wisconsin Wing’s La Crosse Composite Squadron. Spaatzen (a term for award recipients) No. 1,884 joined the ranks of a very select few to receive the honor, which less than one-half of 1 percent of all cadets achieve. Introduced in 1964, the award – named after the first Air Force chief of staff and later first chairman of the CAP National Board – recognizes cadets who pass a rigorous series of exams after first progressing through 16 achievements in the CAP cadet program, a process that takes several years.

Ebert joined CAP in October 2007 because he wanted to fly.

“Little did 13-year-old Mike Ebert know that it’s pretty hard to start learning to fly until you’re a few months shy of 16,” Ebert remembers. “So instead, I started working my way through the cadet program and started working on Ground Team ratings.” He continued to work in all three missions areas of the organization – emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education – until he finally earned his Ground Team Leader rating on his 18th birthday.

“I honestly believe CAP was the reason I was able to attend” the academy, Ebert said. “I was a fairly average student before coming out here and wasn’t a big-time athlete. My advantage came from opportunities in CAP.

“CAP allowed me to experience leadership in a military setting and … at various levels, from an element leader to flight commander to cadet commander of a squadron,” he said.

Ebert had the opportunity to serve as a flight sergeant and squadron commander at a CAP encampment before going to the Air Force Academy. Later, during his second year at the academy, he served as a cadet commander during a summer encampment. He participated in CAP programs like Cadet Officers School and the International Air Cadet Exchange and was able to learn about leadership from different perspectives.

“Also, through CAP, I had the opportunity to experience interviewing for positions and sitting before review boards for some promotions – a very unique experience before interviewing for nominations to the USAFA. The basic military tasks I was expected to do here were easier, which put less stress on me than some of my peers,” he said.

The Right Thing to Do
Capt. Mike Fournier, Air Academy Cadet Squadron commander, said Ebert offers his unit the benefit of his CAP experience and knowledge, as well as first-hand insight into what it means to be a cadet.

“As a SET (Skills Evaluator Training)-qualified instructor in emergency services for ground team, he has prepared many of us to participate in the emergency services mission of Civil Air Patrol,” Fournier said. “Capt. Ebert worked closely with cadet staff to advise them on managing the complex leadership challenges that come from being in a large cadet squadron.

“As a Spaatz cadet, it was easy to tell that Capt. Ebert believes in the cadet program, and that it was a catalyst for him to achieve into the future,” the squadron commander said.

Ebert says he decided to help at the squadron because he “owed CAP a lot.”

“I felt, and still feel, that I shouldn’t waste the experiences I had by not sharing them with others and trying to convince them to work hard so they too could take advantage of the opportunities CAP has to offer,” he said.

“I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do. Sometimes cadets lose sight of just what is possible, and seeing as I had the opportunity to do pretty much everything in the cadet program, I like to be there as a reminder that nothing can hold them back except for lack of effort and vision.”

Ebert admitted that finding the time for CAP participation can be difficult at times, but “it rarely seems like work. Going to the meetings was, and is, always so much fun!”

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.

 Wing News

Giving Back
Fri, 20 Oct 2017 12:29:15 -0500

Russell Slater
Contributing Writer

Capt. Mike Ebert knows all about giving back and giving credit where credit is due.

Currently a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy, Ebert also volunteers with the Colorado Wing’s Air Academy Cadet Squadron in Colorado Springs. The Wisconsin native assists the squadron, whose cadets range in ages from 12 to 18, with fulfilling their missions of leadership, aerospace education, physical fitness and character development.

Not For Self, But For All
In April 2013, Ebert received the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, CAP’s highest cadet honor, as a member of the Wisconsin Wing’s La Crosse Composite Squadron. Spaatzen (a term for award recipients) No. 1,884 joined the ranks of a very select few to receive the honor, which less than one-half of 1 percent of all cadets achieve. Introduced in 1964, the award – named after the first Air Force chief of staff and later first chairman of the CAP National Board – recognizes cadets who pass a rigorous series of exams after first progressing through 16 achievements in the CAP cadet program, a process that takes several years.

Ebert joined CAP in October 2007 because he wanted to fly.

“Little did 13-year-old Mike Ebert know that it’s pretty hard to start learning to fly until you’re a few months shy of 16,” Ebert remembers. “So instead, I started working my way through the cadet program and started working on Ground Team ratings.” He continued to work in all three missions areas of the organization – emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education – until he finally earned his Ground Team Leader rating on his 18th birthday.

“I honestly believe CAP was the reason I was able to attend” the academy, Ebert said. “I was a fairly average student before coming out here and wasn’t a big-time athlete. My advantage came from opportunities in CAP.

“CAP allowed me to experience leadership in a military setting and … at various levels, from an element leader to flight commander to cadet commander of a squadron,” he said.

Ebert had the opportunity to serve as a flight sergeant and squadron commander at a CAP encampment before going to the Air Force Academy. Later, during his second year at the academy, he served as a cadet commander during a summer encampment. He participated in CAP programs like Cadet Officers School and the International Air Cadet Exchange and was able to learn about leadership from different perspectives.

“Also, through CAP, I had the opportunity to experience interviewing for positions and sitting before review boards for some promotions – a very unique experience before interviewing for nominations to the USAFA. The basic military tasks I was expected to do here were easier, which put less stress on me than some of my peers,” he said.

The Right Thing to Do
Capt. Mike Fournier, Air Academy Cadet Squadron commander, said Ebert offers his unit the benefit of his CAP experience and knowledge, as well as first-hand insight into what it means to be a cadet.

“As a SET (Skills Evaluator Training)-qualified instructor in emergency services for ground team, he has prepared many of us to participate in the emergency services mission of Civil Air Patrol,” Fournier said. “Capt. Ebert worked closely with cadet staff to advise them on managing the complex leadership challenges that come from being in a large cadet squadron.

“As a Spaatz cadet, it was easy to tell that Capt. Ebert believes in the cadet program, and that it was a catalyst for him to achieve into the future,” the squadron commander said.

Ebert says he decided to help at the squadron because he “owed CAP a lot.”

“I felt, and still feel, that I shouldn’t waste the experiences I had by not sharing them with others and trying to convince them to work hard so they too could take advantage of the opportunities CAP has to offer,” he said.

“I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do. Sometimes cadets lose sight of just what is possible, and seeing as I had the opportunity to do pretty much everything in the cadet program, I like to be there as a reminder that nothing can hold them back except for lack of effort and vision.”

Ebert admitted that finding the time for CAP participation can be difficult at times, but “it rarely seems like work. Going to the meetings was, and is, always so much fun!”

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.”

CAP Aircrews Using New Tools in Hurricane Maria Response
Fri, 06 Oct 2017 11:07:46 -0500

Civil Air Patrol aircrews from both the U.S. mainland as well the Puerto Rico Wing are supporting CAP’s ongoing Hurricane Maria mission, which is being aided by new tools recently developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A new CAP image browser, provided by FEMA, allows aircrews to identify the aerial image collection for the day and to focus on particular areas in Puerto Rico and the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands that have been photographed since the Category 4 storm made landfall on Sept 20.

 

“This is extremely helpful to FEMA, and to CAP, as hundreds of photos are taken each day,” said John Desmarais, CAP’s director of operations. “These new tools help expedite the aerial damage assessment process our aircrews go through on every flight, ensuring that each photo taken is processed, tabulated and tagged as quickly as possible and ready for a timely review by FEMA,1st Air Force and other government entities involved in the response to Hurricane Maria.”

As of Wednesday morning, CAP aircrews had made 131 flights and provided more than 36,000 images. “Our aircrews are providing these photos (and some video) to FEMA in as near real-time as ever before,” Desmarais said.

 

An older tool first used after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and last used after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 is also contributing to the ongoing CAP response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — crowdsourcing, an online process that expedites emergency officials’ ability to identify the impact of storm damage to an area by crowds evaluating the uploaded images.

FEMA is using crowdsourcing to seek rankings of CAP aircrews’ photos of areas affected by Maria. Members and nonmembers on the mainland can contribute by visiting the crowdsourcing website and ranking the aerial photos.

 
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