Charlotte County Cadets earn Distinguished Honors and Promotions
Filed under Florida Wing, Cadet Programs, Group 5 on Friday, September 22, 2017 by Author: SM Donna Jablonski.

The cadets of the Charlotte County Composite Squadron continue their hard work of achievement, taking on additional responsibilities and participation in a variety of activities. The Civil Air Patrol cadet program is designed to foster leadership and good citizenship in America’s youth with an emphasis on public service.

“As they earn recognition and gain rank, they are challenged to learn and grow in ways that only the CAP cadet program offers,” said Major Earle Bretz.

Recently, Mikehla Hick received one of CAP’s highest-ranking awards -- the General Ira C. Eaker Award-- and earned her the rank of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel, an accomplishment that less than 1% of the approximate 25,000 active cadets will achieve.

The 17 year-old Hicks has been with the Charlotte County Squadron for five years.  Last year, she entered Florida Southwestern Collegiate High School and is currently dual-enrolled at Florida Southwestern College.

Bretz added, "She is an excellent role model for what these young adults can achieved through hard work and dedication."

In 2016, Hicks began working towards earning her private pilot certificate. She has already soloed and plans to have her pilot license before turning 18. Her goal is to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, or other university with a Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Her areas of interest for academic studies include linguistics and political science.

Major Gerald Lewis, Commander of the Charlotte County Squadron, presented Hicks with the prestigious award during a recent meeting. “We’re extremely proud of her,” said Lewis.

Six other cadets were recognized by advancement in grade at the recent cadet meeting.

Pictured from Left to Right: C/CMSgt Tyler Ezzi II, C/1stLt Samuel Greisiger, C/A1C Ian James Wilcox, C/SrAmn Chase Pedigo, C/LtCol Mikehla Hicks, C/SrAmn Autumn Rhodes, C/Amn Elizabeth Gregory. (CAP photo)

Rescuers Affected by Hurricane Irma Damage
Filed under Region Hq, Alabama Wing, Florida Wing, Georgia Wing, Mississippi Wing, Tennessee Wing, Puerto Rico Wing, Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters on Thursday, September 14, 2017 by Author: Lt. Col. Jeff P. Carlson.

Civil Air Patrol squadrons located near Hurricane Irma's landfall plan to resume operations after receiving significant damage from the storm’s northward track up the center of Florida’s peninsula that affected CAP members and operations from coast to coast.

The storm blasted the Florida Keys with 130 mph winds before traveling north to make a second strike on Marco Island as a Category 2 storm. Squadrons located in the Marco Island/Naples area of Florida Wing’s Group 5 sustain 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, commander of Florida Wing's Marco Island Senior Squadron.

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

Since the storm, Corriveau has heard from about 10 members typically here during the off-season. The rest of the members are still away where they "left for higher ground".

According to Corriveau, most of the damage sustained to member’s homes were missing shingles, broken rain gutters, shredded landscaping and damage to pool screens. Some areas were not expected to have electrical services restored for several weeks. 

The damage to the squadron’s facility was more severe. The squadron’s base is located at the north end of Marco Island Executive Airport in a 60 x 60 ft. building that includes a hanger for the CAP airplane, offices and a squad room. 

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 are not yet known but the plan is to rebuild, "just maybe not to this extent". 

Luckily, he said, the airplane was not in the hangar during the storm. The plane had recently been relocated to Daytona, Fla. for its 100-hour inspection and maintenance.

While the squadron rebuilds, the CAP airplane will be housed in a general aviation t-hangar at the Marco Island airport. Corriveau said these hangars were not damaged during the storm. The local pilots who came to move their airplanes left their cars here and not a single-one was damaged. 

A covered walkway only 10 feet away from the squadron’s building was still intact with “not a single piece of metal was displaced”.

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

The building will be closed until it is rebuilt even though the offices and squad room were not damaged. The local Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit, of which also includes some CAP members offered to lend their squad room until squadron building is repaired.

It will be another week or two before we can become operational again due to antenna damage to our communications equipment. In spite of the personal impact from the storm, our members want to serve their community through CAP. One of our members, who has returned from "moving to higher ground" is unable to travel up to Punta Gorda, Fla. where the response operations are being launched because there is a lack of gas here in Marco Island.

Group 5 public affairs has reported an outpouring of emotion from CAP members on social media after viewing images of the damage to the Marco Island hangar. More than 13,000 have reacted to the 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 squadron, "It is only a building," replied Corriveau, "and will be repaired and things will be back to normal eventually. Also, our people are okay."

Corriveau added, "we want to get back up and operational, as soon as possible. We are part of the coastal patrol,” 

Coastal Patrols, a service to Florida communities that Civil Air Patrol has provided since the early 1940's, are performed on the weekends looking for hazards to navigation and boaters in distress.

Wings' Plans Take Shape as Irma Approaches Fla.
Filed under Region Hq, Alabama Wing, Florida Wing, Georgia Wing, Mississippi Wing, Tennessee Wing, Puerto Rico Wing on Saturday, September 9, 2017 by Author: Lt. Col. Judy Steele.

As Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida, Southeast Region commanders focused Friday on readiness for disaster relief response once the massive storm again makes landfall.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, slammed by Irma on Wednesday, six volunteers from mainland CAP units were deployed Friday to provide support for the wing's aerial assessments and photography missions for federal relief agencies.

Irma, now a Category 4 hurricane, is expected to reach Florida early Sunday, then travel north toward Georgia and on to Tennessee before losing strength. The storm is expected to cover all of Florida as it moves further inland.

“Our members are taking all necessary measures to protect their families and personal property, so they will be able to respond to the situation when called upon to do so,” said Col. Barry Melton, Southeast Region commander.

The Florida Wing’s commander, Col. Luis Garcia, said Friday afternoon his units were at HURCON 3 status, which calls for CAP facilities and assets to be secured for the storm no less than 24 hours before landfall.

Garcia also directed a review of the wing’s mutual aid and support agreements and said pilots, other members and equipment should be identified and deployed for relief missions as soon as it’s safe.

“All of our aircraft has been evacuated to the Florida Panhandle,” Garcia said. “All members are reporting they are prepared or are conducting final preparations.”
Irma packed a wallop to infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as it traveled through the Caribbean.

Melton said CAP has restored communications with its Caribbean units but is limited by the availability of electricity.

On Friday, the Georgia Wing was getting ready for Irma after it passes out of the Florida Peninsula. If projections hold, the storm will take a path through the middle of Georgia toward Atlanta.

Col. Andrea Van Buren, Georgia Wing commander, said her Irma team has developed three plans for relief deployment, with possible mission base locations selected for CAP planes depending on landfall scenarios.

“Depending upon projections, one of those game plans will be executed and assets staged,” Van Buren said.

“Then, we batten the hatches until it’s safe and we are called to serve.”

Stay Safe, Stand Ready, Smith Tells Fla. Members as Hurricane Irma Looms
Filed under Region Hq, Alabama Wing, Florida Wing, Georgia Wing, Mississippi Wing, Tennessee Wing, Puerto Rico Wing on Saturday, September 9, 2017 by Author: Lt. Col. Judy Steele.

Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, National Commander, Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol's new national commander today asked his volunteer members in Florida to stay safe and stand ready to respond after Hurricane Irma makes landfall on the peninsula, predicted early Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, who assumed command of the 58,000-member volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force on Sept. 2, said he is proud of how his organization was handling the challenges of providing disaster relief not only for Irma, but also Hurricane Harvey's aftermath.

"Back-to-back natural disasters, first Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma, test all of us," Smith said. "But they also provide opportunities for CAP members to show their mettle."

As of Friday, CAP had delivered more than 300,000 aerial images over Texas and Louisiana in Harvey’s wake, with more than 30 CAP planes in service and the support of members from 34 wings, Smith said.

Today, Puerto Rico Wing aircrews were in the air for a second day to support relief efforts in the Caribbean after Irma’s passage.

In Puerto Rico, hit by Irma on Wednesday, members spent today taking aerial photos of water and wind damage, as well as transporting relief and recovery officials to the U.S. Virgin Islands, said Col. Barry Melton, Southeast Region commander. The missions were tasked by the 1st Air Force and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Smith expressed confidence that CAP members are poised to respond when requested on the mainland.

"We stand ready to serve our communities, states and nation," Smith said.
Melton echoed Smith, saying Florida Wing members – no strangers to hurricane response – are prepared.

"The wing has been systematically spooling up its response readiness for the last two weeks," he said.

That includes moving aircraft and crews from other units in the Southeast Region, Melton said. His command includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Col. Luis Garcia, Florida Wing commander, said his units are at top readiness, known as HURCON 1. He said the wing will likely set up initial incident command posts in Lakeland and Tallahassee once conditions improve.

Puerto Rico, U.S.Virgin Islands members prepare for Irma missions; Florida braces
Filed under Region Hq, Alabama Wing, Florida Wing, Georgia Wing, Mississippi Wing, Tennessee Wing, Puerto Rico Wing on Thursday, September 7, 2017 by Author: Lt. Col. Judy Steele.

Civil Air Patrol members in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands worked today to re-establish stable communications and plan aerial missions after Hurricane Irma barreled past the islands and headed for Florida.

Col. Barry Melton, Southeast Region commander, said Puerto Rico operations were relocated from San Juan to Aguadilla on the commonwealth’s northwestern tip, the most distant point from the storm’s impact, before Wednesday's landfall.

Melton noted, however, communications between the mainland and units in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remained a challenge Thursday night.

Melton said he anticipates the wing’s Cessna planes, secured at Muniz Air National Guard Base in San Juan, will be deployed for missions tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and 1st Air Force as soon as aircrews can be safety deployed.

"Southeast Region members are rolling up their sleeves to aid in the recovery efforts that will be needed for some time to come," said Melton, whose command includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

He said high-frequency radio contact has been restored with CAP units in the U.S. Virgin Islands. CAP’s squadron in St. Croix was working to erect a directional antenna to enhance communications with colleagues in Puerto Rico, Melton said.

The Florida Wing spent today in preparations for Irma’s anticipated arrival early Sunday on the state’s eastern side. Forecasters warn Irma could be worst hurricane to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Col. Luis Garcia, Florida Wing commander, said his wing was relocating planes and flight crews to the state’s Panhandle region for future deployment after the hurricane makes landfall. Garcia said he has received offers of support from CAP operations in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Illinois.

“We are meeting nightly with all stakeholders to synchronize efforts across the wing and ensure continuity with adjoining wings,” he said, urging his volunteers to stay “safe and vigilant.”

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