Florida Wing Launches 1st Flight for Safety Check of Barrier Islands, Inland Areas
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Members of the Civil Air Patrol prepare for a flight post Hurricane Matthew.
Lakeland, Fla.--The Florida Wing responded today to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s requests to provide aircraft, vehicles and personnel for aerial and ground imaging to assist in disaster relief efforts in Hurricane Matthew’s aftermath.The wing’s air operation personnel are operating from the State Emergency Operation Center in Tallahassee. “I feel the Southeast Region is ready to respond effectively to any tasking we are assigned,” said Col. Barry Melton, whose command includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Time after time our volunteers answer the call with professionalism and pride. Our members personify the core value of ‘volunteer service before self’ whenever called upon,” he said. “I am very proud to be associated with the Southeast Region and Civil Air Patrol.”That sentiment was echoed by Col. John M. Knowles, commander of CAP’s Middle East Region. “No plan survives first contact, but we have excellent professionals working on contingencies we have been discussing,” said Knowles, whose region includes South Carolina, Delaware, Maryland, the National Capital Region, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. “I am very confident in our Airmen,” he said.The Florida Wing's first air sortie was launched Friday afternoon to survey the barrier islands south of Melbourne and inland areas for life and safety issues. Aircrews in Florida were instructed to look for storm damage that could limit access to certain areas. In addition to damaged infrastructure, crews were also looking for collapsed buildings that might contain trapped victims.“Launching the aircraft was hampered by a high-crosswind component,” said Florida Wing Group 5 Commander Lt. Col. Milton “Jim” Kaletta. “We had to wait on the weather in order to meet the operation safety standards.” Response operations are scheduled to expand Saturday. An incident command post under the direction of Lt. Col. Willard Garman is expected to be activated Saturday morning to oversee air operations launched from airports along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Garman said he expects the Florida Wing's aircraft will return to station from the Panhandle, where they evacuated from Hurricane Matthew's path. Melton and Knowles said they engage their state wing commanders in nightly conference calls to gauge readiness. Of particular concern, Melton said, "I have ensured the Florida Wing has the support it needs as it stands by for possible activation." Knowles added, “We are hoping the storm moves east, but are ready to help.”Both commanders spoke to the unified and coordinated relationships and responses that both regions put forward in support of each other. Melton said the Southeast Region stands ready to assist in efforts in South Carolina, in the bordering Middle East Region, as part of the “one-CAP concept” followed by both leaders. “Our folks know they could easily assist a wing outside our region as well as inside our region,” Melton said. “It does not matter to us.” Knowles, whose region is getting ready for the brunt of the storm said, “We are talking with the Southeast Region and have our northern wings standing by as needed."
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Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees. CAP, in its Total Force role, operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually. Civil Air Patrol’s 56,000 members nationwide also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Its members additionally play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program. Performing missions for America for the past 75 years, CAP received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014 in honor of the heroic efforts of its World War II veterans. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit www.capvolunteernow.com
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