Civil Air Patrol Florida Wing conducted a multi-day training exercise to evaluate its readiness to perform non-combat missions as an auxiliary of the Air Force through its emergency services program.
CAP members from around the state traveled to the Tampa Bay area to participate in the operation evaluation. The bi-annual exercise is monitored by a field evaluation team from CAP USAF which is responsible for ensuring that Civil Air Patrol is organized, trained, and equipped to fulfill Air Force-assigned missions.
In addition to the aerospace education and cadet programs, CAP conducts a variety of missions to assist federal, state, local agencies, and non-governmental organizations during routine and emergency situations. These missions, Homeland Security; Search and Rescue; Disaster Relief; Aerial Surveys and many more, draw on a capability that includes aircraft, vehicles, communications equipment and a force of trained volunteers. By utilizing CAP to perform these missions, Air Force units, personnel, and resources are made available to perform other Air Force missions.
“The feedback and evaluation provided by the CAP-USAF allow us to validate the effectiveness of our training and provides insight into our ability to respond under challenging conditions,” said Florida Wing Commander, Col. Luis Garcia. “Additionally, it provides important feedback to tailor the 2018 training plan.”
The operation evaluation, or OpsEval, is scheduled every two years and provides an opportunity for the wing’s emergency services program to demonstrate its capability and capacity to perform non-combat missions as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Total Force doctrine. The event was originally schedule in 2016 and was precluded by the disaster response mission to Hurricane Matthew where missions crews provided more than 20,000 aerial images of Florida’s coastal region affected by the storm.
The operation evaluation typically includes scenarios that require photographic surveys or conducting visual and electronic searches that require coordination between aerial and ground resources. In addition, mission base personnel are tasked to support the teams in the field. The CAP-USAF team monitors the mission activity while providing exercise injects to increase the level of challenge.
“The mission personnel had to overcome several challenges to successfully complete the mission objectives,” said Maj. Pedro Feliciano, CAP-USAF’s Southeast Liaison Region Director of Operations. “In every instance, the Florida mission team met or exceeded mission requirements.”
Feliciano was supported by CAP-USAF SELR Reserve Forces Director, Lt. Col. Micheal Schwartz along with a team of nine reservists. CAP-USAF is responsible for ensuring that Civil Air Patrol is organized, trained, and equipped to fulfill Air Force-assigned missions. This is accomplished by providing day-to-day support, advice and liaison to CAP and provides oversight for CAP programs, with particular emphasis on safety and programmatic requirements.
Of CAP’s 52 wings, Florida Wing is one of the largest in terms of membership and according to Garcia has “one of the higher mission tempos in the nation”. The wing conducts a wide variety of missions as the volunteer auxiliary of the Air Force. Garcia explained that Florida Wing operations includes “daily support to local and federal customers”.
The tempo requires a well-trained force of volunteers. Between assigned-missions, CAP units conduct a training schedule that allows members to keep qualifications current and to safely execute their mission. The standardized training allows members from different units to form a crew team and immediately perform effectively and efficiently.
“The continuous training cycle along with our daily missions ensure that Florida Wing is ready to support the State of Florida, the USAF, and other agencies with trained and safe crews,” said Garcia.
In 2016, the Secretary of Air Force revised the Total Force designation to include Civil Air Patrol. Under the revision, Air Force commanders are encouraged to request CAP to conduct missions that are within CAP’s capability to perform.
“Florida Wing is able to provide professional and effective support at cost effective manner,” said Garcia. “But we are only able to do this because of the commitment to excellence and to service by our volunteer members.”
Because of the types of aircraft and equipment it employs and the volunteer nature of its members, CAP is often able to perform the mission at a lower cost than comparable Air Force units or commercial contractors, and thereby presents a more cost effective way for the Air Force to accomplish its non-combat missions.
Garcia added, “I want to thank the members who took the time to prepare for and participate in the OpsEval exercise. This is an important event and your superior performance reflects well upon the entire wing.”