Want to help during disasters? Civil Air Patrol open house planned

Published 10:21 am Tuesday, August 29, 2023

By Lt. Col Stephen Leighton

Sugar Valley CAP

While many of us know about the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadet program, one of the best leadership development programs available to teenagers, relatively few are aware of the vital role that the senior members (age 18 and older) play in CAP.

In addition to providing the cadets with the supervision and instruction needed, senior members are the force behind the work that CAP does in many areas.

Today, let’s just look at one of CAP’s Missions for America:  emergency services.

One of the “best kept secrets” in the country, CAP Emergency Services is the primary agency for the US Air Force (responding in up to 90% of the mainland search and rescue missions for the Air Force), as well as for the NC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

While cadets get a great opportunity to learn the skills of ground team search and rescue, as well as to participate in disaster relief activities, it is the senior members who are important in teaching these skills, and who fly the hundreds of hours in fixed wing aircraft and lead the teams that respond to the multitude of emergency service situations that arise each year.

This volunteer service began with the founding of CAP in 1941, when members of CAP provided, by flying coastal patrols, a vital service helping to end the terror of German U-boats attacking vessels off of the East Coast, and the missions continue on today.

CAP senior members have become a key resource for FEMA through the service of airborne photographers providing visual information for FEMA to use in responding to major disasters. Hundreds of thousands of photographs have been provided to FEMA in the aftermath of major hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

Because CAP senior members are volunteer, the cost to the country is a fraction of what would be incurred through military and commercial services.

The NC Office of Emergency Management relies on CAP volunteers to set up and help provide disaster relief through PODs, Points of Distribution for water, food, shelter materials and other supplies needed by those impacted by the disaster.

CAP senior members help in many areas to track down missing persons, including disoriented elders who have wandered away from their residence, and finding lost hikers. With the developing use of sUAS (small unmanned aerial vehicles or drones), using cameras, infrared, and FLIR (forward looking infrared), the sUAS teams of senior members and cadets can dramatically expand the capabilities of search teams.

If you find yourself looking for ways to make a difference, consider attending the Civil Air Patrol at the Sugar Valley Composite Squadron Open House on Tuesday evening, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. The squadron meets every Tuesday at 6:30 in the Blue Hangar at Sugar Valley, 249 Gilbert Road, Mocksville. Visitors are always welcome.

For more information, contact Captain Sandra Smith, squadron commander, at 336-409-6796.