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February 25, 2013

‘Operation Restless Tomahawk’ proves successful, provides learning tips

TERRE HAUTE — The Indiana Civil Air Patrol Wing and the 181st Intelligence Wing successfully combined efforts for the first time as part of a weekend emergency training simulation that concluded Sunday.

The exercise, based at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field, was the first time the Civil Air Patrol was linked with a dozen volunteer intelligence experts from the 181st Intelligence Wing.

CAP ground crews used directional finding equipment to locate a beacon in a “downed” aircraft. An airport hangar was used as a base, where laptop computers projected a location of the crews and spots where aircraft reported findings to triangulate a search area.

“We used open source information, such as the county’s GIS (geographic information system)” and information from the U.S. Geological Survey and other sources “to apply it to a user interface for a macrolevel view,” said Sgt. Greg Hrovat of the 181st Intelligence Wing. Weather information for CAP pilots was also provided during the exercise.

“Operation Restless Tomahawk” was a training scenario in which a search was made to find a Piper Tomahawk, a small private plane. The pilot of the fictional silver and red aircraft had left Lafayette on Thursday of the simulation on its way to Evansville. In the training exercise, the pilot was to have stopped in Sullivan to meet his mother.

The pilot did not show up that Friday. Ground crews on Sunday eventually found the “pilot,” who was in serious condition, needing hospitalization, according to the simulation.

As a further training tool, at the same time, a hunter was reported missing. Civil Air Patrol planes flew overhead to spot the hunter’s vehicle. Dogs from the Vigo County Search and Rescue K-9, part of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, were used to successfully find the “hunter.”

Joseph Novotney, vice commander of the Terre Haute CAP Senior Squadron, said the exercise also provided small learning tips. Windshields on CAP planes iced overnight, requiring defrosting, and planes should have been hangared, he said.

“Having exercises like this, with multiple agencies with multiple capabilities, gives everyone a really good idea in a real world scenario who they can call, what capabilities are available and gives us an idea of how the 181st can better support the local community,” said Maj. Frank Howard of the Indiana Air National Guard.

Five CAP aircraft and eight ground vehicles, used among three ground crews, took part in the weekend exercise. There were about 140 people who participated in the event, including 107 Civil Air Patrol members and agencies such as the American Red Cross Wabash Valley Chapter, Amateur Radio Emergency Services and Riley Fire Department.

About 30 CAP volunteers were housed at the Vigo EMA building at the airport on the first night and 37 the second, said EMA Director Dorene Hojnicki.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be contacted at 812-231-4204 or howard.

greninger@tribstar.com.

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