News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 24, 2013

Civil Air Patrol prepares for the worst

Weekend of exercises helps group ‘act effectively’

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — On a chilly winter weekend, nearly 100 volunteers prepared for the worst.

Volunteers from a wide range of emergency response agencies joined the Indiana Civil Air Patrol Wing for one of its annual emergency training simulations Friday through today. Participating agencies ranged from the Wabash Valley Red Cross to the 181st Intelligence Wing at Hulman Field.

Lt. Col. Tim Turner of the Civil Air Patrol said the program helps keep responders prepared in case of disaster.

“This is part of our training regimen we do each year,” he said, explaining simulated missions would include those needed to find lost hunters, lost aircraft, or handle floods. “Developing those skills and practicing so in time of need we can act effectively” is crucial.

The simulation included the assembly and operation of both air and ground branches of responders, logistics and finance. Five aircraft and eight ground vehicles were used throughout the weekend, in addition to 91 volunteers.

“Our people are our greatest asset,” he said, remarking at the community spirit displayed by people serving completely free of charge.

According to information provided by the organization, the Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer, civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, operating as a nonprofit, 501c(3) corporation. The organization conducts 90 percent of inland search and rescue operations in the U.S., and does so at a cost of $120 to $160 per flying hour, significantly lower than missions flown by paid pilots.

While conducting those missions, the group works in collaboration with other organizations, including the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency.

J.D. Kessler, deputy director of EMA, said training programs such as the one conducted this weekend help foster a working relationship between the groups, allowing people to get to know one another. Representatives from Terre Haute Ministries, the Hamilton Center, and local volunteer fire departments all participated. Volunteers were fed and housed at the base throughout the program, allowing many of those groups to prepare situations where residents were stranded or rendered homeless.

“It gives us the opportunity to train working with our partners,” he said, recalling his experiences from the historic floods of June 2008, where hundreds of Wabash Valley residents required temporary housing and emergency assistance.

The handling of public information was likewise practiced, and the Civil Air Patrol maintains both Facebook and Twitter feeds for those purposes, in addition to work with traditional media such as newspapers and television, organizers said.

The Civil Air Patrol also maintains a cadet program for youth ages 12 through 20.

First Lt. Matthew Gregerson, 16, said his long-term goals include attending the U.S. Air Force Academy and ultimately becoming an airline pilot. Entering his fourth year in the cadet program, the Hoosier Academy Virtual School student from Noblesville said he enjoys helping out in the community.

“It’s a really fun learning experience,” he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.