Oklahoma Wing
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Oklahoma Wing Conducts a Multiple-Disaster Field Exercise

March 28, 2020

Incident Commander Lt. Col. Larry Bevis is briefed by IC Staff members. (L-R, facing) Maj. Israel Perez, [name needed]. Col. Jim Emory, Maj. Bill Herold and Lt. Col. Bevis. (Photo: 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP)

by 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP, Oklahoma Wing

PIEDMONT, Okla. – On February 15, 2020, 117 Civil Air Patrol (CAP) volunteers participated in a simulated multiple-disaster exercise, designed to test the wing’s emergency services and disaster response capabilities in dealing with a hypothetical large-scale earthquake and a huge tornado that resulted in much highway infrastructure damage, a devastated town, flooding, loss of communications, a downed aircraft, and lost crewmembers. All simulated events happened simultaneously. To meet these challenges, Oklahoma Wing activated a main Incident Command Center (ICC) at Sundance Airport in Piedmont, Oklahoma and a satellite Command and Communications Facility at Muskogee Davis Field in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

A birds-eye view of ground teams from Muskogee converging on the sighting of a downed crewmember, in a rural part
of the state. (Photo: 1st Lt. Tamara Shannon, CAP)

The exercise started with scenario messages being sent to the command staff, that resulted in the Saturday wing-wide activation with various scenarios and exercise inputs provided by the evaluation team. With local communications disabled, the ICC immediately deployed “high-bird” aircraft to establish communications links between the two command locations and launch facilities. Seven CAP aircraft and multiple-sortie missions were deployed to evaluate and assess damaged areas and report back to the ICC, who would relay the data and information to homeland security partners along with federal, state and local emergency management agencies.

(L-R) 2nd Lt. Victor Van Herreweghe briefs Cadet Staff Sgt. Devin Phillips and Cadet 1st Lt. Shelby Williams on the latest message traffic to be relayed via radio. (Photo: 2d Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP)

Oklahoma Wing Director of Emergency Services Lt. Col. David McCollum said, “These types of exercises are critical and necessary to train our members on how to respond and react to real-world situations. This was a great opportunity for our trainers to mentor other members on the conduct of emergency operations.”

Maj. Rick Fox, who worked as an airborne photographer, was tasked with taking damage assessment photography of multiple large structures and bridges. He said, “It is good to test our ability to perform the much-need collection of photos and damage assessment data to those who can provide services to others. The communications capabilities that CAP provides through high-bird radio communications/relay links is vital to any recovery mission.”

Cadet Sr. Airman Chloe Shannon prepares her radio to talk as a ground team member looking for a missing crew member. (Photo: 1st Lt. Tamara Shannon, CAP)

1st Lt. Tamara Shannon, who flew two sorties as airborne photographer, said “On the second sortie, I got to combine my two favorite pastimes: flying and photography! It was a simulated mission to photograph flooding around Lake Gibson, but the flooding was actually still present and the dam was wide open. I really enjoyed this opportunity.”

1st Lt. George Hannon, who flew one of the High-bird sorties, explained, “The repeater communications link that the high-bird sorties fly is essential for statewide communications.”

1st Lt. Jeffrey Grant also flew the high-bird sorties as mission observer. Grant is an active duty Air Force member volunteering in CAP. “I have seen both sides of training as far as active duty and Civil Air Patrol. The structure is similar to the Air Force, providing needed communications during disasters through the various back-up systems. The training is essential for CAP emergency services readiness,” said Grant.

Bill Baxter logs message traffic on the status board inside the communications center. (Photo: 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP)

Cadet 1st Lt. Shelby Williams was a Mission Radio Operator in the Communications Branch. She operated radios and relayed messages working side by side with other cadets and adult members. “I thought this was a great experience, learning how to work with radios, gain confidence dealing with mission radio traffic, and member interaction on the communication team,” she said. Then added, “I intend to join the active duty Air Force. I feel much better prepared than others my age looking to enter the military or even the civilian work force.”

Lt. Col. Brandon Welch led one of the ground teams in locating a lost person and aircraft. “The cadets learn and build great life skills that they can use the rest of their lives through learning ground member team training. I was impressed with how well the cadets performed today in meeting the mission goals,” he said.

Incident Commander Lt. Col. Larry Bevis praised the large attendance and fast response from the volunteers in the wing. “The dedication and support from every participating member, both adults and cadets, was outstanding. These important exercises provide opportunities for trainers to mentor others on the various required tasks so that members can qualify to perform specific job functions during the exercises, training and learning how to deal with disasters,” he said.

1st Lt. Tamara Shannon prepares her camera for the next shot for the mission sortie. (Photo: 1st Lt Tamara Shannon, CAP)

After the exercise, Mission Safety Officer Lt. Col. Jim Emory said, “Safety is always paramount during real-world and exercise events.” He continued, “When you bring over 100 adult and cadet volunteers, and deploy them in aircraft, vehicles and working in high-stress situations, the possibility of accidents is there. I was glad to report no mishaps during the exercise.”

Oklahoma Wing tests its capabilities at least quarterly each year, as well as responds to real-word requests for assistance. Also, the wing has been involved in real-world support across the country, and is currently in Puerto Rico conducting assessment and emergency services.


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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. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, 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 more than 80 lives annually. CAP’s 66,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 28,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com or www.CAP.news for more information.

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