October 30, 2007

One More Time for Aerial Firefighting: CAP Activated

I was pleased to log onto CAPBlog today and see that CAWG has been activated to fly reconnaissance flights in support of the wildfires. This is exactly in the way that we should be involved (at least in our present condition).

Yesterday, I was watching the news and heard that these fires were "Mostly Contained", which for me means that it's time for our boots and wings to mobilize. Now is the time for our presence to be known, we can certainly be of help now.

October 27, 2007

The New C.A.P; "One Heck of a Resource"

For my fiftieth post, I decided to report on the Maryland Wing Conference, which was today. I attended at the request of my squadron commander, as he could not attend and wanted a representative of the squadron there. I did something similar last year, where I filled in for him at a Commander's Call. This year, I knew that it would require a hotel stay, and the commander put me up for the night.

Needless to say, it was my first wing conference, and I was incredibly excited to attend. I was the only representative from my squadron, which made for some interesting moments. Breakfast was promptly at 8:00, and it was not a good one either. Some fruit (which for all intents and purposes was actually pretty good), and some rather delicious coffee. Maybe it's just me, but I thought that cereals and eggs were part of buffet breakfasts. After letting us mingle for about an hour, the Vice Wing Commander got up and introduced everyone, including the Wing Commander; Colonel Weiss. He gave a report on the state of the wing. A no-nonsense report card about the training goals met and not met the past year was presented. I am happy to say that MDWG met about 60% of our goals, and exceeded quite a few of those. Not a great report, but since it was the first year they used it, I would say things went well enough. There was a presentation by a representative from National, which was pretty much stuff that those of us on the great web already knew. There was also a safety lecture on new policies that are going to be enacted.

Then we split up into individual lectures. I attended one given by the IG; on how to make your squadron ready for inspections, and another on Ground Operations and Emergency Services. I was pleased to hear the group Ground Operations Officer comment on the state of medical training in CAP, and encouraging all of us to seek higher training from an approved class. We then broke for lunch, a number of awards were handed out, and then we got back to training sessions. I went to one on Flight Operations, which was rather enlightening and I think that lecture alone will be most beneficial in the times to come. Finally, I went to one on Logistics. This was went right over my head with all the forms that need to be filled out, and so I must admit that I don't think it'll be of much benefit in the long run.

We broke that night to get ready for the Military Ball. I went back and grabbed my service coat and tie. I was ready ahead of time, and arrived a few minutes early. Since I was representing the Squadron Commander, I was invited to the Commander's reception. It was nice (free soda, wine and beer for those old enough to drink it - I had a beer, and yes I'm 21) and gave me the chance to mingle with some of my wing's big-wigs. In attendance too were the Maryland Adjutant General, the Adjutant General for the Army, the Adjutant General for Air, and a Commanding Officer of one of Maryland's Air National Guard Squadrons. Although I didn't get to talk with them one on one, they were very nice and cordial.

About two hours later, as dinner was being served to the whole congregation, Colonel Weiss stepped up and made a few remarks. For all intents and purposes, it was the same as the State of the Wing speech from earlier in the day; but more dramatic and easier to listen to. He introduced Colonel Walling, the Region Commander. She oulined her new C.A.P. initiative: Connected, Available, Professional. In short, she said that the Middle East Region was connected with those in charge, Available to go on missions, and perform them in a Professional way. She ended with mild applause and everyone stood in respect.

Then came the best part of the night. The distinguished guest, Major General Bruce Tuxill, Maryland Adjutant General rose to give his speech. "A General is not a good General" he said "If he, or she, does not use every available resource- and Civil Air Patrol is one heck of a resource". When he uttered those words, the entire room broke out into thunderous applause. Everyone stood up, and there were even a few whistles. You know, with all the crap that has been going on in CAP recently, it was good to hear an Air Force General talk that way about the CAP. He went on to say that CAP had been given an equal seat in Maryland's Emergency Services and Military table. Specifically, we're now an equal player in the state's Joint Air Taskforce. Furthermore, when they look at the missions they are asked to perform, more often than not "Civil Air Patrol is right for the mission". In closing, he finished by saying that he would continue to use the CAP whenever he could. He finished with the biggest applause of the night.

Overall, I must say that it was a great time. I learned a lot, and for every lecture time I was forced to choose between at least 2 classes to attend. The only regret is that I did not get to present my squadron's guidon to the Commander during the ceremony; they handed it off to another cadet and senior. However, hearing the above comments by General Tuxill were certainly worth it.

October 25, 2007

Civil Air Patrol and Firefighting; Revisited

Back in July, I blogged about the use of Civil Air Patrol assets and forest fires. With the recent inferno that has become southern California, the topic has once again been revisited by Midway Six. I have since changed my stance on this topic, Although I believe CAP can become involved in forest fires, it cannot be until the fire is out, and the recovery process begins.

Theoretically, the CAP does have assets that could be of use. Aircraft are used as ‘spotters’, to guide in the air attack planes, and telling them when to drop their payloads. CAP aircraft could easily be used in that kind of support role carrying local forestry officials and having them direct the tankers. This is a useless argument, however. Most (if not all) states either own or contract out aircraft to do just that.

Yet, I believe that CAP would be most useful through are our SDIS and ARCHER capabilities. CAP could most effectively be utilized in post-incident surveillance of the damage to aide the resulting recovery efforts. The Ground Teams could easily be used to help persons gather what belongings are left and begin to pick up their lives. They could also be of use helping to locate the remains of the missing. I would be wary about deploying a CAP Ground Team if the blaze is still going on. I saw a National Geographic documentary recently on smoke jumpers. In it, they described how a fire could still spring up in a burnt-out area even well after the main fire passed through the area. Without supplemental training, I don't think this is a place for our Ground Teams.

One other thing to consider: forest fire fighting is a huge business in Southern California. There is really no way a non-profit organization with cheap aircraft is going to be used in this type of service there. The contractors would never allow it.

I know that I share Midway Six’s feelings of “throw me in the game, coach!”, but the reality is that we can’t help at this point. When all is said and done, CAP can help. But it can’t be done until the initial response process is completed. CAP should be the Federal aerial firefighting agency, but that was not the course we took back in 1948. However, CAP could become a great post-incident resource to those agencies that do respond. If we want to go in that direction, then it should be pursued with all due vigilance.

October 20, 2007


From Flying Minutemen, comes an interesting tale. CAP is expanding it's cadet program to include younger persons below the age of 12. I'm not going to regurgitate what's already stated there, but I will voice my own personal opinion on the matter. Firstly, we should take away a point or two:

  • It is a program offered at elementary schools, and not as a separate entity within squadrons. In this way, it's similar to the JROTC program, only at a lower level of education.
  • It maintains CAP's mission of Character development, Aerospace Education and Physical Fitness training, but moves it from an extra-curricular activity to an intra-curricular one.
  • It apparently is not military styled

I think it's a good idea. Although it may not seem it, I am a Cadet Programs guy, and many a time have I been forced to tell a young kid he or she couldn't join because of their age. As the Flying Minuteman said, it is another level in which our third and forgotten mission is creeping back. One thing I must disagree with, however, is the philosophy of aiming it towards more agrarian segments of the United States. Rather, I see potential in this program within inner-cities to get children early before they turn to a life of gangs. The CAP cadet program itself is a good method of doing so; this can serve as a supplement.

One other thing: who the hell is "Cappy" and when did he get here?

October 14, 2007

CAP sending a Team to SAR Competition

From NHQ News

NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS -- A Civil Air Patrol search and rescue team will compete in the SARSCENE Games, the world’s only official International Search and Rescue Competition, on Oct. 17 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Team members representing CAP in its first SARSCENE appearance are Maj. Amy Fierro of the Middle East Region and Lt. Col. Jeff Riley, Capt. Mark Kleibscheidel and 1st Lt. Beth Wirth, all of the Northeast Region. Maj. Bryan Watson and Lt. Col. Laurie Watson, both of the Pacific Region, are back-up team members.

The competition will be held during the annual SARSCENE Conference, scheduled for Oct. 17-20. The competition, now in its 16th year, will consist of a series of exercises showcasing ground and inland water search and rescue strategies. Participants’ knowledge and skills will be tested in land navigation, map reading, first aid, search techniques and survival skills. The overall winner will receive the William Slaughter Cup, and the top three teams will be awarded medals and plaques.

SARSCENE is co-hosted by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat and the British Columbia Provincial Emergency Program, with assistance from the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association.

Lt. Col. Joe Abegg, CAP’s national project officer for the games, said such exercises motivate participants to train to be the best.

"It’s an honor to represent the United States and the Civil Air Patrol at these games and for our team to compete against the very best Canada and other countries has to offer,” Abegg said. “It’s a great way to demonstrate CAP's emergency services commitment and expertise before an international audience.”
Sounds good to me! With all the exposure we got during the Steve Fossett Search, this kind of competition begs for our involvement. Although we don't do water very well (we leave that for the CG Auxies), We should be able to do decently at the ground stuff. I agree with Col. Abegg, this will motivate us to train up. That cannot possibly harm anyone.

Medic Gear

Even though Civil Air Patrol does not yet sponsor a Medic Program, the resident EMT at my squadron and I put together a medical bag for him to carry on a ground team. With the full blessing of the Squadron Commander, we made of list of possible medical situations we may encounter: from a GTM injuring him/herself, to a crash survivor suffering from a spinal injury to heat stroke. We also had to take into account the fact that Ground Teams may end up trudging through miles of woods to reach a crash site. Therefore, Several items that both of us thought 'necessary' were either too bulky or outside the scope of our budget were tough to lose; such as a long back board or KED. The KED was impractical anyway because only myself and EMT are trained to use it.

In the end, we wound up with more or less a standard jump bag, but added 2 collars (for neck injuries) a Bag-Valve Mask (BVM) and oropharyngeal airways for those patients we need to do CPR on. Unfortunately, the nasal variety was deemed too expensive for us to get. Both myself and the EMT walked everyone through the bag when it came, and told them what they could and could not use. Most of the stuff is fair game, except for the Collars, airways, and BVM, which required special training. Hope we never have to use any of it.

Now if only we could get them that First Responder Certification...

October 13, 2007

That CAP Bill

Do you all remember that Bill introduced into the House a while back? Just thought I'd give you an update: It's still sitting on some desk. But does that really surprise anyone?

Let's file this one in "hyped news"

October 12, 2007

Writing Good

For a cadet to attain both the Armstrong and Eaker achievements, they must present both and essay and make a speech. Although the speeches are usually decent to good, the essays leave much to be desired in my experience. I had to nearly fail a cadet in their essay because I believed it was not up to their usual standards. I did pass them because they did meet the requirements outlined in the form.

Being a college student, and a political science major, I am writing a paper on average every week. I rather enjoy writing, and find it comes rather easily, although I also can see how it can be intimidating and tough for someone. I do not expect them to write on a college level, but I do see it as my duty to prepare them for that level. After receiving two papers in a row that were sub-par, I decided to do a brief lecture on basic writing. I find it prudent to place the writing tips I gave my Cadets here for the benefit of all.

1: Use a great hook! The first sentence can make or break the essay. If you have room, take an antic dote from your own life and use it to bring in the audience. However, the story should be relevant to the topic you are discussing, so you can relate it to the topic at hand.

2: Avoid First and Second Person. In your essay, there is no need to say "I will prove that..." because it is your essay, and we know that is what you are proving. Always use the third person in your writings. If you feel the need to reference yourself, say "the author". However, avoid this if you can.

3: Form a good thesis. To simplify things, make your thesis statement say something to the effect of "This happened because of A, B, and C", where A, B and C are the points you are proving. For example: "Good leaders are able to exercise good judgment, learn from mistakes, and stay humble". This serves two purposes: Firstly it lets the audience know your argument, and it helps organize your essay. The following paragraph's topics are those statements. If you used the above thesis, then the first paragraph is on exercising good judgment, the second on learning from mistakes, and the third on staying humble. Makes things easier doesn't it?

4: Always Cite your Sources: Citing sources not only adds legitimacy to your paper, but it keeps you from being accused of plagiarism.

Using these above suggestions would guarantee more than just a passing grade from me on a paper. An added selling point: they are the way to construct a good paper pretty much anywhere.

October 11, 2007

Gyros, please

I got my first issue of AOPA Pilot about 2 weeks ago. Although I have been a member for 2 years, I have been receiving AOPA Flight Training instead. I opened it up to find many good articles on many different topics. I particularly enjoyed the article on Aerial Firefighting (Hot Shots, pg 104); but the article that stands out most in my mind is the one on Gyroplane (Old Dog, New Trick, pg 143). You remember these things? Has a rotor on top and and a regular prop in front? Maybe has a pair of short, stubby wings?

Apparently, they're starting to make a comeback. It's understandable, because according to the arcticle they only cost $20 per hour to operate; 1/5 of the cost of the C-172 on a good day and at a cheap FBO. Additionally, the gyroplane doesn't stall, making it safer than a helicopter. There is no tail rotor, because the aircraft uses something called autorotation to power the blades. The principal is similar to those toys you can buy for kids; if you drop the rotor, it begins to spin and slow the descent. Because it is driven by air, it does not produce torque. Although there are rudders, they are not needed for turns because "there is no adverse yaw" as the article says. The Groen Brothers' Website has an excellent description on how these things work)

The article cites one modern, law enforcement gyrocopter: the Hawk 4 Gyroplane. The Hawk 4 apparently saw service during the 2002 winter olympics, and was a huge success. The aircraft's cousin, the Hawk 5's specs are online, and looks to be comporable to a 172 in terms of cruise speed and cost. Maybe something to consider?

Information for this article taken from "Old Dog, New Trick: The gyroplane is half-airplane, half-helicopter and 100 percent fun" by Patrick R. Veillette; AOPA Pilot, October 2007 issue.

: I found this video on youtube that I figure is worth sharing:

October 5, 2007

Our System Works

Our constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws, not of men.
-Gerald Ford

When the news came down about Former-General Pineda's firing, I must admit that I was happy. Not because I had a bone to pick with the former National Commander, or because I thought he needed to go, but because our system works. In reality, this is a happy story, because it has shown that we have standards, and each member will be held to them; Regardless of their grade or position. Many may criticize the CAP for allowing this to happen, but the truth is that it happens everywhere. We are not alone in this matter. But once again, we have the means to take action. And the BoG did. Our System Works.

So now, as MidwaySix has said, Lets stop the witch hunt and go back to serving this great nation in our own, unique way.