Ground Teams Refresh Training ahead of Hurricane Florence
TRIANGLE, VA -
Civil Air Patrol (CAP) members of Virginia Wing, Group Three, rallied for emergency services ground team training last weekend beginning on Friday, September 7, 2018, at Prince William Forest Park near Triangle, VA, on the eve of Tropical Storm Florence. Each year, Group Three hosts an annual training “bivouac" (Army term for camping under the open skies) during the month of September to acquire or refresh skills, broaden capabilities, and quicken response time to emergency search and rescue requests issued by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) and the Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Group Three emergency services training officers, Maj. Nancy Carlson and Capt. Mike Conner, coordinated the ground team training plan and Col. Jim Covel, former Virginia Wing commander and Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters liaison to FEMA, served as the incident commander overseeing the 3-day training event.
With Tropical Storm Florence building off the southeastern U.S. coast, 38 members representing six units from across Northern Virginia, signed into mission base hosted at the Incident Command Post held at Turkey Run Campground of Prince William Forest Park. Mission staff assistant-trainee, 2d. Lt. Annette Degnan of Leesburg Composite Squadron, assisted with reviewing required forms and qualifications to ensure everyone was in compliance. After in-processing, members selected an area to set-up their personal tents and later join others for a campfire dinner including traditional S’mores dessert provided by the dining services officer, 1st. Lt. Cynthia Smith of Prince William Composite Squadron. First Lieutenant Smith single-handedly coordinated a meal plan and set up a field kitchen to provide nearly 125 meals during the training event with limited resources and modern facilities.
On the distant horizon, members witnessed the flash effect of lighting and sounds of pealing thunder of an adjacent weather front hovering over the National Capital Region. Twenty-five miles north of park near Washington, D.C., Fairfax and Arlington Counties were under a flash flood warning throughout the evening. Despite the looming rain forecast for Northern Virginia, the bivouac site remained dry and unaffected.
Early Saturday morning after breakfast, Maj. Carlson held ground team familiarization and preparatory (F&P) training for 12 ground team trainees. She was assisted by Capt. Conner and 1st. Lt. Sara Demyanovich of Prince William. Afterward, ground branch director-trainee, Capt. Karen Shaw received her training scenario brief from Col. Covel, Maj. Carlson, and Capt. Conner. She created and briefed ground team leaders on three ground sorties throughout the operational period consisting of land navigation, hasty and line searches, and electronic transponder search. The communications team was led by 1st. Lt. Paige Carlson of Prince William, serving as the communications unit leader, and mission radio operator trainee, Cadet MSgt. Joshua Sydow of Fredericksburg Composite Squadron, Group Four, Virginia Wing. The communications team issued radios to ground teams, facilitated radio checks, and requested status updates along with maintaining a communications log of all CAP radio transmissions.
Without a drop of rain to disrupt training, ground teams completed the first two ground sorties safely. Ground team leaders debriefed Capt. Shaw upon their return and each team re-fitted for the next task. After dinner, Capt. Shaw issued the final sortie for the operational period. The sortie included two tasks in search of a practice electronic search beacon being operated by Capt. Conner, in an undisclosed location. Ground team leaders briefed their teammates and prepared for the task. Ground Team Alpha led by Lt. Col. Tim Day of Prince William departed for their task while Team Bravo led by Lt. Col. Kimberly Frady, also of Prince William, finalized her team briefing and communications radio check. Within 10-minutes, a no-notice torrential downpour began to flood the base operations site and roadways. The ground branch director-trainee, Capt. Shaw, conferred with Col. Covel, recommending the task to be canceled with all ground teams returning to base immediately.
After an hour or more of heavy rain, Col. Covel determined the present weather conditions and following 48-hour forecast posed too high of a risk to member safety to continue ground team training. The remainder of the ground team training plan was aborted and members were asked to demob their personal effects. Prince William dispatch team was notified of the cancellation and stood ready to track personnel traveling home. Parents of cadets were contacted to pick-up their cadets at their soonest. The bivouac staff quickly demobilized the mission base and departed for their residences around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday evening.
Early Monday morning, September 10th, Tropical Storm Florence was upgraded to a category four hurricane. Virginia Wing members are currently under an alert warning notice issued by Col. Dean Gould, wing commander, for personal preparedness and mission-readiness to support disaster relief after Hurricane Florence makes landfall on the Eastern Shore. Group Three emergency services ground teams stand fresh-and-ready for tasking.
Photos from this Group Three training event can be found on the Virginia Wing Flickr website: https://flickr.com/photos/140896970@N03/sets/72157699596066701
Civil Air Patrol is the longtime auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a valued member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine aircraft and 1,944 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS). It performs about 90% 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 82 lives annually. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Operating as a nonprofit organization, CAP also plays a leading role in STEM/aerospace education, and its members serve as mentors to about 25,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit www.CAP.News or www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com for more information.
For More Information:
Lt. Col. Kimberly Frady, Assistant Public Affairs Officer