MEDFORD, Ore. -- More than 44 members of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) gathered to practice search and rescue techniques Saturday at three Oregon airports.
A ground team of adults and cadets took off in a CAP van to test a portable radio repeater. Other teams focused on training working from Aurora State Airport (UAO), Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM), and Rogue Valley International – Medford Airport (MFR).
There were also training classes on various pieces of electronic and photographic equipment used in searches. CAP performs aerial photography for various agencies including Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Photographs can help determine status of roads, bridges, runways, etc. They can also record high water levels and unusual animal populations.
Toward the afternoon the clouds rose high enough to get a few flights off the ground in the single-engine aircraft. CAP flies with a crew of three: the pilot, a mission observer and a mission scanner or airborne photographer. Each has roles in the safe operation of the flight and in accomplishing search duties or aerial photography.
Radio communication is a major part of Civil Air Patrol’s program. Besides a fleet of single-engine aircraft, its assets include a large network of radio equipment. CAP can help communicate in emergency situations when everyday communication systems such as telephone and cell phones are not functioning due to power outages. Therefore, CAP often practices its radio communication skills to be ready to help. CAP has radio repeaters located throughout the state, and personnel are ready to fill in using mobile radios if repeaters fail.
CAP has assisted County Sheriffs in missing hiker searches; helped county governments to practice evacuation exercises and helps with federal and state operations by being the radio link from an operating site deep in a canyon back to a headquarters location elsewhere in Oregon. This function is often called flying “high bird,” as an airplane flying circles above a canyon can pick up the radio signal that would otherwise never reach its headquarters.
Volunteers in Civil Air Patrol constantly train to Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) standards. That training equips CAP volunteers and crews to interconnect with other emergency service agencies in larger incidents.
CAP is a Congressionally chartered nonprofit organization and performs services for the federal government as the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. It is a strategic partner of the Air Force, serving as a member of its Total Force. CAP has three primary missions: emergency services, cadet (teen) programs and aerospace education. This year, CAP is celebrating its 70-year association with the Air Force.