By TIM HORAN
When setting up simulated search and rescue missions, the Air Force didn’t know the situations chosen were so close to real life.
The Kansas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol was simulating real life situations Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Abilene. The rescue missions involved an overdue aircraft, a missing parachutist and a missing bicyclist.
State Director Rich Almeida was unaware of the bicycle accident that claimed the life of a 49-year-old Delphos woman May 31 in Salina.
“I didn’t know about that until this morning,” said Almeida who works at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. “That was tragic and this has nothing to do with that. I wouldn’t do that. It would be insensitive of me.”
The simulation was very similar to the hit and run. This exercise involved a missing bicyclist on a cross-country trek from Salina to Herington.
“He was overdue and he evidentially went into a ditch or ran off the road,” he said.
Similar missions for the Air Patrol flying out of the Abilene airport were the missing aircraft and missing parachutist.
On Friday the Patrol did more photography.
“A lot of disaster relief and homeland security involve aerial photography that has occurred over the last week,” he said.
“The crews will actually fly and the teams will actually go to the field and try to find the simulated targets assigned,” said Regena Aye, Col., CAP, Vice Commander of the North Central Region.
“The Air Force will provide us with scenarios for a variety of missions,” Aye added. “We don’t know what they will be. Information will unfold in bits as the evaluators test our ability to respond. We have to be ready to respond to whatever they give us, including a loss of key personnel, loss of power, storms, etc.
“Our onsite team will include all types of personnel: an incident commander will direct our efforts, aircrew members will fly looking for simulated crash sites or potential storm damage, safety officers will assess risk to teams and crews, ground teams will go on interview and search missions, etc.”
Radio operators in the communications center kept the flow of communication going.
“At the end of the event, the Air Force will give the wing a grade in numerous areas reflecting its ability to respond to the mission needs of the state and the communities of Kansas,” Aye said.
The types of missions (and scenarios) that the Kansas Wing normally gets are Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) beacon, missing persons, aircraft crashes, and aerial photography/damage assessment. The number of ELT missions is currently declining due to new beacons with more advanced location technology.
“That being said, we do sometimes get a call to search for an overdue aircraft or a beacon,” Aye said, adding that the Civil Air Patrol is made up of volunteers. “Kansas Wing also responds to missing person searches when asked. We have ground teams of trained, qualified individuals who will help local law enforcement and others when people need to be found. Our ground teams can also be tasked with checking homes in neighborhoods after storms and the like to ensure residents are okay or taking pictures to help assess damage after storms. Our aircrews are often now tasked with photo missions.”
Abilene Kansas National Guard Armory was the base of the mission.
Abilene was selected because of its central location and “ the Abilene airport manager (Jim Curtis) is every emendable to having us come in and use the airfield here.”