May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Today is the day we Americans reflect upon the sacrifices of so many for the rest of us. Regretfully, I lack the abilities to adequately convey those feelings one must express on days such as these.

However, although this day rightly focuses on the five armed forces, please remember that CAP officers have also died in the line of duty. "The Flying Minutemen" documents 67 deaths of CAP officers and men during World War II, and many more have died since then. Most were looking for someone who needed them.

So on this Memorial Day, please raise your glasses to the men and women of the Armed Forces, but don't forget the Civil Air Patrol's brave souls in that toast.

Update: I can't believe I forgot this, but today appropriately celebrates our 60th year as the Auxiliary of the Air Force. Semper Vigilans, fellow Patrolman, and hope for another 60 years as the Auxiliary.

May 23, 2008

Twister in So. CA

For those of you who haven't turned on the news recently, a tornado ripped through southern California yesterday. At first, I paid no attention to this story as twisters are pretty common this time of year. But then I learned that the mouth was half a mile in diameter.

That's a big tornado.

From what I understand, the damage is pretty devastating, but the citizens are coping and recovering. Wildfires may not be our forte, but disaster relief certainly is. Hopefully CAWG is involved in some way. I know I have that familiar feeling. Put me in the game, coach.

Let me know if anyone hears anything about this.

And to those responding, and those effected: Semper Vigilans

Look out below!

Thanks to RiverAux, I have been informed of a proposal out in Oregon for CAP Aircrews. This article indicates the development of small survival packs our aircrews can drop to a survivor. The best part is they're easily adaptable to fill whatever needs the survivor(s) may have.

Personally, I think this is a great idea. As aircrew, I have often thought about our role in the greater response beyond searching. Rocking our wings as it were is not enough to give a survivor moral support. If I was a crash victim, and I saw a Cessna above me rock their wings, I wouldn't know what that meant. How should they if they're not in the community? At least this way they have proof.

Of course, if the victim is injured and can't move, it's useless. That's where medics would come in. Oh wait...

May 22, 2008

Deja Vu?

I didn't intend to post another entry so soon after my last post (which should be read). However, I was watching Fox News, only to find that California is once again suffering from wildfires. Once again I have a 'put me in the game, coach' feeling. I foresee the next few days will renew the debate that CAP belongs in the game here. However, despite that gut reaction to jump in and help, I will reiterate my position: CAP has no place in the least not yet.

However, this is a good debate to have. So...have at it!

UAVs and CAP

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about CAP and UAVs. Although CAPBlog god "Data" thinks they have no place in CAP, I am not sure what to think. Do I think we should go robotic? Not at the sacrifice of our manned platforms. However, would a small fleet of drones be beneficial? I believe so.

There is a product called the Evolution (pictured). It's a small vehicle that can be disassembled and placed in a backpack. It's usual payload is a port- and forward-mounted camera. Piloting the vehicle is also easy, with a system that resembles a playstation controller connected to MS Flight Simulator (at least, according to the info sheet). It also can fly itself through a pre-planned flight plan. Additionally, the system is purely electronic, allowing for zero cost in fuel.

I have been on searches where a small UAV could be beneficial to a ground team in the area. Rather than spend the $120+ an hour for that Cessna to survey the surrounding area, they could simply launch an Evolution in-theater. With today's gas prices, this system might be worth exploring.

There is a compromise, however. Since I have been involved in the cyber-CAP community, there has been a major complaint that we don't have FLIR attached to our airborne systems. FLIR has been deemed too expensive or complex for our aircrews, or at least that's the story I got. However, there are certain UAV payloads that, although not as good as FLIR, can provide real-time visible-light or infrared surveillance of a select area. The technology may be adaptable to our fleet of aircraft, and easily trainable for our aircrews.

This is clearly a controversial issue, however it's a debate that needs to be had. Those who don't adapt will die; and I would hate to see this organization perish for lack of foresight.

(all images are (C) BAI Aerosystems. No infringement is intended)

Ground to Air communications

The MDWG website posted this article a few days ago providing another personal perspective on the MD/WV SAREX last month. It's worth the read if you have an extra minute.

May 20, 2008

E.S. Training Opportunity

If you read my previous post, I alluded to the fact that the USDRC's leadership all have the SGAUS's Military Emergency Management Specialist badges. I also commented on the value I thought the program would give the member.

For those that do not know, the program is designed to take military officers and men, civilian government employees and emergency services professionals and give them training on how to better deal with emergency situations. The program itself is designed for the State Guards, but is also used by other government organizations, such as the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). The training consists of FEMA ICS courses (many of which we have already taken), a narrative, and further training that may include an internship at an actual Emergency Operations Center.

I was looking at the brochure again after work, and noticed that there are liaison officers with several government and private agencies. One of them was the aforementioned Medical Reserve Corps, but another that stood out was the American Cadet Alliance. The ACA is like our cadet program, but has no emergency services component. Therefore, I found it curious that members would be interested in pursuing this class. However, it is a cool course to take, and I applaud them in their effort.

I am puzzled further by the fact that neither the CAP nor the Coast Guard Auxiliary have agency liaisons for this program. Could it be that we are a government agency and the SGAUS is private? No, because the MRC is also government, and they have a liaison. An answer to this question escapes me, still.

I have little doubt that CAP officers have undergone this training. I also have little doubt that it aided in developing them professionally as emergency services officers and professionals. It may seem all too logical to have a liaison in place for those members (such as myself) who would like to take this training.

Any readers who have undergone this training, I would like to hear of your experiences. Please comment below.

May 19, 2008

Legitimacy and Uniforms

With the launch of he-who-should-disappear's U.S. Ranger Corps, faux militias have been a popular topic of conversation within the Civil Air Patrol community. Indeed, VA Joe and his regular visitors like to rag on these groups of volunteers almost endlessly. Some veterans there do insinuate that CAP, the USCG Auxiliary and the various SDFs are also false militaries of some kind. Of course, I believe them to be mistaken.

What separates CAP and the others from the likes of the Ranger Corps or the United States Service Command? Government charter is certainly one such requirement. However, I believe it must go further than that. I developed this criteria for a stalled project I was set to do this summer, but instead wound up working for a UAV company. However, the criteria still works. A legitimate volunteer military organization (VMO) needs to meet the following requirements
  • Are chartered by the Federal or State Governments; and are administered by such. These organizations are usually organized under a military department (such as the Air Force) or the State’s National Guard office.
  • Operate in direct support of a parent service. The parent service is the service that the organization is chartered under. For example, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is organized under the Coast Guard, making it the parent service.
  • Are made up mostly of volunteers, with those paid positions ones that are only necessary to maintain the day-to-day operations of the service. These are generally in the administrative field.
  • Operates in a non-combatant role; serving only as a humanitarian organization.
  • Perform missions the parent service cannot feasibly do itself.
These requirements were stitched together from the CAP, CG Auxiliary and the various SDFs out there. Legitimate VMOs will meet all or most of these requirements, with the only one not needing to be satisfied is the final one: "Perform missions the parent service cannot feasibly do itself." Sometimes, the organization can serve simply as a force multiplier for a mission the parent service can do, but needs additional personnel or expertise at a lower cost than bringing on additional parent-service members.

Of course, the most fundamental objection to the faux militias are their use of military style uniforms. Uniforms can be good. They bind an organization together, and create a corporateness that is needed. However, the design of the uniform is what is controversial. If they did not wear military style uniforms, would we be so willing to bash them? Probably not. The United States Homeland Emergency Response Organization (US HERO; catchy acronym, huh?) wears a uniform, but it consists of an orange shirt and black BDU pants. Non-military if there ever was one. Their mission is professed as one of life-saving and disaster support, but I don't hear nearly as much criticism of them as I do the Ranger Corps, Service Command or the Disaster Relief Command. In fact, a quick jaunt around US HERO's website and you'll find frequent training events, and a true commitment to their job. I cannot, in good conscious classify these guys as a faux militia, though perhaps a little renegade.

To be fair, I've been following the Disaster Relief Command for some time now too, and it appears to be cleaning up it's act. At least, online. True it's website is not the best, but it now boasts a Medical Battalion (on paper, at least). Their leadership have also earned the
State Guard Assiociation's Military Emergency Management Specialist badge. (I am, of course, assuming it was earned legitimately.) MEMS is a pretty good program, and I would participate if I had the time. If the DRC would only change their uniforms, I would have half a mind to check them out further. However, they still have a long way to go before I'm willing to attach my good name to them.

Put simply, CAP and our brethren are different for many reasons, not the least of which is government charter and military oversight. Should these people be commended for taking on the burden of saving lives? Only when they show a true desire to do so. With some, I will admit, I am giving the benefit of the doubt. However, I feel that's only fair.

May 18, 2008

Go Away, Please

I want to be the national commander one day. Those that know me close know this fact all too well. Now it’s out in the open, so…there you are. However, I recognize that I have a long road to travel before I’m ready to assume that burden; be it professionally, experience-wise or financially. I’m 22 years old. I still have a lot to learn. However, it’s not that way for all national commanders. They say easy come, easy go. In Antonio Pineda’s case, that is the honest truth.

I know I'm going to get heat for the rest of what I have to say. Too's my blog. If you don't like it, leave a comment. Besides, I had to do a lot of soul searching before discrediting a former national commander publicly, but I feel it is the right thing to do. This stunt of Pineda’s reflects badly upon our organization, and we need to distance ourselves from him as much as we can. I don’t care whether you think it was legal or illegal, truth is that he was kicked out. He’s gone, at least as far as this organization is concerned. However, less than a year after his 2b was filed, he turns around and forms faux militia: The United States Ranger Corps.

If he was truly interested in saving lives, he would join the local fire department or rescue squad. If interested in mentoring teenagers and young adults, he could join the boy scouts or the explorer programs. But, none of those have Generals now do they? Nor do they have a need for constant uniform changes that only drain the membership of money better spent keeping themselves and their gear in top-condition.

It’s time to fade away, Antonio Pineda, like that soldier MacArthur spoke of in his farewell address to Congress. Good Bye.

May 10, 2008

Back in the Saddle

After nearly a year of not flying missions for one reason or another, I returned to the saddle today flying Mission Observer on a rather routine mission. Regardless, it was still fun.

The mission was simple: test our communications capabilities along various points along the northern Chesapeake Bay. We flew at various altitudes from 1000 ft to 3000 ft AGL along differing portions of the bay. The point was to see how low the aircraft could fly without loosing communications links with our ICP. This mission was part of a SAREX, and had been cancelled just a few hours earlier due to weather. Regardless, at noon today I got the word the mission was re-activated.

I met my pilot a few hours later at my local airport, and we promptly departed on the mission. We were fortunate enough to be flying one of the new C-182 Glass Cockpits. I did most of my flight training in the glass cockpit C-172, and the transition to the C-182 was smooth. All the navigation was the same; and that was my job today. The wing operations officer was even kind enough to put a few checkpoints into the system to make our jobs a little easier.

What did I get out of it? I was able to re-familiarize myself with flight planning and execution, communications procedures, and the glass cockpit system as a search and rescue/navigation tool.

Also, if you've never seen the sun setting on the Chesapeake Bay at 1000 ft AGL, you're missing out. Although we made it back to the airport well before the sun dipped below the horizon, it was still late enough in the day to see it wane from 1000 ft.

I never realized how much I missed flying with CAP...

Swivel Chair Patrol?

So, for the past week Tedda's amazing "Swivel Chair Patrol" has been down. Anyone know what's up with that?

Lets hope that this hasn't gone the way of the Civil Air Portal or Flying Minuteman sites.

May 8, 2008

Generational Leadership

Major points to "mikeylikey" from CAPTalk who turned me onto this article from the Air Force about leading differing generations. After reading it, I couldn't help but think about the differing generations within the Civil Air Patrol. The demographics of the seniors at my squadron range from 22 (myself) to over 80. In thinking about the differing generations at my unit, and the way they act, the descriptions outlined in the article are uncanny. Although all embody a spirit of service and "how can I help?", the post-war generation embodies that spirit the most, followed by the Baby Boomers who tend to have the biggest ideas. The Generation X-ers do have a 'distrust' of authority, yes, but don't buck it like the article implies. Instead, they follow those they respect more than someone they don't. Of course, that's a natural fact of leadership in general. Being part of the Millennial Generation, I will concur with the assessment made by the Colonel.

In short, the advice given by the Colonel in the article should be taken to heart. I intend to try it out myself. I highly suggest the read.

Got something to say on this? joint the discussion here on CAPTalk.

May 3, 2008

CAP Bill: Resurection

Remember that CAP Bill? Well, according to this thread on CAPTalk, it was referred to a GAO study and was done so with an 8-0 vote. Some have called this a roadblock. Perhaps it will be, but at least the bill finally got some attention in congress.

I'm still holding out hope that the bill will be passed and we take on more Homeland Security Missions. However, I'm also fine with the way things are going; at least in my wing.

UPDATE: I Checked the Library of Congress website. According to it, the bill was forwarded to the full committee (with revisions) by an 8-0 vote. I imagine those revisions include the words "GAO Study"

May 2, 2008

Joint-SAREX: How much better can it get?

Recently, MDWG and WVWG conducted a joint SAREX with the National Guard. The Wing also posted a personal perspective located here.

This is just the latest in a line of joint efforts between MD and WV Wings. The first took place last September with a joint SAREX on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The second was a joint mission, conducted in conjunction with the MD State Police. This SAREX was unique as the MD National Guard was able to transport members of the wing on Blackhawk helicopters straight to the mission base in West Virginia.

I've said time and time again that Col. Wiess (MDWG Commander) has done an excellent job increasing the readiness of the wing regarding Emergency Services. Additionally, the MD Adjutant General has referred to CAP as "One Heck of a Resource". If there was any example as to the support this wing has received from the National Guard, this is it.

Although I was unable to attend, my understanding was this was a great event. I hope more like it can be planned in the future. I have no doubt that more of this will come.

May 1, 2008

Inspection Time

Okay, so maybe inspections aren't this bad. However, the lead up to them can seem like it will be. That's right. My squadron was inspected last night. Fortunately we passed with no difficulty. Ordinarily, I wouldn't blog about these kinds of events, but one of the inspectors reads this blog. When I found that out, I knew I had to write about it. I am always amazed how long, but efficient the inspection actually is. Even though the inspectors were down one person, they still managed to get everything accomplished in a reasonable time. (And yes, I do really mean that.)

One thing my wing is doing that I was unable to organize by the time of the inspection are continuity books. For those that don't know, they're books with the name, rank and bio of the person in charge, along with regulations, files and any other pertinent information regarding that particular department (in my case, Cadet Programs). I've done them for my fraternity, and agree with the practice. Deciding what's 'pertinent' is another issue entirely.