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CAP members fly critical missions in oil spill response

May 27, 2010


Maj. John Neil (right), the Alabama Wing’s director of operations and, and Capt. Glenn Wilson, an imaging expert from the wing’s Bessemer Composite Squadron, examine a coastal map at the Operation Deepwater Horizon command center in Mobile, Ala.

Capt. Glenn Wilson (left) consults with Eric Brockwell, a Geographic Imaging System technician working with data collected by CAP aircrews.

Capt. Jan Hulsey (left), from CAP’s National Operations Center, and Maj. David Hester, a CAP incident commander and the Alabama Wing’s director of communications, work the phone lines at CAP’s “Air Ops” desk in the command center.

Capt. Ande Boyer, a CAP imaging expert and the Alabama Wing’s director of emergency services, reviews digital data collected by aircrews flying along the Gulf Coast shoreline.

Maj. Keith Riddle (left), Mississippi Wing inspector general, and 1st Lt. Randy Broussard,  communications officer for the wing’s Pine Belt Composite Squadron, make plans for their flight, one of 73 launched by CAP in support of Operation Deepwater Horizon.

Photos by Capt. Phil Norris

Capt. Phil Norris
Assistant Director of Public Affairs
Southeast Region

ALABAMA – Members from the Mississippi, Alabama and Florida wings are launching daily aerial damage assessment flights from their station in the Mobile Convention Center, one of several incident command posts set up for the Gulf Coast oil spill response.

In addition to the CAP volunteers, hundreds of other disaster assistance personnel are participating in Deepwater Horizon Response, an operation coordinated by the unified command made up of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard; BP; the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Department of the Interior. The unified command is working with agencies such as NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CAP to provide data to the different groups working to clean up the spill.

CAP’s critical missions in support of Deepwater Horizon Response have included flying VIPs over coastal waters to get a look at the integrity of oil containment barriers, transporting vital mission equipment, collecting data and flying coastline photo reconnaissance missions.

The most important task the CAP aircrews perform is making daily flights over 700 miles of coastline from Louisiana to Florida and taking digital images of the oil containment barriers and adjacent land area near the shoreline.

In 13 days of flying missions, 26 volunteers have expended 2,128 man-hours making 73 flights in 12 CAP aircraft, for a total of 197 hours in the air over the waters along the Gulf Coast.

On an average day, the aircrews take from 2,400 to 3,600 digital images. The images represent critical information that planners are using to help determine their response to the spill, which began April 20 following an explosion at the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

 “Whether it is performing duties as an aircrew member, mission base or support staff, the opportunity to serve with Civil Air Patrol in response to this incident is an honor,” said Maj. Keith Riddle, inspector general for the Mississippi Wing.

Maj. John Neil, the initial CAP incident commander at the Mobile command post, spent nine days away from his civilian job to serve. “If I did not have to make a living, I would continue to serve as the IC until the mission is completed,” he said.

Neil, the Alabama Wing director of operations, will probably get an opportunity to return, as CAP’s missions are expected to continue into June.


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105 South Hansell Street
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Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-5937
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