CAP Talkers Critique Hurricane Harvey Response

Civil Air Patrol

By AuxBeacon News Staff

[Editor’s Note: Several of our readers wanted to share critical member comments regarding Civil Air Patrol’s Awards Ceremony in San Antonio and the SAR/DR effort for Hurricane Harvey. The more economically effective use of drones for photo-reconnaissance is also being highlighted by this disaster. See reporting to follow. One regular CAPTalker, Eclipse, summed it all up as follows:]

Eclipse: “This will be one more incident on the hit parade where the response is late, short, and disjointed, emphasizing again that CAP does not even have a DR doctrine, nor a major incident response plan, let alone the manpower to execute one.

If history informs the future, there will be a lot of emails floating around with instructions to ‘check your gear’ and units/groups/wings doing ‘readiness checks’ without enough detail to actually respond in a meaningful way, (most volunteers can’t provide open-ended readiness without details of where and how long) then nothing for a while, then frantic calls to deploy immediately mid-day on a Tuesday to drive 17 hours with no logistical support, a bare-minimum team, and no real mission plan. Some will spin up, then be told to ‘hold for instructions,’ and then it will be a cluster of emails and calls trying to figure out who is in charge, where to go, and who is paying for it.

More than a few people will burn vacation time, spend a lot of their own money (expecting reimbursements that never come), and make great effort to sit in an ICP somewhere with no tasking because the local people don’t even know they are there.

A few outside the immediate DA will go because the stars aligned on them personally, not through any structured preparedness, and the rest will sit and watch TV, gear packed by the door, again, to hear nothing, go nowhere, but still keep telling work and family
any time now’.

CAP has never been, nor is it capable now, of being a national deployment force. What capabilities it has are focused around local response by day-players who can get a few days off work, and when those rare few are depleted, there’s no second wave.

Moving aircraft regionally, let alone nationally, is a logistical nightmare most members don’t understand. Assuming you can get past 8 regions and 52 wings of special instructions, approvals, and the NOC, there’s still the non-trivial issues of duty days, range, and how many planes are actually operational for cross-country flying. Plus, every plane you send is one less at home, reducing an already stressed fleet for normal ops.

Getting them home, often without the ‘get-there’ pilots, is even worse.

For better or worse, these situations are now cash-cows for professional resources and contractors who will fill-in where local people are stretched beyond capacity and need help. The places where CAP can get involved, assuming there are even relationships to begin with, shrink every year. There are always anecdotal successes, but on the mean, and strategically, very little CAP can do better, even at the rate of ‘free crews’.

This will almost certainly be the first major disaster incident where UAVs are a factor in searching the DA. People need boats, or have to wait until the water subsides to go looking. An inexpensive, consumer-friendly UAV, with a good operator, can be doing house-to house checks as soon as the wind is calm enough.

Be prepared for lots of photos and stories of members, especially cadets, with wet, GES-only 101 cards handing out water and helping clear out flooded homes. Those just make the people who spend their time and money training ask what the point of the certifications are when clearly anyone can throw on a vest and help when the water is actually rising.

Has it been mentioned that CAP has no DR doctrine, nor the manpower to execute one?”

6 Comments on "CAP Talkers Critique Hurricane Harvey Response"

  1. Taking note here that AuxBeacon hasn’t said a thing yet about Civil Air Patrol’s response to Harvey. Has a CAP Cat got your tongue or will you only report the critical public statements on CAPTalk from active Group Commanders like Eclipse and Matthews going forward?

    By the way, after Texas Wing prepared a long response that we are still dissecting and Johnny Yuma pointed out the damage, Major David Bowles shut down the Fubar-Eclipse “non-response” thread to prevent further comments from us being reported by your team. Just FYI.

  2. It is amazing how many times I have sat home waiting for a call as both a Mission Rated Chaplain and a Mission Pilot through my 23 years in CAP and we were not tasked to report to an ICP. I live in Florida and have made sure I have remained current in both positions.

    My only taskings were to fly Hurricane Opal, one ferry flight during Hurricane Matthew, and Operation Deepwater Horizon, which I flew several mission in a one week period. I am an Instrument rated pilot with about 2000 hrs. and have been in ministry over 45 years, and a few REAL search missions and ELT false alarm searches. It goes without saying that, as much as I have enjoyed the fellowship of my squadron mates and group and Wing relationships, there is no way CAP has gotten its money’s worth out of me for the time, effort and expense I have contributed over the last 23 years.

    If I had known that going in, I believe I could have been more productive with some other SAR or flying ministries. It’s just to bad and so sad CAP is so wrapped up in its politics and selfish greed at different levels of leadership that great opportunist are missed to really give aid to our state and nation. Looks like I will be retiring soon.

    • Sometimes ( most of the time) other agencies don’t even know about CAP resources (such as yourself) call them and give them your ES coordinators number. My county has an ES coordinator that works with all the local groups. Look to see if yours does.

  3. Avatar DronesOverSanAntonio | August 31, 2017 at 16:56 | Reply

    We are seeing lightweight drones fly more economically, more safely and more precisely at lower altitudes without risk to people and property. Older, medicated CAP mission pilots often cheat FAA and regulations and safety measure for their selfish objectives in receiving awards at Wing, Region and National Conferences.

  4. Avatar The Real World | August 31, 2017 at 09:49 | Reply

    This has been my thought this entire last week while Texans have been suffering through this devastating storm. Nothing but misery and destruction from Corpus Christi to Louisiana, and not a peep from Texas Wing except to finally tell it’s members they are on Alert Level 1 status as of TODAY, almost twenty four hours after the storm has left the Houston area. No search and rescue missions, no badly needed water rescues, absolutely NOTHING but silence. What is most amazing is how tone deaf the Senior leadership has been regarding the National Conference. Has nobody bothered to think of the optics of having a party to pass out awards and pat each other on the back while tens of thousands of people are suffering and now homeless in the immediate area? You would almost have to laugh if it wasn’t so sickening and self-absorbed.

  5. Well said, Eclipse! You nailed it.

    The CAP serves no one, but themselves. They are mostly feel good “fluff” stories to give the false perception they are useful in disaster relief, but in reality, they get in the way. The CAP is still on stand by for the hurricane. Where is this search & rescue they claim they do?

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