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, thenĀ 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?”

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