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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2012

Virginia Air National Guard Airmen join with Civil Air Patrol in severe weather training exercise

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Meaghan E. M. Selki 192nd Fighter Wing

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Airmen with the Virginia Air National Guard's 192nd Intelligence Squadron based in Langley Air Force Base worked with the Civil Air Patrol at Newport News—Williamsburg International Airport during Commonwealth Guardian, a training exercise that used geospatial information technology to provide incident awareness and assessment during a simulated severe weather event.

During the exercise, the 192nd IS and CAP were tasked to provide damage assessments at six locations along Interstate 81.

CAP Maj. Jim E. Byrd, CAP mission pilot, and CAP 2nd Lt. Sanae S. Kenner, CAP mission observer, together with 192nd IS domestic operations planners, took off toward Bristol, Va., with geospatial information equipment aboard the aircraft. While Byrd and Kenner focused on piloting and navigating the aircraft, a 192nd IS observer deployed the image and video capturing capability at specific locations, transmitting the information to analysts on the ground.

"CAP aircraft are specially equipped for communications, visual search and rescue, and are relatively slow-moving, which is conducive to clarity in imaging operations," said Byrd.

Meanwhile, back at the airport, 192nd IS domestic operations planners received near real-time footage and communicated with the airborne team via Internet chat to pass on additional needs.

The ability to provide that coverage in an inclement weather event, or other natural disasters and emergency events, is an invaluable resource to senior leaders to assist in making decisions about where personnel and resources should be allocated.

"This inter-agency partnership is a force multiplier that provides situational awareness to incident commanders so they can allocate resources appropriately and help ease the suffering of Virginia's citizens during times of a disaster or loss of property," said Col. Steven R. Swetnam, Virginia National Guard director of intelligence.

The 192nd IS typically performs missions delivering real-time, high-confidence intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance products and services to joint and coalition forces and other government agencies.

Working with the CAP gave squadron members the opportunity to work in a different capacity.

"The Civil Air Patrol, as the non-combatant auxiliary of the United States Air Force, provides additional force multipliers for mission planners by utilizing CAP aircraft for geo-spatial imaging missions. CAP civilian crews are well-trained, non-paid volunteers, thus decreasing the cost of missions and utilizing local talent," said Byrd.