For the third time in a row, the Arizona Wing earned an “outstanding” rating in the biennial Evaluated Exercise (EvalEx) that took place during the week of Oct. 30-Nov. 4. The EvalEx is an opportunity for the U.S. Air Force to review and assess the effectiveness of each wing in the Civil Air Patrol. Sixteen Air Force representatives evaluated all aspects of the Wing’s operations and support activities from aircrews and ground teams to logistics, safety, and communications. Lt. Col. Jordan Lee, USAF Southwest Region Liaison Commander, led the Air Force evaluation team.
“I am proud of everyone’s dedication and commitment and I appreciate the time invested to make (the EvalEx) such a great success,” said Wing Commander Col. Martha Morris in an email to senior members across the Wing. “To get an outstanding twice in a row (in 2013 and 2015) was remarkable. A three-peat is pretty much unheard-of.”
Tasks were entered in the Web Management Information Reporting System (WMIRS) at the beginning of the week and the first two sorties were flown on Nov. 1. The scenario started with a number of meteorites striking locations across the state. Four aerial photography sorties were flown on Nov. 2 and nine more on Nov. 3. The flights provided hundreds of high-resolution photographs of rivers, power plants, and other infrastructure such as dams and railroad tracks.
Some tasks in far-flung locations such as the Hoover Dam and Page were “virtually” handed off to Civil Air Patrol squadrons in the California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah Wings, to support Arizona Wing’s response to the widespread effects of the meteor strikes. At the in-brief on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 4, Lt. Col. Lee said he was pleased that Arizona Wing had completed all of the aerial photography tasks before the final day of the EvalEx.
On Saturday, it was all hands on deck for a full day of simulated search and rescue mission operations. The day began with a search for a Rockwell Commander that was reported overdue on a flight from Winslow to Sells, Ariz. Four CAP planes flew along the plane’s expected route of flight, searching for the missing plane and pilot. Radar tracking and cellphone forensics tools also were used in the search. There was added task, known as an “inject,” to search for two missing ASU graduate students somewhere along Highway 87 between Mesa and Payson. They were located by a ground team. A requested transport flight, to take a NASA official to Flagstaff to assess damage to a telescope, got much more interesting when the plane had a simulated low oil pressure alert, resulting in an unplanned landing in Payson. In addition, there was an ELT search, a request to get video of “suspicious persons” at the Goodyear airport, and another aerial video request to assess whether forest fire damage was affecting a herd of wild horses near Gila Bend.
Maj. John Schofield, CAP, served as the incident commander, overseeing activities in three divisions located at Falcon Field in Mesa, Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix, and Tucson International Airport. “The Arizona Wing has provided hundreds of photos and videos of dams, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure, to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other state and local agencies to assess the level of damage from meteorites that struck across the state,” Schofield said. “Our first priority is always life safety, so the search for the missing airplane, as well as another search for two missing ASU students, are getting our full attention.”
A total of 167 CAP professional volunteers participated in this mission, including eleven planes, 23 Ground Team members (plus four K-9s), 33 air crew members, 42 people working in in the Incident Command Post, and six cadets.
During the debriefing at the end of the day on Saturday, various members of the AF evaluation team discussed their findings and announced the rating given to each unit. Some of the highlights include:
- Operations and planning – Impressed to see that they were joined at the hip all day. Good situational awareness through a variety of means (logs, video screens, status board, etc.). They were thinking forward to the next planning period throughout the day.
- Communications – This is the best Comms unit I’ve ever seen. Advance planning by Jack (Dempsey) paid off. Comms used HF all day long and was able to communicate with all units. CAPLINK was very impressive.
- Ground team – Communications with aircraft and mission base were flawless. Also, evaluators were “amazed” at how quickly air and ground team, working together, were able to find and disable a simulated ELT.
- Aircrews –
- IT – It was obvious Larry (Westfall) prepared well ahead of time because everything worked well and he just had to stand by in case something went wrong. The technology in this wing is remarkable.
- PIO- Great press kit. Impressed by the Wing’s live Twitter feed and the use of a closed FB group to simulate the feed during the exercise. Good to see cadets involved and they (C/CMSgt Deon Bryant and C/TSgt Kaleb Boehmer) did very well.
Lt. Col. Lee summed up the evaluation by saying, “It’s not just the team you have developed; it’s the depth of your ‘bench.’ If you lose a position, you have people who can step up to fill it. It’s a very well-oiled machine that you have here in the Arizona Wing.”