By Kevin Thranow
In the aftermath of a devestating winter storm that has produced wide-spread flooding, causing damage to roads, bridges, dams, culverts, businesses, farms, and private residences, how do you begin to get the full picture of the destruction over an area of about 1,400 square miles and start to prioritize the massive clean-up and repairs?
For Robert Oliver, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Director of the Safety of Dams, the answer was to call the local Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Based at the airport in Valentine, Nebraska, and covering northern parts of Nebraska and southern South Dakota from Rapid City to Sioux Falls, the Sandhills Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol conducted aerial surveys with Oliver from the airfield at Rosebud IHS out to Mission, Antelope, Hidden Timber Lake and Okreek, up to White River, and down the length of the Little White River to Spring Creek and St. Francis and points along the way, and back to Rosebud. The crew photographed dams and areas of damage in order to prepare for the response efforts.
Local resident Charles Moe is a CAP captain and has been a member of the area squadron for close to nine years. Because the patrol is all volunteer and funded in part as a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, flying search and rescue, aerial survey, and emergency recconaissance missions is very inexpensive for local agencies who avail themselves of the services. All told, Moe estimated that the afternoon they spent gathering the valuable information that RST needed to prepare their response plan would cost the tribe less than $200. Try hiring a private pilot for a short tourist trip through the Black Hills for under $200 - it can’t be done!
The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and receives some support from the Department of Defense through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Air Force and Civil Air Patrol. Units across the county provide nearly 95 percent of local search and rescue missions. CAP also conducts a nationwide program of aerospace and STEM education, which is available to local schools and youth organizations. Civil Air Patrol maintains and trains for emergency services to meet the requests of the Air Force and assists local, state, and Federal agencies in emergency operations or activities. Civil Air Patrol depends heavily on civilian volunteers, and Moe encourages local citizens to join the service.
The Sandhills Composite Squadron is a non-profit individually chartered unit of Civil Air Patrol, with volunteers from South Dakota and Nebraska. Cadets complete various requirements of the program and receive promotion in rank, ribbons and certificates. They may become eligible for nationally sponsored activities, flight and academic scholarships.
Since Civil Air Patrol’s formation during the earliest days of World War II, this vigilant organization of citizen Airmen has been committed to service to America. Founded on December 1, 1941, to mobilize the nation’s civilian aviation resources for national defense service, CAP has evolved into a premier public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions when needed - in the air and on the ground.
Anyone interested in the Civil Air Patrol is welcome to attend one of the monthly meetings at Mid-Plains Community College in Valentine at 9:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Visit the Sandhills Composite Squadron’s website at http://sandhillscomposite.nebraskacivilairpatrol.org.