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1AF's Air Force Auxiliary Completes Louisiana Aerial Photo Mission

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Amos Plante, Civil Air Patrol
  • 1st Air Force

Civil Air Patrol’s Louisiana Wing flew the last two aerial sorties of its request for assistance to photograph Hurricane Ida-impacted lands and waterways late last week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness requested the images to use in assessing damage from the Category 4 storm, which made landfall Aug. 29 on the Gulf Coast.

Acting as a Total Force partner and as the U.S. Air Force auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol helps First Air Force rapidly respond to non-military threats domestically in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.

“The people of Louisiana have been through so much with Ida. After Katrina, it is the second-most damaging and intense hurricane to hit the state of Louisiana on record,” said Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, commander, First Air Force, Air Forces Northern. “We wish our neighbors well and are grateful for the opportunity to provide assessment images as a step forward in their rebuilding efforts.”

The CAP mission began immediately after the skies over Louisiana cleared enough to allow precision flying. In total, CAP aircrews made 148 flights equating to 377 flying hours of support. They have gathered and delivered almost 122,000 photo images and over 6,000 gigapixels of data to both government agencies.

The accumulated photographs cover 6,012 square miles of surface area. Although the imagery shows damaged areas in cities like New Orleans and Houma, much of the photos show Ida’s impact on smaller communities such as Thibodaux, Galliano, LaPlace, Lafitte, Dulac, Chauvin, Point Aux Chenes and Montegut.

“It was an intense and challenging mission,” said the Louisiana Wing’s incident commander for the response, Lt. Col. Mickey Marchand. “However, our aircrews and support staff were up for it, and we gave our customers all they asked for.”

The mission involved eight of the wing’s nine aircraft. Two airplanes from CAP’s Texas Wing and one from its Tennessee Wing, along with their aircrews, joined the mission for several days.

More than 130 CAP members, including four from the Texas Wing and two from the Tennessee Wing, participated in the Louisiana mission. Eight ground vehicles were used for transportation.

During one flight, an aircrew spotted, reported and photographed a partially sunken and leaking barge in the Mississippi River. The incident commander filed a “First Incident” notification via the state’s hazardous materials hotlines, leading ultimately to elimination of a dangerous navigational hazard and an environmental threat.

CAP, as the Air Force auxiliary, is providing disaster response at the direction of First Air Force being the designated air component for the U.S. Northern Command. In this capacity, CAP’s DSCA actions assist USNORTHCOM in its defense of America’s homeland — protecting its people, national power and freedom of action.