Captain Mark Hyland, a pilot with the Civil Air Patrol, offers a tour of a new and advanced search aircraft utilized by the Civil Air Patrol in search and rescue operations during a joint C.A.P. drill with the U.S. Air Force at Robert LaFleur Airport in Waterville on Saturday.
WATERVILLE — Kenny MacKenzie and Isabella Hammond sat in the communications trailer for the Civil Air Patrol on Saturday at the Robert LaFleur Airport, waiting for a signal to come over the radio.
“This is CAP Waterville. Over,” said Hammond, of Sanford. On the other end of the radio were patrolmen acting out a mock search-and-rescue scenario in nearby Belgrade.
The two cadets were among more than 40 participants in a week of exercises performed by Maine’s Civil Air Patrol and evaluated by the U.S. Air Force and CAP commanders. The evaluations, which take place every other year, conclude Sunday.
“I believe it will turn out well,” said Capt. Ken Hayes, public information officer for the Civil Air Patrol of Maine. “The competence of our people is routinely tested, and every time it turns out well.”
The Civil Air Patrol is an all-volunteer auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force that includes almost 60,000 civilians nationwide and operates in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. It operates a fleet of about 550 aircraft and can be called on to assist the Air Force in search-and-rescue operations, homeland security and disaster relief.
Over the last week, the Maine wing of CAP participated in daily simulations while based at the airport, including simulated weather warnings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the movement of aircraft to a safe haven in Rome, New York; and taking aerial photographs of disaster damage.
On Saturday participants were assigned to carry out a mock search for a lost fisherman in Belgrade and conduct fire watches via airplane.
Capt. Mark Hyland, a civil air patrolman from Poland, has been involved in the group for about six years. “I like the flying part,” said Hyland, 60. “Rather than just sightseeing, it’s an opportunity to actually do something that will help people.”
How often the Civil Air Patrol responds to real-life scenarios varies, but the organization estimates that it helps save the lives of 78 to 100 people each year.
Capt. Mark Spaulding, left, oversees Civil Air Patrol members Isabella Hammond, right, and Kenny McKenzie, back center, on Saturday in the communications trailer at Robert LaFleur Airport in Waterville.
MacKenzie and Hammond, who are both cadets — the youth division of the Civil Air Patrol for those ages 12 to 21 — both said they both got involved in the Civil Air Patrol as preparation for careers as pilots or in law enforcement.
“I’ve always wanted to fly, and it’s a good way to get started,” MacKenzie said.
Roger Sanbourin, commander of the Civil Air Patrol’s Waterville squadron, said his favorite part of being in the air patrol is working with the cadets. The Waterville squadron, officially known as Waterville Composite Squadron 056, has grown recently and received a statewide Squadron of Merit award last fall at the annual wing conference in Bangor.
“I think they get a lot out of it,” said Sanbourin, 71, of Madison. “It all depends on what they want to do. We don’t tell them what to do or push them to do any one thing. It’s up to them what they want to focus on.”
Members of Maine’s Civil Air Patrol wing won’t find out until Sunday the outcome of their evaluation by the Air Force, but Hayes said Saturday he was optimistic.
“In the Civil Air Patrol, it’s all about continual improvement,” he said. “If they find a mistake, it’s about making sure it gets fixed.”
Original article can be found here: http://www.centralmaine.com