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December 05, 2005

Comments

fyrfitrmedic

My 0.02:

I'm in no position to debate the content of the AAR. I didn't make the trip; I was a little busy caring for my dying father [who actually -wanted- me to go] and as such my personal participation was limited to helping with logistics at Hawk Mountain prior to the PAWG contingent's departure.

All that being said, I have to say that the presentation of the AAR left a bit to be desired. No offense to the authors, but some of the commentary within came off as rather less than professional [and occasionally, bordering on vindictive] upon first reading [and on subsequent readings thereafter]. I felt like I was reading a draft or a lengthy message-board post rather than a review and presentation of 'lessons learned'.

Before the flamefest starts, I -do- have experience writing post-incident documentation and AARs; most of my experience comes from multiple disciplines outside the realm of CAP.

These are just my own impressions, not speaking for any other persons or entities. Flames to /dev/null/, please.


Tony Rowley

JW

Damm, I thought that we were heading up the high road but here we go again........

Your 2 cents is worth, well 2 cents. Lets move on!!

Love that story about the GIS photos. Thats what I am talking about. Talk about customer service.

JW

fyrfitrmedic

Thanks for the pot-kettle-black comment, JW.

And you accuse -me- of taking this thread off the 'high road'? Kindly point your fingers elsewhere.

RocketPropelled

I wasn't there, so I don't know what happened other than what other people have reported.

Posted here is a document written and compiled by the on-scene ICs, with their impressions of what happened, what worked, what didn't work, and feedback on what would work better in the future. That's a proper AAR, and I believe they made a lot of good points.

Did they point some fingers? Sure, but when they pointed them, they also went out of their way to rationalize them. If the issues were coming mainly from one wing, that deserves to be noted, whether it was PAWG or FLWG or HIWG. I don't think anyone was spared in the report -- if you're sensitive about criticism of your wing, maybe it's worth looking into with the actual GTLs and aircrew who were there, and get their AAR.

Mistakes were made all around, I think that point is abundantly clear, and these ICs have gone above and beyond to offer potential solutions to anyone who is willing to listen and support them.

Some folks are feeling burned by the AAR, and they're commenting about it. Good. If you were there, and you have explanations that counter or support the assertions in the AAR, write up your own! The more genuine data and earnest observations, the better. We've seen, just within the space of these comments, some valuable lessons learned and misunderstandings resolved. That's what makes these AARs worthwhile.

It's easy to sit back and talk about what the fools back at Mission Base are doing, and armchair-quarterback them with your own pet theories and plans -- it's quite another to sit in the ICP and be just as frustrated with conflicting taskings, orders from on high, and differing emotions regarding your orders. At the end of the day, we salute and drive on with the highest levels of professionalism and safety.

Qualified and constructive criticism is not unprofessional -- it's one of the most professional acts a leader can perform. The ICs here have donned their Nomex suits, put their names on a widest-distribution document, and seem to be weathering flames from anonymous posters pretty well. In fact, my name's at the bottom here, so I'm no longer anonymous to CAPblog readers.

I've learned that in the AAR process, you have to take a step out of your shoes and look at things from a different perspective. If there's something out of whack, AARs shine millions of candlepower on the issue(s).

Good processes and things-done-right sparkle and are amplified by bright light, like a disco ball. Our pride is awakened, and we bask in the glory. Press releases are issued. Pictures go in the paper. Et cetera.

When broken systems and less-than-stellar decisions are spotlighted, defensive responses are natural and immediate. Those in this spotlight are uncomfortable, and tend to point to external factors instead of within.

But the most powerful and positive changes can happen when we look within to fix the problems so they don't happen again. It's our duty, all of us, to make sure that these issues are repaired and resolved, never to be seen on this scale in the future.

On this scale, it'll only be possible if we set aside our wing patches, look at the patch we're all going to sew on the right shoulder (the red, white and blue one with the gold trim), and pull it together for the larger purpose.

-- Rob Gray, FLWG
(Former of TNWG, DCWG, ALWG, and MDWG)

TNWG? Did they actually show?

Grunt-Ski

Wow I missed this for a few days and some of it gets way out of hand. Thanks for the compliments, Owen, but I'm just another volunteer that trys to follow the regs and the rules.

I'm not going to point any more fingers then what the AAR has (and I did provide input into it, though most everyone at the ICP had the same views).

As far as my personal standpoint, I took over again as the GBD on 8 Sept. I was told that teams should be able to get fuel from the listed free fuel tanks (there were 3) and that food was near-site. I personally called each ICP from the comm shack and told all the radio-operators this information, as well as subsequent teams that came into the Mission Base. As far as the daily flights, the flights weren't initially supposed to be resupply flights, just courier flights to send / receive paperwork. Do you honestly believe we could have loaded a 172 with enough food and water for all 3 staging areas? We did eventually use a GA8 for that but then the NOC had a fit with that for some reason (and Maj Younger had word with the NOC over that). Why don't we see problems with other teams in the AAR? That's because either they were fixed during the mission or there wasn't any. I'd like to say that the ILWG teams were outstanding in every way. They got the information to us that we wanted, paperwork was in and when we didn't get back to them, they got back to us, either by ALE-HF, VHF relay, SAT Phone or Cell Phone. They got us the grids completed and by the 14th, their area covered on the map was more and almost any other county covered from the rest of the mission. I wish everyone would quit bitching about the food situation and showers. A GTL from my squadron (it was him and I that started the Mission base on 28 Aug... NO power and whatever food we had on us.) was a pascagoula for a week with whatever he could get and I don't think he had a shower every day, and I know some of the victms didn't either. Hell I didn't have a shower for over a month in IRAQ when I was deployed over there. Get over it, a shower is nice but not required for you to perform your duty and accomplish the mission.

Now let's move forward and put the petty things aside. The MAJOR problem we had was staffing. The ICP when I got there and before we raped teams for qualified people consisted of only 6 people, IC, ABOD, GBD, CUL, SO, FASC. If you count General Glasgow, that's 7 and if you count the radio operators, that's 11. Of course things were going to be foggy coming from and going to mission base. We did have a fax though, and MSWG HQ only has 2 phone lines. Something needs to happen at the NOC for them to realize that they serve the IC so that he can serve the customer. They didn't, and therefore we had to make with what we did to serve MEMA. What people don't know is that the ground mission was extended a total of 3 time by a total of 4 days thanks to the numbers that the Staging Areas finally reported in. They were going to stop funding us until we got in numbers of how many contants we were making.

Another side of this mission, as far as I know the mission was changed 3 times, from a SAR mission to shut off ELT's to a Corporate Mission to look for missing MSWG personnel to the DR mission it ended up being.

All aspects aside, everyone has my thanks for making the trip down here, from PA to IL to CA. Even to the DC and MD wings who were turned away because they wouldn't have made it in time to help out. Everyone's time is valuable, and even though you may feel we are picking on you or if you wasted your time, just your presence was appreciated. Special thanks to the MO wing for sticking around after everyone left and helping me clean up wing HQ and helping out Col Wilkes with mission paperwork.

rant.end;

A GTM-1

FUBAR

Eclipse

I just want to take a minute to thank "A GTM-1" for taking the time to add this insightful, informed comment.

Nothing like constructive discussion to reinforce how important free speech is in this society.

Now that you have put us all in our place, you can go back to your mom's basement and the real work of adding 100 more contacts an hour to your facebook, which I know has been a chore ever since the library kicked you out, and made especially hard considering you are only allowed to use mom's computer while she walks the dog or goes out for a smoke.

Eclipse

Found this just now on NVWG's site:
http://www.nvwg-cap.us/news/katrina-SAR.htm

I realize this is probably old news, but does shed some light or reinforce some things we said were the case...


Message from the National Vice Commander at Mission Base

Dear members and friends of CAP,

I finally have a minute to come up for air and let you know what we are accomplishing here in Mississippi.

The mission base is located at Jackson. This is the Mississippi wing headquarters. Finally the power and other services are restored and for the past several days there is air conditioning, etc. Jackson sustained minor damage. The biggest problem is fuel. Upon arrival last Sat morning, after an all night drive, there was no gas for CAP or personal cars and most missions being tasked on a "how much fuel will it take" basis. Came from Iowa bearing 165 gal of gas, generators, food and water. In town, most everything is back open in the community, however we operate with a contaminated city water supply. At least we can shower now and use the toilets! MG Pineda arrived last night. This morning he flew to LA to tour the Baton Rouge command post. Mission base has fuel, food and water, we are at ops normal status. It's been a number of years since I've eaten MRE's continually, but with the restraraunts re-opening and the gifts received we are now eating well.

In the field, we have three forward command posts. The first of these are at Stennis airport, on the west side of the state down by the coast. We are based with hundreds of military and other federal agency folks. There was a drop of several pallets of MRE's and water a couple days ago and another scheduled for Friday. They have a porta-potty, generator, comm trailer with HF, and a 275 gallon fuel cell. Their tents are all set up in a common area and the PA parachute serves for shade and covers the ops station.

On the east side is Pascagoula. Another forward command post by the coast at an open airport. We have a hanger there with an HF radio and many supplies. They also received a food/water helo drop. There is electricity, bathroom and tent city is around on the side of the building. Chevron refinery has opened their doors, all the fuel we need. This is where everyone gets their gas. This city was hit fairly hard and many of the houses, including the wing commander sustained heavy damage. Most still do not have power or other utilities restored.

In the center about 40 miles from the coast is Wiggens. This airport has a runway that is usable now but the taxiway, etc, is cluttered. CAP is the primary users, so we land, back taxi and take off safely. There is a generator, 275 gallon fuel cell, bathroom in the old FBO and a hose for showers. Food and water has been dropped here too.

SAT phones, thanks to GLR, are located at all three forward command posts. Jackson base also has one which is used when we go outside and the another in the comm van. Another thanks to WI and GLR for sending the mobile comm van as it will be our primary means of communication.

In the first few days there were several missions completed. The aerial assignments were from various agencies and we flew power line / substation recon, road surveys and airport damage missions. There have been several transport requests which we have also accomplished. In the past few days we have flown a high bird for comm purposes to support the ground teams. We continue to search for 37 members of the wing that we have not made contact with.

Ground missions have changed frequently. In the initial stages the primary concern was searching for the members of the Mississippi wing. All SAR was tasked to the Coast Guard. The CG performed the eminent rescue work (the helicopter pulling the survivors off the roof of houses). CG triage all calls and emails into three groups. Immediate danger to life, medical (we haven't heard from Aunt Sally and believe she is out of insulin, and welfare (we can't contact our parents living in Biloxi). First assignment was to take GIS/GPS hand held units with the medical calls plotted into the field and contact these citizens. This was changed then to stopping at every house and knocking on every door in four counties. Jackson, Hancock (on the coast) Pearl River and Stone counties, which received considerable damage in certain areas. We provide information on the daily food and water distribution points, contact information and see if additional assistance is needed. For those that could not leave their domain, we provided some MRE's and water.

107 members have signed in to mission base, not counting today. Due to legal and welfare concerns, cadets must be 18 to work out in the field. Requests for additional ground teams, mission staff, aircrews and aircraft were formally requested through the NOC late last night.

I need to take a minute to express my deepest admiration for the members of the Mississippi wing. Through problems of their own, they manned the wing tasking and continued for several days before relief showed up. The wing commander himself stayed constantly active in Pascagoula while his home sat damaged and flooded. In the Gulfport, Biloxi area, everything between the coast and the railroad tracks (approx 4-5 miles) is gone. Not damaged or off the foundation, simply missing from the face of the earth! From there up to I-10 everything is in splinters. Damaged to the point of no recourse but remove the rubble that once stood a thriving community down to, well the trees and grass are gone also, so I'm not sure how there could be any more devastation.

I will try and report more when time permits. Right now it is "Beret" mode, 20 hr days and always multiple things to do. If you'd like to send a card or anything (would love to get them out to the field where the cadets are to show the member support) write Civil Air Patrol, c/o Mission Base, 1635 Airport Drive, Jackson, MS 39209.

Those units that get contacted by the NOC, please remember to arrive self sufficient. Additional MRE's and water are available, but a lot of those have gone to the public. We're not lacking (though the cadets are missing candy, etc). Fill up with gas before getting past Memphis as fuel is scarce. We'll direct you to a forward post depending upon arrival times and units in field. Missions look as they will continue for a while. I know the NOC is trying to rotate in as many teams as possible from various states. MG Pineda has everyone rotating on a six day basis. In the field, under these conditions, it is long enough, both physically and emotionally. I'll send pictures when time is available.

Keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers.

Thanks,

Rex

REX GLASGOW, BG, CAP
NATIONAL VICE COMMANDER

B8B

Regarding Owen Younger's post on 9 DEC 05, I see the beginning of a disturbing trend: age discrimination! Apparently, folks at the USAF level may be applying an arbitrary 'no cadets' or 'no cadets under 18' rule to some of their missions, despite their 'support' of cadets in ES through various National Cadet Special Activities and CAP regulations.

Katrina isn't the only case where the USAF has placed an age limit on an ES mission. Last week, our wing (Georgia) was alerted for the search for a missing USN T-39. Our wing's alerting officer and ES officer both report that the USAF duty controller at the RCC stipulated that 'no cadets' were to be allowed to participate in the search. Since our unit is a cadet squadron, that effectively shut us out, despite the fact that we were the ONLY unit in the wing that could have fielded a full 10+ person ground team of qualified GT members. As a result, CAP ground teams were almost non-existant on this mission, and as you may know, the plane was found by a state helicopter and reached by county sheriffs, NOT by CAP.

Had the victims still been alive (as I assume they were not in this case), the unwarranted restrictions on participation may well have cost the victims their lives, by delaying or denying a qualified team from finding them. This should be chilling to all whose motto is "That Others May Live".

I have talked with my wing commander and National HQ staff about this issue, and both confirm that there is no state or national policy to restrict cadets from ES missions -- on the contrary, they are encouraged to participtate. All agree that there may be specific situations where the IC may be restrictive, but this mission was not the case.

Was Katrina?

Are any of you folks in the field also experiencing restrictions or bans on cadets on missions, and if so, who is ordering it? Perhaps the source may be our supposed benefactor, the USAF!

If so, I think an 'education' is in order. As a former cadet ground team member and a current GTL and GBD, I firmly believe that PROPERLY TRAINED AND LED cadets can be just as effective as senior members. Our cadets train to the same high nationally-standardized qualifications as seniors, and many already have many real-world missions under their belts. In addition, their enthusiasm and energy exceed that of almost all senior ground pounders.

If a trend exists, I hope we can campaign to reverse it. As it stands now, speaking for our wing, we CANNOT perform our ES ground missions effectively without cadets, and I have little confidence that this could change. Arbitrarily restricting their participation due to misinformed perceptions could have tragic consequences.

I understand that each state may have differing situations, and that 'cadets in ES' can be an emotional issue, but I invite the discussion.

Semper Vi'

Eclipse

I believe it has been stated here and elsewhere that the "no cadets under 18 policy" was a mandate of our customers (MEMA, Coast Guard, etc.) vs. a NOC issue, though I agreed with the policy.

I strongly support cadet participation in ES under low-impact conditions which do not risk the cadets health (mental or physical), but agree they have no place where they may come upon death or serious injury.

There is no reason a 12 year old >child< should be exposed to this. We're well trained and ready! Really? How do you know until you come upon the "badness"? And then its too late to find out that you weren't prepared. Who will stay up with this cadet when the nightmares start?

Trained professionals were reduced to sobs upon finding some of the results of Katrina, how could we expect children and adolescents to be better capable? I am a 40 year old man who has seen about everything one can see (short of combat), and my worst fear was finding something
in Mississippi I was not ready for. At 40, though, I am legally allowed to make my own decisions regarding participation. Cadets under 18 are not. For every mom who called NHQ complaining their son couldn't do field work (it happened in MS), I would guess there are 2 or 3 who weren't even clear what they would be doing and would pull them if they really knew.

Base staff, COMMS, REMF support, and other appropriate areas should be open to them, but forward ops, where death is likely should not. Put cadets in the chairs and push out the adults to do the searches. Prepare them today, and when they are old enough they can hit the field on 18+1.

Please don't throw back one-off examples of 16-year old ambulance drivers, and specially trained 8-year old mountain SAR kids. We're talking policy, not exceptions.

As I said, I think ES training should be a core component of the Cadet program, strongly encourage my cadets to participate, and want them in the field when it's not too dicey.

I think we should be happy with all the times and areas cadets ARE allowed to participate in scenarios that other orgs (BSA, etc.) don't even include, rather than being disappointed when they are told to stay home a few more years.

I have recently re-read "Ender's Game", and strongly recommend it CAP people, especially
those involved in the Cadet Program - yes it's sci-fi (award winning), but has some very interesting insights for Commanders thrown into situations they are ill-prepared for (which is generally CAP SOP), as well as what can happen to children expected to grow up too fast and save the world.

B8B

Eclipse,

Thanks for the honest opinion, though I strongly disagree with your premise that age 18 is some magic threshold. Many SAR teams, not just CAP, use teenagers as searchers, and as long as their training, qualifications, and maturity (as deemed by their leaders) are sufficient, they should not be discriminated against.

I dare you to say that the cadet members of my team are not qualified or mature enough to participate in missing aircraft missions (our primary focus). The new ES curriculum is comprehensive, and our high standards result in a capability I would match against any other SAR unit for this type of mission.

I don't quite understand the over-sensitivity towards 'protecting' our folks from exposture to death. I'm not morbid, but death, sometime violent, is 'a fact of life'. I saw many a grotesque crash scene as a cadet GT member 30 years ago, as did many of my fellow squadron-mates who have continued our careers as seniors and team leaders.

I wouldn't go out of my way to expose our cadets to a distasteful crash scene, but to arbitrarily prohibit their participation in missions they are qualified to perform is unthinkable. Let their parents and team leaders use the discretion they are responsible to have. And if a unit or team shows that they can't be trusted to bring qualified members, punish or ban them, not the entire group.

There are two major issues:

- The hazard of NOT using needed, qualified assets on real missions -- victims' lives could be jeapordized!

- Resource management -- Our wing is manned primarily with GTs which include cadets -- to arbitrarily limit use of cadets can suddenly lead to the loss of the bulk of ground team resources just when a maximum effort is required!

CAP and USAF should allow cadets on missions and leave the resource management to the ICs and team leaders. 'Cherry-picking' from on high has proven to not work.

Not to question your right to an opinion, but are you a former cadet, and have you had the privilege to work with cadets on ground teams? I am, and I have, and I think your attitude would be different if you were in my shoes.

Fire away.

Eclipse

"...CAP and USAF should allow cadets on missions and leave the resource management to the ICs and team leaders..."

They do, in some cases, in others they don't, and sometimes our client doesn't want them there.

"...but are you a former cadet,.."
No - irrelevent to the conversation.

"...and have you had the privilege to work with cadets on ground teams?..."
Yes, and despite the fact that in some cases cadets are better prepared than seniors, it doesn't change my mind.

vspeed

Yoy are right on eclipse.

Guardhouse Lawyer

Perhaps we should review the law that governs Federal protections for CAP volunteers.

Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA) provides medical coverage or death benefit protection to CAP volunteers during “ ‘performance of duty’ mean[ing] only active service, and travel to and from that service, rendered in performance or support of operational missions of the Civil Air Patrol under direction of the Department of the Air Force and under written authorization by competent authority covering a specific assignment and prescribing a time limit for the assignment…” This “applies to a volunteer civilian member of the Civil Air Patrol, except a Civil Air Patrol Cadet under 18 years of age.” (Title 5 U.S. Code Section 8141)

Enthusiasm of cadets notwithstanding, putting teenage cadets in harm’s way means we are putting them in risky situations with none of the Federal Protections senior members and cadets over 18 enjoy. Do their parents know this? Have we told them? If they knew, would they have allowed their cadets to participate in risky activities?

I’ll leave it to other to decide if the Air Force is being overly cautious or just being smart.

Eclipse

Wow! A slamdunk I wasn't even aware of! Nice shootin' Guardhouse!

CAPtain Rightwing

The 50th Hawk Mountain Ranger School ( the longest running SAR school in the nation ) has come to a successful conclusion. At the Saturday evening gathering MG Pineda had this to say as he promoted school commander Herb Cahalen to LtCol - "In recognition of the outstanding work that PAWG and the Hawk Mountain Rangers did in Mississippi. You have a great school here. Keep up the good work. With another season of hurricanes approaching it is great to know the Rangers are ready"

PS: The replenishment MREs from MS are in storage with other mission gear. Amazing isn't it... what PAWG said all along is true - replacement for mission supplies taken to MS from PA. Go figure.

FloridaCyclist

I just had two of my kids graduate from the 50th anniversary Hawk Mountain Academy (C/SrAmn Floyd and C/Amn Davidson) and am very proud of them, having earned my own Ranger card at the Falcon Academy (a Ranger school taught in the Everglades by PA Wing Rangers inc Maj Reilly and Cahalen). While I feel that the Hawk Mountain Rangers are among the best there are at Wilderness SAR, I am quite convinced that FL Wing RECON has it all over them in the areas of Disaster Relief. After all, our new state motto is "Florida: We do hurricanes right!" and we have gotten lots more practice since the beginning of the 2004 hurricane season.

I did experience some of the discipline issues with some of hte kids from hawk while on a UDF mission at Ft lauderdale International Airport as they couldn't understand why I should object to them running around the terminal and other public areas wearing nothing but BDU pants, combat boots, and bright orange t-shirts. As our School Commander explained it "These kids have been told that they're the absolute best for years and sometimes they forget that they're still subordinate to the senior members".

I too went in shortly after Katrina, spending several days on a parking garage rooftop in downtown New Orleans doing Forward Air Control/Comm for a hospital evacuation and subsequently spending a week in what was left of a little town called Waveland, MS along with my 16yo son. I would not have taken any kids with me into New Orleans even if they had let me, and would not have wanted to take anyone else's kids with me into MS. It was rough and it broke both of our hearts to see folks living like they were, and left us even more heartbroken when it was time to leave to go home. There were many ways of getting hurt, and in fact Stefan almost did when he walked into a Wal-mart looking for tents for locals and almost choked from the stench as it was being bulldozed from the inside out by a guy on a Bobcat wearing full hazmat gear. After 2 storm seasons from hell, I honestly believe that full-on disaster zones are no place for large groups of kids without full supervision, preferably of the parental type. Now working comm back at Mission Base or maybe even running a POD might be a different story as long as they are adequately trained and supervised and not allowed to play tourist in the hard-core damaged zones like downtown Waveland or Bay St Louis.

Incidentally, I am a former cadet and I do remember chafing at the perimeter of a crash site because they wouldn't let us in to see whatever there was to be seen. Knowing what I do now, I thank them for taking their duty to watch after me both physically and emotionally seriously.

As for insurance coverage, I read the entire law (rather than just the blurb that was pasted here) The best that I can make of it is that that particular subchapterapplies only to adults and it speaks only to how to figure death benefits. If you get killed on duty, your survivor's will get GS-9 benefits. If someone's cadet gets killed on a mission (something that I don't think has ever happened), payment for his/her potential lost wages are probably the last thing on anyone's mind. I may be wrong, but that was the best I could make of the whole thing in context.

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