Wyoming Wing of the Civil Air Patrol just completed its 2011 Air Force Operations Evaluation, and received an overall rating of Successful. This rating was in part to the successful use of technology throughout the exercise. Here is what we used an how it helped.
Skype – Starting on the first day of the exercise, we used Skype to conduct our evening meetings. Skype is a program where you can conduct conference calls through your computer. With a paid membership, you can get your own telephone number and call telephone numbers. With Skype, we were able to conduct a conference call each evening and stay abreast of the various scenarios we were tracking. You can download Skype from skype.com.
Dropbox – The second program we leveraged heavily during the evaluation was Dropbox. Dropbox is a virtual storage drive that has residence in the cloud. We provided access to this shared drive to our entire team. The team could then add documents they needed during the evaluation. These documents varied from various forms for the Incident Action Plan (IAP) to Google Earth overlays. In the event of a power outage, Dropbox was still available on the local computers. Changes to files were automatically synced with the other computers. You can get a Dropbox account from dropbox.com.
Google Earth – Google Earth was the most recent addition to our arsenal. With Google Earth, we were able to create various overlays to aid in mission planning. These overlays included infrastructure like dams, bridges, and power plants, which were used as targets throughout the week. We were able to create an overlay showing all airports in Wyoming. When we received flood and missing aircraft scenarios, we built overlays to show affected areas, routes of flight, weather, and proposed search areas. With Google Earth, we were able to rapidly measure distance from one point to another; this helped us determine our time on target times. You can get Google Earth from earth.google.com.
SPOT – SPOT is a GPS transmitter that allows us to keep track of our aircraft and ground teams while they are away from mission base. Approximately every 10 minutes the transmitter sends out a signal. The result of the signal is reflected on a Web site that shows the location of each device and its travel path. In the event we lose contact with one of aircraft or ground teams, we have a set of grid coordinates where we can start looking. You can get SPOT from findmespot.com.
Assort other programs – During the week, we also used a number of other programs to help us achieve our mission. We used Microsoft Excel to plan mission times, calculate our finances, and track target lists. We used a special spreadsheet developed by the Lubbock Fire Department to build our IAP. This spreadsheet has saved me countless hours because of its updating capabilities. I use PDF Split and Merge to merge a series of PDF documents into one PDF file. We also use a number of Civil Air Patrol specific programs from WMIRS and e-services to the IMU program. IMU allows us to cleanly create lists of personnel, vehicles, and aircraft assigned to the mission base. IMU can be downloaded from http://wmu.nat.cap.gov/.
With a wing as small as Wyoming, it is imperative to gain whatever advantage possible. Technology allows us to gain an advantage especially when short staffed. Each new technology we have used has helped make mission planning and execution easier.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 113 lives in fiscal year 2010. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the more than 26,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 69 years. It is a major partner of Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. For more information on Civil Air Patrol, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com.