Fort Smith Civil Air Patrol Flies Photography Training Mission Over Path of Mountainburg Tornado
Fort Smith, Ark., 8th May 2018
Following the damage left in the wake of the tornado in Mountainburg, Ark., on Friday the 13th of March, the local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) squadron took the opportunity to practice one of its core missions, providing emergency services through Airborne Photography.
Maj. Scott James, Maj. Pat Schmidt, and Senior Member Janice Podgurski flew a training mission several days later. The air crew took more than 175 photos of the affected area during that mission. Had the mission been requested by a governmental agency such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), photos would have been provided to the requesting agency to help decision makers manage their response to the event. In addition to training for the aircrew, CAP members also staffed the Fort Smith CAP Mission Base in their squadron building on the Fort Smith Regional Airport where they handled radio traffic as they would during a real mission.
Schmidt, who served as the photographer for the training mission said,
Most of the time when we do aerial photography training we have to imagine what the damage might look like, but for this mission that was not necessary. As we were looking at the damage we were amazed by the power and at times randomness of the damage while at the same time being fully aware that we were looking at what had been people’s homes and businesses. The training mission was valuable as I am more prepared for the next I am called upon. I will also be able to use these images as part of training for other members of my squadron and the [Ark. CAP] wing.
Maj. Maranda Leeper, who served as Mission Staff Assistant during the training mission, added:
Emergency Services is one of the missions of the CAP. Airborne Photography is part of this mission. CAP has been called upon to assist in recording damage from natural disasters. In order to perform these duties, we must train for them too. While we do not wish for these events to happen we are prepared when called upon.