Fla. Wing Provides Planes, Support Staff for Exercise America's Shield for Air Force
Capt. Sybrian Castleman
Public Affairs Officer
The Florida Wing supported the 1st Air Force/Air Force Northern (AFNORTH), 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) in a training exercise by providing aircraft and support staff out of CAP’s squadron location at the Ormond Beach Municipal Airport.
The training mission, Exercise America’s Shield, allows the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade to conduct realistic training, which will prepare it for upcoming mobilizations in support of operations Atlantic Resolve and Noble Eagle. Using CAP planes, the brigade is better preparing its Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) teams to defend the airspaces of the National Capitol Region and Europe against a wide range of threats.
CAP provided live target aircraft to simulate hostile civilian aircraft penetrating a Temporary Flight Restriction area and other mission support. The primary objective of Exercise America’s Shield is to train command and control personnel in Air Defense Artillery Operations and to exercise homeland defense operations, information passing and decision-making processes at all levels, surveillance system radar and radio coverage, and coordination between civilian and military organizations.
“Our partnerships with the U.S. Air Force and Civil Air Patrol have helped train our air defenders to support our nation’s strategic objectives around the world,” said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. James Lanza, public affairs officer for the brigade. “With SHORAD as one of the Army’s modernization priorities and strategic platforms, this realistic training ensures that our soldiers are at the forefront of their craft, as they prepare for future mobilizations.”
During Exercise America’s Shield, the Florida Wing completed 68 sorties with 36 aircrew members in 11 planes. Overall, 69 volunteer members contributed over 2,450 man-hours as aircrew or in a variety of support positions. Eight CAP ground vehicles were used to transport equipment and personnel during the mission.
The Florida Wing’s Mobile Communications Unit was deployed to support the mission from Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. The Mobile Communications Unit was recently retrofitted with the latest technology and computer systems with the ability to track participating aircraft. The team was able to conduct direct communications with the “air boss” and flight crews during the exercise.
CAP’s aircraft operating cost for the exercise has averaged $140 per hour. The wing completed the mission under 50 percent of the Army’s budgeted cost for CAP operations. The overall cost to the Department of Defense is considerably less than using military aircraft and crews would cost. The military does not have aircraft comparable to the CAP’s fleet of Cessnas, which best meet the unique requirements for Exercise America’s Shield.
When Doug Dimond, 263rd AAMDC Operations Agile Defense CAG lead, was asked, “How would the Department of Defense conduct this exercise without Civil Air Patrol,” he replied, “My immediate response is ‘We wouldn’t.’
“But since this is a no-fail mission, we would have to find a way. However, there is no better solution that would be as responsive, flexible and efficient as what we experience with CAP.”
Jose Hernandez, the CAP-USAF Southeast Liaison Region assistant director of operations, said, “Attending this exercise has given me a better perspective of the partnership between Civil Air Patrol and the U.S. Air Force. The coordination between the CAP mission base, the mobile communication unit and the aircrews have provided outstanding air support during this training exercise. The professional attitude of the CAP team has made this operation a success for the U.S. Army and Civil Air Patrol.”
Lt. Col. Rafael Salort, CAP’s EAS incident commander and Florida Wing vice commander, said, “Exercise America’s Shield showcased how Civil Air Patrol can support our nation’s military and federal agencies in a way no other civilian volunteer organization can. We are proud to serve alongside our Department of Defense partners.
“Our volunteer airmen did an outstanding job executing the mission, while saving the government hundreds of thousands of dollars. CAP provided unique capabilities to help our partners exercise these critical skills and test complex air defense and command and control systems. This collaboration and joint effort between CAP, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army made this exercise a resounding success.”