Florence Damage Hits Close to Home for S.C. Wing Aircrew
1st Lt. Rachael J. Mercer
Public Affairs Officer
South Carolina Wing
Marion Senior Squadron aircrew members couldn't help taking their mission personally when they flew over parts of South Carolina to generate aerial photos of Hurricane Florence-related damage.
The South Carolina Wing aircrew flew into the Columbia Metropolitan Airport on Wednesday to deliver their aerial photos, completing ttheir assignment from that morning. After being transported to the Wing Headquarters building, the aircrew – Maj. Dan Farrow and Capt. A.J. Patel of the Marion unit, along with Capt. Robert Brown of the Florence Composite Squadron – began debriefing about their flight and answering questions about the state of their homes and businesses.
Two other three-member teams arrived at the wing’s incident command post at roughly the same time, finishing their assignments for the afternoon. One aircrew came from the South Carolina Wing’s Low Country Composite Squadron on Hilton Head Island; the other consisted of Maryland Wing members.
The Marion Senior Squadron's Farrow and Patel stood apart, thanks to their proximity to the flooding and devastation in northeastern South Carolina.
Patel, commander of the squadron, expressed gratitude that his home and business had escaped the winds and water from Hurricane Florence without damage. “All the windows, and the roof – it is all fine,” he said.
Farrow’s story was different. His house and property suffered some superficial damage, especially as the storm-spawned, torrential rainwater created flash flooding in his area.
Although clean-up remains on tap at home once the water recedes, Farrow spent his Wednesday flying sorties as part of the South Carolina Wing’s ongoing tasking to perform aerial photography missions and aerial search and rescue tasks.
On Wednesday, aircrews working with the South Carolina Wing completed 11 sorties. Most missions involved overflights and strategic photography of critical infrastructure.
When the aircrews return to the command post, their photos are uploaded to several state and federal databases by a team of cadets and senior members. On Wednesday, more than 500 photographs taken by aerial photographers were uploaded, tagged and sorted into the appropriate system, bringing the total for the wing’s Florence mission to well over 1,200.
While a volunteer staff of nearly 80 members has participated in the South Carolina Wing mission, perhaps none have been touched by Florence’s effects as much as the Marion Senior Squadron members, who returned to the Marion area Wednesday evening after their debrief.
Meanwhile, the aircrew is standing today by to receive their aerial photography mission tasking.
CAP, acting as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, is supporting Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH) during Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations following the landfall of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast. AFNORTH’s primary role is to support U.S. Northern Command’s efforts to provide assistance to FEMA's relief efforts.