Flying CAP Congressman: Just Looking Out for 'Our Neighbors'
Rep. Abraham Part of Contingent Traveling with President Trump During La. Damage Survey
By Vicky Travis
As a life-long Louisianian, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham knows the devastation a hurricane can bring. He also knows how neighbors help neighbors.
Hurricane Harvey hit during Congress’ recess, a word that Abraham says is something of a misnomer as recess is often a very busy time meeting with constituents. Once contacted about the CAP need, he put duties aside to join the reconnaissance mission on Aug. 31.
Abraham, R-La., a lieutenant colonel in Louisiana’s Green Flag East Flight, flew four photography flights with the Civil Air Patrol over flooded areas of Texas and Louisiana to help assess the damage throughout the weekend.
“With Harvey, the damage was impressive and widespread,” said Abraham, who would fly back to Washington days later. “I don’t think you ever get used to the magnitude, what it looks like when you only see rooftops where houses should be or a river where roads used to be. I hope we never get used to that.”
“On the positive side, state and local and federal agencies worked well together, through lots of jurisdictions,” he said. “They made it work.”
Abraham piloted a Cessna 182 with a camera on the left wing as two other crew members worked with cameras and uploaded video links.
“My job was to take off and land safely,” he said. “The real work goes on in the back seat. I was glad to be a very small part of a great team.” As of Tuesday, aircrews carrying out CAP’s damage assessment mission in Texas and Louisiana had flown more than 1,600 hours and taken over 350,000 photos.
“I am extremely proud of all of our aircrews, they did exactly what they were trained to do — fly the photo assignment, but let us know if they find persons in distress and get other assets out to pursue the situation when they see someone in a bad situation,” said Lt. Col. Rick Woolfolk, CAP’s incident commander in Texas.
“The Civil Air Patrol had a large footprint in Harvey,” said Abraham. “It was a proud moment for us to step up and show the nation what we can do as part of a team effort. These are our neighbors and our friends.”
The congressman, now in his second term, was part of a contingent that traveled with President Trump for two hours through Lake Charles, La., to survey the damage.
He spoke to the president for a few minutes about Civil Air Patrol’s involvement in the relief effort.
“I think we’re that hidden treasure. CAP does a phenomenal amount of work with a lot of it behind the scenes,” said Abraham. “We’re not here for recognition, but anytime we can shine a light on CAP, we do.”
Trump and members of his cabinet also met with the Cajun Navy, others in the Louisiana delegation, and Gov. John Bel Edwards during the Louisiana visit.
“The president and Melania showed good leadership,” he said. “The mere fact that he brought so many from his cabinet showed he knew the magnitude of the situation.”
Before heading back to Washington, Abraham visited a mega-shelter at the LSU AgCenter in Alexandria, La., on Sept. 3.
“Whether it’s our neighbor right next door to our home or our neighbor right next door to our state, it’s the same,” said Abraham during a TV interview on site. “We are all one family. As Louisiana residents we have been where they have been. Certainly with Katrina, Ike, all those hurricanes that hit Louisiana. We literally feel their pain. We know what they are going through, and we are here to help.”
On Friday, the U.S. House and Senate approved an emergency disaster package of $15.3 billion to assist in ongoing relief efforts in the wake of Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Florida on Sunday.
I think we’re that hidden treasure. CAP does a phenomenal amount of work with a lot of it behind the scenes. We’re not here for recognition, but anytime we can shine a light on CAP, we do.