21:00 PM

Southeast Region Assists With Hurricane Irma Relief Missions Over U.S. Virgin Islands

1st Lt. Cynthia Collette
Assistant Public Affairs Officer
Alabama Wing

Maj. Larry Stewart
Public Affairs Officer
Group 2
Tennessee Wing

The last of six members of Civil Air Patrol's Southeast Region will return Thursday after assisting the organization's Puerto Rico Wing with Hurricane Irma relief missions over the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"There's massive destruction on St. Thomas and St. John," Maj. Bill Reed of the Alabama Wing's Gadsden Composite Squadron said of the storm's Category 5 impact on the Caribbean territory last week. "We did a lot of aerial photography over those islands.

"It's just so sad to see what's going on there. The airport and downtown (on St. Thomas) are beat to shreds."

Three of the six came from the Alabama Wing, including Reed, Lt. Col. Harvey Yarborough of the Birmingham Composite Squadron and 1st Lt. Nick Madison of the Tuscaloosa Composite Squadron. They were joined by Lt. Col. Don Hamblen and Maj. Jim Davis of the Florida Wing and Maj. Gary Fiser of the Tennessee Wing, as well as U.S. Air Force liaison Maj. Pedro Feliciano.

The Southeast Region team augmented work by Puerto Rico Wing volunteers, allowing CAP members there to tend to their own homes or other personal responsibilities.

Madison said the Southeast Region team helped continue the aerial photography missions and other duties tasks to the wing by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and 1st Air Force.

"Our main objectives were St. Thomas and St. John, then all of the islands for general damage assessment in a full-grid pattern," he said.

Reed described the Puerto Rico Wing members as "brave, exceptional, capable, dedicated, well-trained folks" who were already at work on initial aerial photography missions when the relief from other Southeast Region wings arrived on the scene.

Fiser said those he encountered in Puerto Rico were very gracious and made the team feel welcome.

“Many of the members had already been tasked with disaster relief and tending the needs of other storm victims" he said. "They really appreciated our efforts there.”

That sentiment was echoed by Col. Barry Melton, region commander. "It demonstrates the spirit of unity and teamwork that the entire Civil Air Patrol organization embodies," Melton said.

Most of the Southeast Region contingent departed Tuesday via a C-17 provided by the Tennessee Air National Guard, with Hamblen and Davis returning separately Thursday, to get ready for volunteer deployment in Hurricane Irma impact areas in Florida and Georgia.