Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California Wing Conference

So, there I was on Wed, the 10th of Nov, preparing for my first California Wing Civil Air Patrol Squadron (CWG CAP) Conference down in lovely Santa Maria, California. This was my first conference, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was my trip to Santa Maria would start with a 4-5 hr. drive from Oakland. Then I received an email from the Noel, the Squadron Deputy Commander.

Through the grape vine he had heard that Lt Col Dolnick was flying to Santa Maria on CAP 450MB, a Cessna 206, and there was an extra seat. Lt Col Dolnick informed me he was leaving Friday morning and the flight would only take 1.5 hours.  Wow!  When you travel as much as I do and someone says you can stay home a few extra hours and enjoy your holiday, it sure makes your day.

Friday morning at O’ Dark hundred I met up with Major Dana Kirsch at Squadron 10 in Palo Alto. Our pilot Lt Col Dolnick arrived and soon we were airborne to Santa Maria. Shortly after takeoff I was amazed to see how close the Monterey Bay is to the Bay Area. It appears so far away when driving by car but by plane it’s right there!

On the way down the coast, I took a few pictures of Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, and Monterey out in the distance. Another thing that amazed me was seeing Camp Roberts (Camp Bob) and how vast it is. It made me think we should be using this base for training opportunities more often. Now what amazed everyone onboard was our unusually fast 152 knot cruising speed in the 206. 

After the short flight, we landed and I began my day. The conference offered many topics and as the squadron’s Director of Communication, my main goal was to find out as much as I could about the Wing Communication program. Friday was the Advanced Communications User Training (ACUT) instructor course. Ah yes, another four hours of ACUT love. This makes a total of four ACUT classes under my belt. The best thing about being at the conference was meeting people from all over the Wing as well as catching up with others I’ve met at previous CAP events.

The theme for Friday evening was the 40’s. Some folks dressed up in their 40’s era uniforms and outfits, but you were still accepted if you dressed in the current era. The food was pretty much O-Club buffet grub but it was really really delicious. There were a couple of legs of cow, dinner rolls, chips /salsa/guacamole, and even salmon. Then it was over to the bar. I would continue but as the saying goes: “What goes TDY stays TDY” (Temporary Duty: TDY). 

Saturday activities started with a general assembly meeting. Capt Noel Luneau and I decided to make a little adjustment to the seating arrangement by removing a chair which gave us Senior Members a little more room for our larger tail surfaces if you will. The Region, Wing, and Group commanders were lined up at the front of the stage. At first I thought it was strange because I had never seen any thing quite like it on active duty but then I realized how great it was to associate names with faces finally and receive briefings from across the wing as well as Headquarters CAP.

Afterwards I attended three communication’s meetings and a Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) meeting. We were given a communications update, reviewed radio frequency channel plans, and discussed future net communication training. Yes, there was a lot of discussion focused on communications and all questions were happily answered by the instructors.

The GSAR meeting was very good too. There I learned the true reason for the push to have ground team members wear orange vests. Apparently, it is easier for CALEMA and the Sheriffs Deputies to see the orange vests and accept you as a SAR member rather than the BDU’s. I don’t agree with it but I understand the reasoning.

 Saturday evening, I met up with Lt David Dunham for the awards dinner, at which our Squadron was nominated for Best Senior Squadron. Although we didn’t win I felt it was great to be in the running. The Master of Ceremonies was very funny and kept us laughing all night. The one thing I found refreshing and different from my active duty experiences was the speakers and recipients. Everyone said what they need to say and sat down. I didn’t feel the need to bring in the “Wrap Up” sign from Chappelle Show.

Come Sunday morning I was burned out with meetings, so I decided to go for a walk. I walked and walked till I finally ended up at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight. The museum includes a beautiful wooden hangar built for the movie, “The Rocketeer”. I fell in love with the hangar. I felt like I was transported back to the early era of aviation. For the most part the museum covered civil aviation with maybe a third covering military aviation.

At noon, it was time to meet up with my crew for the flight home. Capt Luneau arrived and we took pictures during the preflight. There was talk of flying back together but Noel was not in a hurry to depart with us. Some 45 minutes later I found out why when he passed us by in his 182 RG like we were standing still. 

Overall, the conference was a great experience and I am looking forward to the next one here in Oakland, from 26-28 August 2011.

Capt Demetrius Wren is SQ188's Communications Officer and is a qualified Mission Observer.

Images courtesy of Capt Demetrius Wren and Capt Noel Luneau.

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