Sunday, May 31, 2015

Groups 5+2 Airborne Photography Ground School

By 1st Lt Karin Hollerbach, photos by Lt Hollerbach

A total of 13 students completed the Groups 5+2 Airborne Photographer (AP) Ground School held at Oakland airport this weekend, hosted by Squadron 188. 

Capt Sullivan
Capt Eichelberger (while Teaching at
a Prior Ground School at OAK)
Capt Michael Sullivan and Capt Donald Eichelberger both flew up from Southern California to teach the Ground School on Saturday and Sunday, May 30 and 31, following two consecutive evenings of webinars taught by Capt Dennis Gauci. 

Many thanks to all 3 of these dedicated CAP members who made themselves available for countless hours leading up to (and no doubt following) this training. 

The AP rating requires a fair amount of  dedication by AP-Ts and APs with in-depth training as well as ongoing practice to maintain proficiency. 

Members of the AP Ground School Class
Members of the AP Ground School Class
The AP rating requires members to be proficient in the use of DSLRs in addition to CAP-specific planning and implementation requirements. The study involves diverse subjects such as proficiency in handling several camera models and GPS devices, photography theory, sortie planning, coordination among the aircrew (including the Mission Pilot (MP) and the Mission Observer (MO) in addition to the AP her/himself)., in-flight procedures, and post-flight processing of images.  In addition, APs are trained to be aware of CAP regulations guiding the use of photography and other considerations.  No wonder the Ground School along is essentially 3 days worth of material!

The class also gave APs (and aspiring Skills Evaluators) Maj Maggie Wang and Lt Hollerbach a chance to help out with the class, in order to start getting our feet wet in teaching the Ground School materials. 

The students in this class came from Groups 2, 5 and 6, including 2 members from Squadron 188:  Maj Kathy Johnson and 1st Lt Gabriel Fletcher-Hernandez.  (Of course, we also like to remind ourselves that Capt Eichelberger used to be “one of us”, having been a valued Squadron 188 member prior to moving to Southern California.)  All students passed the Ground School requirements and will no doubt be looking forward to future hands-on practice in the air.  

The next opportunity to complete the airborne part of the current training will be in June at Sacramento Executive Airport, KSAC.  The instructors will select the candidates from among those students that successfully completed all ground-based requirements.  In addition to providing AP training, the DRE in Sacramento will enable qualified and trainee Base Staff and UDF members to train.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Change is in the Air - Garmin VIRB Training

Maj Sobel demonstrating the camera mounting procedure,
photo by Capt Rivas.
By 1st Lt Karin Hollerbach, photos as credited

Change is in the air! Leaders of the technical airborne photography development team in California Wing (CAWG) have been experimenting for months with our new Garmin VIRB camera.  This past weekend, many of us were lucky enough to receive training on them.

Thanks to efforts of many, including Project Officer, Squadron 188’s Capt Jordan Hayes, who also acted as Air Ops Branch Director (AOBD), and others leading this training exercise, CAP members from Northern and Southern California spent Sunday training at LVK.

Garmin VIRB camera being mounted on the strut,
photo by Lt Hollerbach.
We spent the morning learning about the different roles that the Mission Pilot (MP), Mission Observer (MO), and Airborne Photographer (AP) have, not just in AP missions in general but in Garmin VIRB missions in particular.  In addition, we reviewed tips for flying and coordinating these specialized missions.  After some time in the classroom, we went out to the planes to practice mounting the cameras on the struts of the planes, securing them, and ensuring they were functioning properly. Unlike in our other AP missions, this part was now a full-crew task, not solely something to be accomplished by the APs.

CAP aircraft ready for AP sorties, photo by Lt Choate.
In the afternoon, we put our new skills to good use doing strip passes using the Garmin VIRB camera system.  Lessons were learned!   In the debrief we talked about cameras shifting position (angle), challenges in keeping the planes oriented properly especially in the light afternoon turbulence, unexpected events impacting planning, etc.

As an AP, I can say it was both fun and really valuable training – quite different from our other AP missions.  I enjoyed training with my crew, flying with MP Capt Joshua Edwards and MO 2d Lt Michael Gross.

Lt Choate checking the camera mount, photo by Maj Luneau
Thanks to Capt Hayes for organizing this training on short notice, as well as to the Incident Commander (IC) Maj Marc Sobel, to Capt Michael Sullivan who has provided much of the AP training since this program started for CAWG several years ago, and to everyone else involved in making this exercise a success.
2d Lt Mel Council (AP), Lt Col Joe Brickman (MP),
Capt Heinrich (MO), photo provided by Capt Heinrich.

Squadron 188 was well represented at the training, including:
  • Maj Noel Luneau, MP
  • Maj Maggie Wang, AP
  • Capt Hayes, Project Officer and AOBD
  • Capt Luis Rivas, MO
  • Capt Lutz Heinrich, MO
  • 1st Lt Hollerbach, AP
  • 1st Lt Matthew Gast, Communications Unit Leader-Trainee (CUL-T) 
  • 1st Lt Gabriel Fletcher-Hernandez, MO
  • 1st Lt Eric Choate, MP
  • 2d Lt Tim Roberts, Mission Safety Officer-Trainee (MSO-T)

Part of the morning training session, photo by Maj Luneau