Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Capt Luis Rivas
Photos by Luis Rivas

Twenty three members of Group 2 participated in a Basic SAREX exercise with a scenario designed to practice, refresh and renew emergency services ratings. The clubhouse at Buchanan Field in Concord was the incident command post for the exercise.
Lt Col Suter Delivering the Morning Briefing

The trainees included an Incident Commander, aircrew, ground teams and base staff searching for an “overdue aircraft” that departed Gnoss Airfield in Novato enroute to Los Banos Municipal Airport. A practice beacon, simulating the aircraft ELT, was placed at a location unknown to the trainees, with the mission of locating and deactivating it.
Aircrew Flight Planning
Maj Brown Preflighting the C172 

The newest Group 2 aircraft, a Cessna 172 with a modern glass cockpit, supported two Urban Direction Finding (UDF) teams in the search.

Communications Team C/SSGT Patil, Maj Gadd

The aircraft began searching from the point of departure of the overdue aircraft, and detected the beacon over San Ramon, significantly narrowing down the search area. 

UDF Team briefing
The UDF teams were dispatched from Buchanan Field and directed to conduct ramp searches at the Livermore, Oakland, Hayward and Reid-Hillview airports. 

Utilizing clues generated by the aircraft, the UDF teams, working together, tracked down the practice beacon to a location near Lake Del Valle. The beacon was hidden beneath a tree near a plywood silhouette made to represent a downed a downed aircraft from the air.
UDF Team finds overdue aircraft

SM Wilson finds ELT 

Lt Col Suter was the Incident Commander trainee, and he was quoted as saying “This exercise was a great training opportunity, particularly adjusting the mission to cope with constantly changing challenges. Overall a small but successful SAREX." His mentor Lt Col Deford remarked "We had a very educational exercise both in its successes and lessons learned."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Camp Fire AP Mission Support

By Capt Louie Rivas

FEMA recently requested the resources of the Civil Air Patrol’s California Wing to assist with the collection of high resolution images in support of the disaster recovery efforts of the Camp Fire.
Camera (Lt Col Luneau)

This is California’s largest fire, burning over 153,000 acres, destroying over 18,000 buildings and claiming more than 80 lives. A high resolution infra-red camera unaffected by the smoke and haze was mounted to the wing strut and connected to a tablet. The tablet provides an overhead view of the terrain and the desired track.

Tablet (Lt Col Luneau)

The mission was a carefully coordinated effort between CAP and the various firefighting agencies requiring special permission to enter the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) area. The sorties were flown after the water tankers and support aircraft had departed the area. The low visibility flying conditions and the precise coordinated flight required of the camera require a highly trained crew with sharp Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills.  The Mission Observer monitored the tablet, radios, and situational awareness, while the pilot monitored the primary flight display, course track and situational awareness too.

CAP aircraft flew multiple successful sorties over predetermined burned out areas taking images which FEMA analyzes to assess the damage and its allocation of resources.

The efforts are ongoing and Major Marc Sobel, CAP's Incident Commander said "we hope to finish the Camp Fire in the next few days, weather permitting and will move to Woolsey Fire next week.”

CAP has collected images for a number of disasters including the gulf oil spill, numerous tornadoes and hurricanes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Group 2 Emergency Procedures Flight Clinic

By Capt Karin Hollerbach

Yesterday I completed my sortie in our emergency procedures flight clinic and, always in our clinics, learned a lot!

Capt Michelogiannakis. Archive photo.
Group 2 organized a flight clinic for our pilots to practice emergency procedures – especially those that we might not ordinarily train for in our normal training, even when preparing for a Form 5 or a biennial flight review. Thanks to Capt Michelogiannakis (Squadron 188) for organizing the event and acting as Project Officer as well as Ground School (and Flight) Instructor.

Staff in the clinic included Group 2 instructors and an Incident Commander (IC)/Flight Release Officer (FRO):
  • Lt Col Dolnick (California Wing)
  • Lt Col Luneau (Group 2)
  • Maj Tubis – IC and FRO (Squadron 10) 
  • Maj Ironfield (Squadron 156)
  • Capt Michelogiannakis (Squadron 188)
  • Capt Arasmith (Squadron 10)  
  • Capt Basile (Squadron 10)

A total of 12 pilots are going through the training, which included the ground school (done virtually, since we are scattered all over the Bay Area) and one sortie per participant.

Ground school discussion topics included:
  • Engine fire
  • Electrical fire to emergency descent
  • Wing fire
  • Impossible turn simulated at altitude
  • Power off landings from altitude to an uncontrolled field
  • Landing without flaps
  • Simulated alternator failure (G1000 aircraft)
  • Landing with a flat tire or severe bald spot
  • Brake failure in one wheel 
  • Asymmetrical flaps 

Among both the staff and the students, we've had great cross-squadron participation! Twelve pilots came from 5 different Group 2 squadrons:
  • Lt Col Suter (Squadron 44) 
  • Lt Col McDowell (Squadron 80) 
  • Maj Brown (Squadron 156) 
  • Capt Rivas (Squadron 188) 
  • Capt Hollerbach (Squadron 188) 
  • Capt Mateos (Squadron 10)  
  • Capt Heldt (Squadron 80)
  • 1st Lt Kraus (Squadron 188) 
  • 1st Lt Booth (Squadron 188)
  • 1st Lt De Bleecker (Squadron 10)
  • 1st Lt Gross (Squadron 10)
  • 2d Lt Sharma (Squadron 188)

Here's where I get to point out that 25% of our pilot participants in this clinic are women.  Nice work, Group 2! (And an additional 8 pilots are men.  Nice work, Group 2!)

My sortie was a great combination of fun and learning. That seems to have been the theme among students. Lt Col McDowell, for example, started his learning immediately, before he even got to the emergency procedures: "the flight itself was a bit of a challenge as I was in a new plane with avionics I wasn't familiar with."

I was happy to hear him say that, because "new" (to the aircrew) avionics may be workable when everything is going smoothly on a clear, calm VFR day in familiar territory, but once things start going wrong, they can go very wrong very quickly when unfamiliar avionics are thrown into the mix. At least for me, I've found it really important to train with new aircraft/avionics in "easy" conditions.

We started off with emergency descents, with the goal of reaching the ground (preferably a suitable location on the ground!) as quickly as possible, while remaining safe. That was well worth practicing before you have to do it in a real emergency, as the steep spiral that we did (on the assumption that we wanted to get down in a location close to where we were, not use our descent to get somewhere further away) presented a rather unusual sight picture – at least, unusual for anyone, like me, not used to aerobatics.

Following the emergency descent, we also practiced a simulated “impossible turn”, simulating an engine out shortly after takeoff, and measuring how much altitude we lost if turned the more than 180 degrees required to return to the runway and land (in the opposite direction of takeoff). Fun at altitude… probably a lot scarier close to the ground. Of course, how much you actually lose will depend on a lot of factors, including your airplane’s configuration, the wind, your reaction time and ability to maintain best glide, etc.

An extension of that was the simulated engine out at higher altitude, where we spiraled down over an un-towered airport, lined up with the downwind portion, and then turned in a “normal” pattern to land.  Well, I didn’t land due to crosswinds, but demonstrated being able to land. I did come in too high because I didn’t want to do another complete 360 turn – which probably should have had me extending my downwind a bit further but instead I slipped into the runway. Perhaps there was some psychological pressure to not get too far away from the runway…

On the flight back to KOAK, we also discussed several in flight fire scenarios, and simulated an alternator failure. Finally, we ended with a no flap landing and a short field landing.

On top of all that, Capt Michelogiannakis caught a couple of less-than-ideal flying habits of mine, which was great! The goal, after all, was to improve my flying skills and to increase safety – ideally while having fun doing it.  All goals were accomplished!  A huge ‘thank you’ to all of our volunteers for making this clinic happen and to our pilot participants to investing time to improve their skills.

For those of you who haven't completed your sorties yet, fly, fly, fly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fifth Tuesday BBQ with Squadron 18

By Capt Karin Hollerbach and Lt Col Juan Tinnirello, photos by Lt Col Tinnirello except as noted

Squadron 188 members unloading equipment at HWD in
preparation for the event.
Last week, Squadron 188 members headed over to Hayward to get together with Squadron 18 for 5th Tuesday barbecue at Squadron 18’s headquarters. On the agenda were both training events and plenty of food and conversation, as well as opportunities to get to meet more CAP members within Group 2.  For many of us, most of the members we interact and work with are within our own squadron, so any opportunity to mingle with other squadrons is welcome!

Several Squadron 188 members met early at KOAK to load up mission critical equipment, including the Squadron 188 grill for barbecuing, as well as UDF and radio equipment for training. Thanks to all who were able to show up early and pitch in for this.

Future pilot practicing on a flight simulator.
Lt Devine operating the grill. 

At HWD, Squadron 18 Commander, 1st Lt Hurst, gathered the squadron's cadets and explained the purpose of the combined event. She then introduced Capt Hayes, who provided details of how the training would take place.

Eleven Squadron 18 cadets participated in hands-on Emergency Services (ES) activities after some classroom training sessions with Squadron 188 members. The emphasis was on radio communications (training led by 1st Lt Roberts) and Urban Direction Finding, i.e., searching for a practice beacon (led by 1st Lt Chavez), and on having fun, too. After the classroom training, two teams searched for - and both successfully found - a practice beacon.

Lt Roberts providing classroom training for Comm.
Further training will be necessary to complete all the requirements to become a UDF team member, but the basic instructions and practice received that evening will help the cadets to accomplish this important ES goal. The communications class will also require further training, but the first steps were completed and put the cadets well on their way in their training for the Mission Radio Operator (MRO) rating.

SM Pagels reported having fun to interact with the cadets, as this was her first time doing so, and found the review of radio communications and UDF basics to be a helpful learning experience –not just for the cadets!

The overall intent was to: support Squadron 18, introduce ES, and hopefully get some additional members interested in and beginning on their training for their ES ratings.

Lt Chavez providing classroom training for UDF.

Cadets and senior members putting their UDF training to use in the field.

Capt Hayes speaking to Squadron 18 cadets. 

Lining up for food!
Lt Mello and Capt Fenolio flew o-rides for several cadets earlier in the afternoon. The cadets all had a great time, some initially timid but by the time they were able to understand the basic principles of flight, were eager to hold on to the flight controls for themselves. One of the cadets on his 3rd syllabus flight is working on training for his private pilot certificate and has already experienced slow flight, stalls, and other maneuvers.

Another cadet on her 4th syllabus flight understood the flight instruments well, and did the GPS navigation on her o-ride, navigating to LVK and to CCR, and working on other flight instruments including airspeed and altimeter, and became very good at understanding trim and coordinated flight.  Her summary, “that was fun!”

Cadet Fontanilla (L) on her 4th syllabus flight,
with Capt Fenolio (R). Photo by Capt Fenolio.

While all the training was taking place, senior members and parents prepared dinner, led by 1st Lt Devine at the BBQ. When the food was ready, everybody gathered at the mess hall and had a yummy dinner as well as a great time conversing with each other and making new friends.

Finally, a group picture of all the cadets and senior members was taken to document the memorable event.

The event was a great success: Training was successful; fun was had; everyone stayed safe. A number of squadron leaders asked for additional sessions in the future and some of the senior cadets expressed interest in participating in future exercises.

Enjoying an excellent meal together.
Squadron 188 members that participated included:

  • Lt Col Tinnirello
  • Capt Hayes
  • Capt Rivas
  • Capt Fenolio – provided o-rides to Squadron 18 cadets 
  • 1st Lt Chavez – led UDF training
  • 1st Lt Choate
  • 1st Lt Roberts – led Comm training
  • 1st Lt Devine – awesomely worked the grill
  • 2d Lt Roudnev
  • 2d Lt Valeur
  • 2d Lt Campbell
  • 2d Lt Sharma
  • 2d Lt Rainville
  • 2d Lt Mello – provided o-rides to Squadron 18 cadets 
  • SM Ferland
  • SM Pagels

Members of Squadrons 188 and 18.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Long cross-country: flying to/from the Cessna factory

By Capt Karin Hollerbach

Last week I had the chance to fly to Kansas in the back of a 206 and then to fly 2 out of 3 (well, 2 out of 4, which I’ll explain later) legs of the trip back, in a 182.  It was great flying with 3 other pilots from Squadron 188 and/or the newly formed Tri-Valley Squadron – Lt Col DeFord, Maj Fridell, and 1st Lt Choate.

This was my first time flying quite so far from (or rather, “to” in my case) home. Straight-line distance between KIDP (Independence Municipal Airport, Kansas) and KLVK (Livermore Airport, California) is 1237.2 nm – times 2 out and back.  That’s a lot of flying in two days. A little too far for a Cessna to do in one sortie, so we broke up the trip into 4 legs out, spent the night in Independence, and planned for 3 and actually flew 4 on the way back.

What’s at KIDP?  The Cessna factory!  We flew there to pick up an old 182Q with a new engine.  Another first:  I’d never flown an aircraft with 21.1 starting Hobbs time before and kept thinking it must be missing some digits.

Canyons not too far from where we flew past the Colorado River where it flowed into the Grand Canyon (south and at that point somewhat west of us). 
You can really see how the water in the (muddy) river
carves out the canyons. 

With neither Maj Fridell nor myself being (yet) 206 qualified, Lt Col DeFord and Lt Choate took turns flying the 206 to KIDP on the way out, each taking 2 sorties: KLVK to KVGT (North Las Vegas, Nevada) to KFMN (Four Corners, New Mexico) to KLBL (Liberal, Kansas) to KIDP. It was a long (and hot) day:  We met at KLVK early, for takeoff around 7 AM, and didn't arrive at our hotel in Kansas until around 11 PM local time.  The brief stop at KVGT was fun for me, since that’s where I had done my private checkride!  It being Las Vegas in the summertime, however, it was hot, and we were all happy to push on quickly.

Changing terrain as we head further east on the leg from KVGT to KFMN. 

Interesting rock formation en route to Four Corners. 
One of the most interesting things for me on the flight heading east was seeing the terrain change across the US going from west to east – crossing the Central Valley in California, crossing the Sierras, then Death Valley, Las Vegas, the desert and plateaus just north of the Grand Canyon, then more mountainous terrain, then a gradual slow descent into the plains of the Midwest – all viewed at much lower altitudes than if we’d just hopped on a commercial flight. To be sure, we flew high enough to need oxygen on two of our legs – both to fly over mountains and to stay a little cooler – but it was still a lot lower than airliners!

On the second morning, we checked out our “new” airplane and found it had very little by way of extra equipment – but it did pass our thorough preflight inspection, after we put in a few additional quarts of oil. It took a while to visit the offices of the Cessna factory, get fuel at the local FBO, and convince ourselves that yes, the airplane was airworthy. We launched – by late morning, making for another long day on the way back.

 Very different terrain nearing Kansas!

On the flights headed west, we split up, with Lt Col DeFord and Lt Choate flying again in the 206 (and being able to take on more fuel without having to worry about those pesky two additional passengers in the back), and Maj Fridell and I flying the 182. Since the 206 had weather info in the cockpit, and the 182 did not, we decided to fly together so that Maj Fridell and I could get our own, personal in-flight weather advisories from the 206. This, combined with input from the very helpful ATC personnel we talked to throughout the day, came in very handy, particularly as we deviated around several thunderstorms moving through our planned flight path.

With an on the ground weather briefing, ATC input, real-time reports from the 206 flying just far enough ahead of us to give actionable information, and our own eyeballs out the window, we were able to stay safe and avoid hitting too many bumps in the sky. (Fortunately for my personal development (!), and with me being a self-proclaimed “weather wimp”, the ongoing light turbulence that we did have during my first close-to-4-hour leg was a good opportunity for me to practice staying relaxed and not get overly fatigued.)

Maj Fridell flew the first leg, from KIDP to KTCC (Tucumcari, New Mexico). With the late start, I was ready for lunch by the time we arrived at KTCC… but the airport is well outside of town, so I settled for a lemonade and whatever snacks I could find in my flight bag. We decided it would be fun (and on our way!) to land at KGCN (Grand Canyon Airport) so that’s what we did – even though flightseeing around the canyon was not on the agenda. Still even the surrounding area is beautiful.  I will admit to a rather steep final approach to the airport, because there’s a busy heliport immediately next to the runway, and I couldn’t help but be uncomfortable with having several helicopters right between me on short final and my touchdown point … I guess that’s what slips are for, so that’s what we did. It was stabilized, just a little (lot) steeper than normal!

Our "new" plane at the Cessna factory in Kansas. 

At KGCN we were greeted by some friendly folks from the FBO, who not only refueled our aircraft but drove us into town (and picked us up again), so that we could finally have a late lunch at an excellent Mexican restaurant. From there, we debated our options for flying home, either on the same day or with one more overnight somewhere between the Grand Canyon and KLVK. After some discussion, we decided a safe course of action would be for us to change things around a bit, with Maj Fridell hopping into the 206 and Lt Col DeFord flying with me in the 182.

Maj Fridell, adding oil before we left KIDP. 
Since it was going to be a very long day, I had no desire to fly home by myself, with crossing the mountains, moderate altitude, landing at night, still fairly unfamiliar avionics, etc. Having another accomplished pilot in the right seat next to me was a big help. Not having oxygen and having a new engine in our plane, we diverted somewhat to the south, to avoid crossing the higher peaks of the Sierras, especially after dark. This way, we were able to fly low enough to not need oxygen but still high enough to have lots of safety margin between us and the ridges we crossed – and could see the valley ahead just as it was getting really dark.

Based on our planning, and with full tanks, we intended to fly all the way home. En route, however, our engine was running hot and, taking steps to keep it cool, we used up more fuel than planned. Flying further north toward home, we eyeballed our fuel gauges and recalculated and considered our late night options. “It’s probably enough…” “I think we can make it…” At that point, we looked at each other and decided that even having to ask that question was really enough to provide the answer – let’s land and refuel.  Would we have been OK?  In hindsight, yes – if nothing else happened to cause us to deviate. Even though the last leg after refueling ended up being a very short hop to our final destination, KLVK, we were both very happy with our decision to stop. Better to be safe and get home and to bed a little later than to not make it home at all.  Plus, we met someone while refueling and might have recruited a future new member!

Rainbow in Kansas.
Being an early morning person and having just flown almost 8 hours, I was far too exhausted to consider flying the last leg – many thanks to Lt Col DeFord for doing so and getting us safely back on the ground at KLVK.

Besides having a great time with 3 other pilots on this transport mission, I had fun learning about longer cross-country flying trips; differences in weather patterns when flying west-east – and west again (rather than the north-south cross-country trips I’ve done more of to date); getting weather help from ATC and from our friends in the 206; and considering the very real impact of fatigue after two long days of flying and of the desire to get home and forcing oneself to nonetheless balance that against safety considerations. These are considerations that anyone flying long days will run into – and they become very real.

Now, go out and fly our “new” plane, which is currently still based at KLVK!  We can never know how long we’ll have it, so I encourage all of our Group 2 pilots to fly it sooner rather than later.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mission Aircrew School in Bakersfield, July 2018

This post is based on press releases written by Capt Louie Rivas, Mission Aircrew School PIO-T

Bakersfield, California - Civil Air Patrol’s California Wing is conducting its Mission Aircrew School at Meadows Field, Bakersfield, California on July 27-29, 2018.

This is the Wing’s largest aviation exercise offered annually, and we expect 18 aircraft and 90 members from Northern and Southern California to participate. In order to maintain the highest level of proficiency mission pilots (MPs) and mission observer (MO) trainees use this training opportunity to meet rigorous training requirements to qualify in their positions and to be ready to answer the call in the event of an emergency, such as a search for an overdue aircraft, or providing photographs to state and local authorities of the damage caused by natural disasters such as wildfires. Additionally, base staff and ground team members will use this exercise to hone their emergency services skills and obtain further training.

On the first day of the exercise, there were 13 aircraft launched and supported by 4 ground teams comprised of cadets and senior CAP members. The aircrews and ground teams were tasked with simulating a search for an overdue aircraft.

Flight line at Mission Aircrew School, Bakersfield.

Aircrews practiced flying search techniques that included air to ground coordination with ground team members. The ground teams searched for emergency locator beacons, and many of them spent Friday and Saturday nights in the field. Search and rescue efforts demand careful coordination with the base staff as well. This exercise provides base staff with opportunities to hone their skills and improve their rescue coordination skills.

Aircrew briefing.

Accomplishments by all members of aircrews, ground teams and base staff included reassigning the aircrews and ground teams to new practice areas (“grids”) to search for a practice beacon hidden within those grids. Ground teams are comprised of cadets and senior members who are specially trained to search for missing aircraft, or lost persons.

Comms room. 
Lt Col Kevin Cummings, Air Force liaison to the Civil Air Patrol, spent the day observing the operations and flew in the back seat of one of the aircraft so he could observe the aircrew perform their search. They flew to one of the practice grids and found the ELT.  The Colonel was quoted as saying “the mission aircrew school is a model for CAP.”

Two television stations visited the event. Click here for an interview by a local ABC affiliate.
And click here for a news segment from a local CBS affiliate; it has actual footage of the activity at the base.

Participating from Squadron 188 were:
  • Capt Hayes – GBD (Ground Branch Director) 
  • Capt Rivas – PIO (Public Information Officer) Trainee
  • 1st Lt Choate - MP Mentor (Mission Pilot Mentor) 
  • 2d Lt Roudnev - GTM/UDF (Ground Team Member / Urban Direction Finder) 
  • 2d Lt Vaibhav - MP Trainee 
  • 2d Lt Mello - MP Trainee
  • SM Ferland - MP Trainee
Update**** Final stats from the Mission Aircrew School included:

This year was one of the largest aircrew schools ever and certainly the largest ground contingent. The ground teams proved extremely useful during this event, having located both a missing UDF team and a missing CAP aircraft (both simulated).  The incredible staff accomplished the following:

  • 98 personnel
  • 17 CAP aircraft
  • 115 air sorties
  • 15 corporate vehicles
  • 46 ground sorties
  • 13 new MPs
  • 13 new MOs

Thank you to everyone for your hard work and congratulations on a very successful training event!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

All Hands Meeting June 2018

By Capt Karin Hollerbach

Safety Briefing:  Aircraft Maintenance

Earlier this month, at our June All Hands Meeting, we had an interesting 2-part safety briefing on aircraft maintenance, organized by Lt Baldwin.  The first part was presented by A&P mechanic, Ms. Kohler, who is also the Executive Director of Education at AIM (the Aviation Institute of Maintenance), located across the street from us on Earhart Road at Oakland airport. Many thanks to Ms. Kohler for spending some of her evening with us and sharing her knowledge. The second part was presented by 1st Lt Choate, who is also one of our aircraft managers.

Ms. Kohler discussed her own experience as an A&P, an IA and a private pilot, to provide context for her comments on maintenance, what mechanics are likely to do to and with your airplane during its 100 hour maintenance, and what things to watch out for.

The 100 hour inspections are required when an aircraft is used for compensation or hire, and have the same scope as annual inspections – both are defined in the FARs, in terms of minimum requirements:  14 CFR 43 – Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, Rebuilding, and Alteration. Added to those requirements, each manufacturer may add other/more detailed inspection requirements.

Besides taking us through what she would do in a typical 100-hour inspection, Ms. Kohler cautioned us that “not all mechanics are created equally… and not all pilots are either.”  In other words, as a mechanic, when she starts working with a brand new (to her) pilot, she will ask a lot of additional questions, and review prior history of the plane, to ensure, for example, conformity to all applicable AD; consistency of logbooks and actual parts on the aircraft; clear maintenance manuals; etc.

At the same time, Ms. Kohler cautioned pilots to be similarly vigilant. This theme was continued in Lt Choate’s portion of the briefing, when he discussed the pilot who picks up the plane from the mechanic and becomes a test pilot on the plane’s first post-maintenance flight.

Some of Lt Choate’s tips included:
  • Finding out what was done to the plane. Was it a 100 hour inspection? An annual? Was the gear removed? A new engine put int? …? 
  • Ensuring that what was worked on is the same as what was logged.
  • Since we (CAP) have a great discrepancy logging system, comparing the work done with the discrepancies that were logged for that airplane.  Did all the work get done? 
  • If any equipment was removed or installed, finding out whether the weight & balance was updated.
  • Although your preflight should be thorough on every flight, performing an especially comprehensive version of it on the first post-maintenance flight. 
  • Becoming a safe “test pilot” on the first flight – no nighttime or IFR flights! Depart from the longest available runway. Avoid flying too far from the airport; if you have to relocate the plane, do a few “laps” around the pattern first, and ensure everything is working properly. 

Missions this Month

We had several “real” missions this month, including:
  • Maj Michelogiannakis(MP) and 1st Lt Roberts (MO) were out conducting a proficiency flight when an ELT alert came out, and they were redeployed to prosecute it, resulting in a Find. Remember to monitor 121.5 on every flight! 
  • Maj Blank (MP) participated in a WADS mission. 
  • 1st Lt Hollerbach (MP) and Capt Stevulak (MO) participated in a routine SoCal mission. 

Squadron 188 hosted the three leadership development courses (SLS, CLC, UCC) at KOAK.  For details, click here.
  • 1st Lt Devine’s takeaway from one of the courses was that the greatest benefit for him was “networking with the people you’ll be working with.” These courses are one of the few opportunities for taking an entire weekend and working with other members from all over California Wing – people we otherwise only get to see on the few statewide missions or exercises (and usually under less relaxed circumstances). 
  • 1st Lt Fall also enjoyed the class he took, especially the conversations about various aspects of the CAP mission, as well as the “survival exercise” (which was really more of a team-forming and decision-making exercise than about survival per se). 

Lt Choate and 2d Lt Mello participated in cadet orientation flights on June 12th and 26th. This was Lt Mello’s first time doing o-rides; apparently, both he and the cadets liked it a lot!

Promotions, Awards, and ES Ratings

We now have 16 Form 5 pilots in Squadron 188, including:
  • Maj Brown completed an abbreviated Form 5 and how has added the G1000 endorsement. She also completed her first o-ride flight with 2 cadets.
  • Maj Blank, Maj Ironfield, and Maj Michelogiannakis all completed abbreviated Form 5s for the new 172.

The previous month was productive in terms of professional development and other training:
  • Capt Hayes completed Level III (Groever C. Loening Award) and completed the Master Level Communications Specialty Track. 
  • Capt Fenolio completed the Technician Level in the Legal Specialty track
  • 1st Lt Devine completed Level II (Benjamin O Davis, Jr Award)
  • 1st Lts Choate and Hollerbach completed Level III and each received a 5-year ribbon. 
  • 1st Lt Hollerbach was promoted to Capt.
  • 1st Lt Ettingoff completed the Technician Level in the Health Services Specialty Track and renewed his MS and UDF ratings. Lt Ettingoff came to us from the Virginia Wing staff, where he’d gotten out of operational roles – we are happy to have him renew his activity and ratings with us. 
  • 1st Lt Fall completed his AP and UDF ratings. 
  • 2d Lt Zherebnenkov completed the Senior Level Historian Specialty Track.
  • SM Vasquez completed her MS rating; 
  • SM Ganorkar and SM Pagels each completed Level I (Membership Award). Welcome and congratulations! 

Upcoming Events

June (yep, these have now been completed as I’m slow in getting this posting out! Keep reading for July and August events...):

  • AP Ground School at KOAK. Project Officer Capt Eichelberger.
  • Encampment in San Luis Obispo. Over 300 cadets are expected to participate, as will Lt Devine.
  • AEX STEM Academy at Edwards AFB. Maj Fridell will participate. 
  • Mission Aircrew School (MAS) Ground School at KOAK. July 14-15
  • MAS at Bakersfield. July 28-29
  • 5th Tuesday. Please plan for a joint activity with Squadron 18 at HWD.
  • The new Tri Valley Composite Squadron 156 will be starting up in Livermore, with about 10-12 of our members moving over to the new squadron.  You will be missed! For anyone interested in joining:  meetings will be held at Livermore on Wednesday evenings. 
  • National Conference + California Wing Conference in Anaheim. If you haven't yet registered for it, please do so by clicking here

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Former Squadron 188 Commander Retires from CAP

Lt Col Bob Gelinas
Lt Col Bob Gelinas retired this month on the 30thanniversary of his membership in CAP. 2018 also marks the 30thanniversary of Squadron 188’s charter.

Lt Col Gelinas was the fourth charter member of Squadron 188 and coincidentally its fourth commander from 2007-9. He was one of the key architects in establishing Squadron 188 as an active and viable unit in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite a short term as commander, he accomplished several unprecedented achievements that positioned Squadron 188 for growth and success in the 21stcentury. 

With the help of then Finance Officer Lt Col Juan Tinnirello, he managed to relocate Squadron 188 to its first flight line location on Earhart Road. In addition to it being the largest squadron facility (over 20,000 sq. ft.) in California Wing (CAWG), Building L-130’s ample aircraft parking facilitated negotiations with Group 2 and CAWG DO, former commander and PACRDO Lt Col Mitch Richman. Lt Col Gelinas was able to set the path for Squadron 188 to eventually obtain permanent use and location of CAP aircraft. Squadron 188 is now an active CAP flying squadron because of his initiative.

Lt Col Gelinas was also the first commander to establish an annual SAREX hosted by Squadron 188, as well making Squadron 188 a Net Control Station. He was a master ground team member and leader for several years but quickly transitioned into mission base management as an OSC, PSC, GBD, CUL and MSO. During his command, he discovered and recruited George DiJeau back into CAP, and promoted him to honorary colonel status for the remainder of his membership. CAP Col DiJeau was a former CAP Pilot during WWII. An electrical engineer, IT professional and businessman by trade, Lt Col Gelinas also was first to create Squadron 188’s website. Future squadron commander, and current Group 2 commander, Lt Col Noel Luneau was able to expand and cultivate it into the dynamic website it is today.

Lt Col Gelinas achieved a Masters rating in the Logistics Specialty Track, with mentoring from former CAWG and PACR LG Lt Col Bob McIntyre. He was the first Logistics Officer of Squadron 188, and maintained that position for 10 years. During that time, Squadron 188’s asset value doubled, and it became the largest asset-holding squadron in Group 2. Lt Col Tinnirello and Lt Col Gelinas were able to acquire several vehicles, generators and high-value communication equipment during the early years of Squadron 188. Through the help of Squadron 188’s founding commander and his mentor, Maj Paul Groff (ret.), Lt Col Gelinas was promoted to Group 2 Logistics Officer, a position he held for over 10 years. In addition to managing the Group 2 assets and performing IG inspections, he was a CAWG CEMS Administrator and helped to implement CATS Wing-wide in 2002.

Lt Col Gelinas went into semi-retirement from work in 2009 and relocated to the South Carolina countryside. Still active in CAP, he was the SCWG Logistics Officer until 2011. After this time he did a short stint in the Okinawa Squadron, in Japan, until NHQ realized he was not on active duty, and moved him into the National Squadron in 2012 for the remainder of his membership. Lt Col Gelinas is currently living in China and in the process of establishing an aviation aftermarket business in the infant but emerging GA market there. As a parting statement, Lt Col Gelinas commented, “CAP has always been a big part of my life. I am saddened to let it go.”

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Group 2 Leadership Training: SLS, CLC and UCC at Oakland Airport

By 1st Lt Karin Hollerbach, photos by 2d Lt Alexei Roudnev, except as noted

Last weekend, Group 2 held the Squadron Leadership School (SLS), the Corporate Learning Course (CLC), and the Unit Commanders’ Course (UCC). The event was hosted by Squadron 188 at OAK airport. 1st Lt Cole Ettingoff, Group 2’s Professional Development Officer, served as Project Officer.

Mingling before class, downstairs at Squadron 188's home at KOAK.
Capt Hayes (L) and Lt Ettingoff (R) addressing students from all
of the weekend's courses, before beginning class.
We had a total of 16 students in SLS, 15 students in CLC, and 7 students in UCC from across Groups 2 and 5.  There were 13 instructors between the three courses including Squadron Commanders and Deputies, past and present Group Commanders and Deputies, Wing Staff, and the Wing Commander.

Having previously taken the SLS, this time I took the CLC.

Many thanks to everyone who donated time to help teach and/or organize this weekend’s activities. Instructors for the CLC included:
  • Lt Col Andrew Peters, CAWG Director of Professional Development – North
  • Lt Col Elsie Lam, Squadron 10
  • Maj Kathy Brown, Squadron 188
  • Maj Chris Suter, Squadron 44 
  • Maj Jacqueline Tubis, Squadron 10 
  • Maj Paul Kubiak, Squadron 44  
  • Capt David Hartman, Squadron 80
  • Students in the SLS. 
  • Capt Steven Angus, Squadron 36
  • 1st Lt Cole Ettingoff, Squadron 188

I found the CLC covered fairly interesting topics. Yes, there was definitely a safety hazard due to concerns about death by PowerPoint. However, it was a nice reminder of some topics that I don’t normally think about in my everyday CAP life – such as the structure of the organization, how strategic decisions get made and communicated out to members, how our “home” units (Squadrons, for most of us, Groups or higher level units for some) fit into the overall structure. We also had some lively discussions about planning and decision-making, as well as mentoring.

Lt Ettingoff teaching at the CLC.
The instructors did their best to liven up the provided lecture slides and did a nice job of engaging us in discussion, even some interactive exercises. Some of the exercises needed a little creative “updating” to bring them into the year 2018: One included some discussion and decision-making about what to do with a $500 grant.  In the face of:
  • The corporate van needing new tires,
  • The roof leaking,
  • The aircraft needing a 100-hour inspection,
  • And other items,

$500 just doesn’t seem to go very far.  In our discussion group, we decided to increase our grant by a bit…   if only it were that easy in real life!

Participants in the CLC.
In another teamwork game to apply clues to assign resources (players) to a problem (baseball team), we had fun discussing and solving the problem in small teams.  Unfortunately, I know virtually nothing about baseball and had to have my teammates explain to me about infielders and catchers and …  before I could really be helpful.

Squadron 188 participants in the CLC included:
  • Capt Jordan Hayes (student)
  • 1st Lt Karin Hollerbach (student)
  • 1st Lt Eric Choate (student)
  • 1st Lt Kevin Fall (student)
  • 1st Lt Cole Ettingoff (instructor)
  • 2d Lt Nikolay Zherebnenkov (student)

Squadron 188 participants in the SLS included:
Col Ferguson speaking to some of the weekend's participants on Sunday.
Photo by Lt Col Peters. 
  • 1st Lt Chris Devine

Finally, special thanks to Col Alan Ferguson, who visited with each of the 3 classes, opened himself up to Q&A, and gave us all our graduation certificates.

Friday, May 4, 2018

CAWG Responds as a Major (Simulated!) Earthquake Hits the Bay Area

By 1st Lt Karin Hollerbach, photos by 2d Lt Alexei Roudnev 

Last weekend, California Wing (CAWG) held its annual Wing Led Exercise, with the Incident Command Post (ICP) this year at Livermore airport (LVK).

CAP aircraft at LVK airport, with an ominous looking sky. 
This year’s WLE was led by Incident Commander (IC) Maj Charles Christian. The theme was CAWG’s response to a simulated major earthquake in the Bay Area.  Exercise injects were provided in real time by Exercise Controllers ("Black Hats"), and CAWG had to respond in real time to the requests (injects) from a number of different agencies for a variety of disaster related tasks.

Participants in the exercise represented all of CAWG’s Groups and many squadrons from throughout California (as well as Pacific Region). Well over 100 members volunteered their time during the weeks prior to the exercise and in the days in which the actual sorties were flown / driven / hiked.

Given the earthquake scenario, most of the tasking was disaster relief, i.e., airborne (and ground-based) photography, related. In total, the WLE accomplished 22 AP sorties, resulting in 337 photos provided to customers; 2 ground sorties; and 2 communications relays.

Unlike in our earlier sortie, this aircrew was able to launch from CCR!
I got a firsthand view from both the ground and the air, flying in multiple air sorties throughout the week, serving both as Airborne Photographer (AP) and as AP skills evaluator (AP SET).

My sorties included a variety of tasking types, including manually acquiring photos using the Nikon cameras both from on the ground (I’ll bet the controllers in the Monterey control tower wondered why I was out on the ramp, taking photos of them, ostensibly to document whether or not there was any damage to the control tower during the (simulated) earthquake) and from in the air. Airborne shots included oblique views of targets, shot at a 45 deg angle, and nadir views, shot straight down from right over the target and requiring a great deal of coordination between the AP and the Mission Pilot. The sorties also included strip imaging using the Garmin VIRB cameras, in which we flew over target regions, shooting images at regularly spaced (5 second) intervals, with overlap between adjacent images for complete coverage of the target area.
Flight planning at CCR, including Squadron 188 members,
2d Lt Roudnev (L) and Maj Ironfield (C).

This is what an AP does in-flight. 
From an AP’s perspective, challenges in this WLE included weather (even small amounts of turbulence makes photography challenging, as does an overcast layer), technical difficulties with the cameras and/or the GPS measuring equipment that provides critical metadata for the images, and Black Hat injects. Injects included things like finding out that we can’t depart from our planned airport (CCR) at all – after completing our preflight – and having to relocate by car to a different airport (SAC); then finding out that the aircraft at that airport didn’t have the required mounts for one of the cameras; and having to solve that problem in real time, with the help of the aircraft maintenance shop there.

This is what an AP does after a sortie (Lt Hollerbach). 
In addition to air and ground personnel and base staff were the many other members who were available and ready to respond but were not called upon to do so.  Many thanks, for example, to the Southern California based members who responded and who ended up not flying in the exercise – apparently, one of the injects was that all aircraft in Southern California were grounded.

Squadron 188 members who participated included:

  • Lt Col Juan Tinnirello – PIO 
  • Lt Col Don Jones - MO
  • Maj Steven DeFord - OSC
  • Maj Kathy Brown – AOBD
  • Maj Jeff Ironfield - PSC, MP
  • Maj Mark Fridell - MSA 
  • Maj Georgios Michelogiannakis - PSC-T
  • Capt Jordan Hayes – UDF, MRO (with HF radios)
  • Capt John Stevulak – LSC-T
  • Capt Don Eichelberger - IPU
  • 1st Lt Eric Choate – AOBD-T
  • 1st Lt Karin Hollerbach - AP
  • 1st Lt Robert Kraus – MP 
  • 2d Lt Nikolay Zherebnenkov - MSA
  • 2d Lt Sergio Mello  
  • 2d Lt Alexei Roudnev- MO 
  • 2d Lt Sharma Vaibhav
  • 2d Lt Antonio Fiorenza - MSA 
  • SM Chuck Towns
  • SM Clarence Binninger

Monday, April 9, 2018

All Hands Meeting April 2018 - in the Dark (Sort of)!

By Capt Lou Rivas, photographs by 2d Lt Alexei Roudnev

Power outage at the squadron building, with one room lit up using the generator. 
This month’s All Hands Meeting was conducted a little differently than usual. The squadron building has been without electrical power for 2 weeks, and it might be several more before power is reestablished. A broken underground power cable is to blame. Despite the resulting inconvenience, this provided Squadron 188 with the opportunity to test its emergency preparedness. 
Ready to light up the meeting room after dark. 

The meeting was moved downstairs in front of the large windows in the main lobby with runway 28R as a backdrop. Members fired up the portable generator and plugged in floodlights. Some brought flashlights, and others wore their headlamps although that wasn’t needed.  The meeting began as usual with the typical announcements, but at one point the Commander paused the meeting so we could admire a 727 that filled the windows as it taxied by.

The Commander recapped last month’s events, which included support of Air Force training missions of intercepting slow-moving aircraft, and a Tsunami warning mission in Northern California.

Capt Hayes conducting the meeting downstairs.
The Tsunami warning mission is designed to alert coastal residents in advance of an oncoming tsunami. The aircraft are equipped with a very loud public address system mounted where the cargo door would normally be. The aircraft flies along the coast while broadcasting inland a prerecorded message announcing the pending arrival of the tsunami.
All hands meeting attendees. 

2d Lt Fogle (L), Maj Brown (C), Lt Col Glenn (R)
The meeting also included announcements of Red Service ribbons to members who have served 2 years; as well as new or renewed Emergency Service ratings earned by the members, including one that the Commander is most proud of. Squadron 188 now has 15 pilots (10% of the pilots in California Wing), and this number is expected to grow. 
Maj Fridell

Capt Rivas
Announcements also included upcoming training events, such as the Aerial Photography ground school (in June), and a Wing Led Exercise (WLE, in April).

The AP ground school is an introductory course that teaches the basics on how to use CAP issued cameras and to photograph targets from an airplane. AP requires additional skills and considerations when taking photos from an airplane flying at 90 knots.

The WLE is a major event for California CAP members, because it simulates a large-scale disaster such as an earthquake. The WLE exercise is an opportunity for base staff, aircrews, and ground teams from multiple California Wing groups to interact and test the entire CAP emergency services response and reaction to a catastrophic event.
SM Ferland

March turned out to be another active month for Squadron 188, and the different setting made for an especially memorable meeting.

SM Mello

Left to right: Maj Michelogiannakis, Lt Forenza,
1st Lt Kraus, 2d Lt Cambell, SM Richards