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

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