Devils Lake, North Dakota.
Over the years, my membership in Civil Air Patrol has given me the opportunity to assist in our nation’s air defenses. Almost always, our smaller aircraft are used as “targets” to help our nation’s National Guard or the United States Air Force in joint training missions.
One of the more interesting missions concluded last month in Devils Lake, North Dakota. For this exercise, we had the entire fleet of North Dakota Wing’s red, white, and blue Cessna aircraft at our disposal as necessary. We assisted in the training of the 1-188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment as they learned to operate upgraded equipment. From their Facebook page: Soldiers with the 1-188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment’s Minimum Deployment Package (MDP) conduct Sentinel radar familiarization and emplacement May 17, 2021, during the battalion’s annual training at the Camp Grafton Training Center near Devils Lake, North Dakota. For their upcoming deployment, the MDP will provide early-warning ground-based aerial surveillance in the National Capital Region (NCR).
My main duty assignment was as one of the three Incident Commanders for the 25 Civil Air Patrol volunteers who spent at least part of their week supporting the mission. On the day prior to exercise start, I captured an image of the other two Incident Commanders (IC) and two of the three Communications Unit Leaders (CUL) who were on duty for the week. From left to right, Ken (IC), Rob (ND Guard Air Boss for the exercise), Walt, (IC), Dean, and Rusty (CULs).
Our usual routine involved multiple aircraft flying at multiple altitudes with a goal of arriving at a specific point within seconds of each other. Our pilots and navigators in the two-person air crews did an excellent job of matching their ground speeds as they approached from different directions starting as far as 30 miles (48 km) out. The photo above captured two aircraft that would be crossing the same point over the ground within seconds of each other.
We started with two aircraft as the guard calibrated their systems, then progressed to three. Our last day was to have included four aircraft with simultaneous arrivals, however the weather “went south” on us so the last day of the exercise was scrubbed.
North Dakota Wing flight crews flew over 135 hours over the seven mission days and two aircraft relocation days. In the image above, James and Kai are tying down one of our Cessna 182s after completing an exercise sortie.
There was no way I was not going to get the opportunity to be airborne on at least one of the sorties. On one of my “days off” as Incident Commander, I volunteered to fill in as navigator on one of the evening flights. During the sortie on our several inbound trips to the target, I was quite busy reporting position and ground speed while coordinating with the other aircraft as each pilot adjusted air speed to meet our target arrival requirements. Of course, on our way outbound to make another run, I had a few minutes to capture the view of the approaching sunset over Devils Lake.
By the time we finished with another inbound leg, it was already dusk, that after-dusk glow lighting up the western sky in gold.
At the conclusion of our flight, our aircraft happened to be closer to the airport than our teammates in the other plane. I was able to capture an image of them being marshaled to their tiedown by Mike, one of our ground team leaders.
On the last full day of our mission, I had the honor of accepting a letter of thanks addressed to the North Dakota Civil Air Patrol Wing Commander from Major General Timothy J. Sheriff, Commanding General of the 263d Army Air Missile Defense Command at Anderson, South Carolina. From left to right, CSM Davin Powell, SCARNG; Col john Steiner, CAP; Maj Gen Sheriff, SCARNG; Lt Col Dean Reiter, CAP; 2nd Lt Joseph Aho, CAP.
Exercise America’s Shield is one of the more interesting joint training assignments I have been involved with in CAP. For a closer look at the gallery of images, click the Flickr image below to enlarge the images and to scroll through the album.