CAP Texas Wing still on duty in tornado-ravaged Oklahoma

Dozens of personnel from Civil Air Patrol’s Texas Wing remain on duty in Moore, Okla., performing photo damage assessment of homes, public buildings and businesses more than a week after a twister ripped through the town of about 45,000 residents.

“Texas Wing has been absolutely monumental in us completing the mission that FEMA has given us,” said Capt. Rick Rutledge, public affairs officer for CAP’s Oklahoma Wing. “They were able to send us members almost immediately after the tornado struck. We’ve had Texas Wing boots on the ground literally in less than 24 hours.”

The EF-5 twister mowed its destructive path through Moore May 20, killing seven students when it demolished Plaza Towers Elementary School. Moore is located in the central part of the state and is considered part of Oklahoma City’s metropolitan area. The area is known as “Tornado Alley.”

CAP’s role in the recovery phase involves detailing the destruction from both ground and air for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re literally having to send teams to each and every house and business that’s been damaged. From the air side, we’ve been able to provide FEMA with high-definition photographs for the entire 17-mile track of the tornado,” Rutledge said.

An estimated 80 CAP air and ground team members — many of them teenage cadets — from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas are augmenting 450 FEMA personnel who, by Memorial Day, had delivered 43,000 meals and 150,000 liters of water, along with thousands of cots, blankets and other comfort items. FEMA officials say 4,200 people have applied for disaster assistance. The agency has approved an estimated $3.4 million in emergency cash payments to victims of the tornado.

“Texas Wing is honored to have the opportunity to serve in the support mission for the Moore, Okla., tornado,” said Col. Brooks Cima, Texas Wing commander.

Cima says approximately 30 Texas Wing members are in Oklahoma, providing air and ground communications and mission support in addition to performing damage assessment. She said CAP wings have a long tradition of supporting each other during emergencies.

“Oklahoma Wing has supported Texas when we’ve suffered from hurricanes,” said Cima. “We owe them that same loyalty.”

President Barack Obama toured the town over the Memorial Day Weekend to offer encouragement to Moore’s citizens, thank first responders, survey the damage, and assure state and local officials that federal aid would be swift and long-term.

Moore previously suffered extensive damage from tornados on Oct. 4, 1998, May 3, 1999, May 8, 2003, and May 10, 2012. The 1999 twister was at the time considered the costliest in U.S. history.

CAP, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress in 1941 with a 501(c)3 designation and pre-dates the Air Force. CAP consists of 61,000 unpaid professional members nationwide, and operates a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 26,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs.

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