Civil Air Patrol from Maxwell AFB assisting in Ida recovery

The Civil Air Patrol has nearly 7,000 volunteer pilots from all backgrounds.
The Civil Air Patrol has nearly 7,000 volunteer pilots from all backgrounds.(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There is a strong and direct Montgomery connection to the damage left behind by Hurricane Ida in southern Louisiana. The Civil Air Patrol is based at Maxwell Air Force Base and some of its volunteers are playing a crucial role in the recovery efforts, both on the ground and in the air.

The photos tell the story in southern Louisiana. The major flooding and destroyed homes are the nasty work of Ida’s signature. The pictures come from pilots like Col. Tom Barnard.

“It’s always the sympathy for the folks down there on the ground suffering through it,” said Barnard.

More than 300 miles away at Maxwell in Montgomery, the colonel’s flight path and the number of ‘sorties’ he’ll fly are commanded by John ‘Moose’ Desmarais. The pilots are serving a crucial function in the state.

“Well, it’s to do damage assessments and to help federal emergency management personnel, as well as state and local authorities, to determine where assistance is needed,” said Desmarais, who is director of operations for CAP.

“To me, this one looked like to it was more wind damage than flooding,” said Barnard of one particular damage area.

The Civil Air Patrol, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in December, got its initial start at the outset of World War ll, providing a tremendous service to the country such as spying on German submarines off the Atlantic coast. Today, the ‘sorties’ are much different. The focus is on humanitarian needs from a thousand feet up rather than searching for a foreign enemy.

“The first few sorties started in the late afternoon yesterday,” Desmarais said.

Flying has come a long way since the Wright brothers, especially in light of what the CAP is doing now in Louisiana; snapping off photos, surveying the damage, all done by volunteers.

“Basically, I love flying,” Barnard said.

The Louisiana volunteer pilots will likely keep flying throughout the weekend, and the colonel wants to be among them, continuing CAP’s long history from above.

The Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the US Air Force, has around 6,700 pilots across the country. The overall number of air and ground volunteers connected to the Louisiana wing of the organization numbers around 600.

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