Civilian Air Patrol Trains For Disaster Response

Whether it's search and rescue or disaster relief efforts, the Civilian Air Patrol helps out. As an auxiliary of the US Air Force, they are made up entirely of volunteers.

The patrol held its largest training exercise in their 60 year history this weekend in Tyler.

As the plane flew over head, cadets of the Civilian Air Patrol fell into a formation marking the record breaking number of missions they practiced this weekend:  100 flights in all.

Each mission helps to prepare for whatever situation arises next, whether it's a homeland security concern or flying humanitarian aid for non-profits like the Red Cross.

Lieutenant Colonel Gary Stevens says the Patrol is a benefit to everyone.  "Since we're all volunteers, we can do a lot of things in the local area far less expensively for the taxpayer than if the air force were to fly it," said Stevens.

The C.A.P. was the first non-military group to fly over ground zero. They were taking pictures of the wreckage for the government.  They were back-up for the National Guard in the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina.

The C.A.P. isn't just for adults. It's a training ground for America's youth, many of them hoping to make a career in the military.

Airman John  Shanahan was just promoted from cadet, and he's studying for his first aerospace test.  "I've liked planes for a long time, and everyone in my family is in the air force, and that's what I want to do," said Shanahan.

Similar training goes on across the state and country every year, but with 140 participants this weekend, it was one of the largest ever for the Texas branch.

The C.A.P. has more than 64,000 volunteers. They perform 95% of the inland search and rescue efforts in the U.S. every year, saving about 100 lives annually.

Lindsay Wilcox, Reporting: