On May 25, the world turned its attention to the U.S. island territory of Guam and the nearby island of Rota, part of the U.S.’s Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as Typhoon Mawar wreaked havoc on the remote Pacific destinations.
But days before the storm’s landfall, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had already reached out through First Air Force to Civil Air Patrol to marshal its Geospatial Team’s skills and damage assessment capability to assist in targeting and speeding disaster relief resources to the two islands.
Acting as a Total Force partner and official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP helps First Air Force rapidly respond to nonmilitary threats domestically in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage, and provide humanitarian assistance.
Typhoon Mawar is the fifth presidentially declared disaster the geospatial team has aided FEMA with so far in 2023.
“While every disaster we are called upon to help with has its own unique set of challenges, this particular mission was anything but typical for our team,” said Maj. Scott Kaplan, Geospatial Program director. “The Pacific weather pattern meant much more cloud cover in collected imagery, plus there were wide disparities in the construction materials used to build homes — solid concrete or metal sheeting.”
“In addition, this was a disaster that occurred literally on the other side of the planet from most CAP members,” said Capt. Christopher Freeze, CAP incident commander. “It wasn’t uncommon to see new imagery upload to the damage assessment application literally at midnight Eastern Daylight Time — an hour too late for most of our team members to begin making assessments.”
“As a volunteer on the CAP Geospatial Team, it is exciting to be a force multiplier in support of our government’s efforts in helping our fellow citizens — no matter where in our country they live or work,” said Capt. Justin Strait, National Capital Wing director of education and training. “This latest event is further evidence of the team’s ability to make a positive impact for thousands before, during, and after disasters.
“I couldn’t be prouder.”