MTwingMontana Wing  aircrews flew 21 sorties in response to historic flash flooding  in the south central part of the state, helping save 88 lives as credited by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

The flights, conducted by more than 30 wing members, supported search and rescue operations arising from the flooding, which affected several counties and eventually closed Yellowstone National Park. 

“This is unusual as we normally don’t get requests for SAR (search and rescue) support for disaster operations through the AFRCC,” said John Desmarais, Civil Air Patrol director of operations. “There was a need for immediate response to help save lives, and the Montana Wing assisted with that in cooperation with other local resources.”

 Federal and state agencies involved in the massive rescue effort included the National Guard, Department of Natural Resources, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state office of Disaster and Emergency Services (DES), state Highway Patrol and several county sheriffs’ departments in the region.

Wing aircrews also conducted two other missions involving 14 flights for FEMA and four for the state flights for DES. They were joined by two Wyoming Wing aircrews. From June 14-21, the aircrews provided 2,121 aerial photos in support of the flooding response. 

“Our aircrews performed very well,” said Col. Spencer Gilchrist, Montana Wing commander. He attributed the missions’ success to wing staff’s efforts over the last year to build relationships with the other agencies over the last year. 

“Those efforts allowed this to happen. We just provided our staff the leadership to build those relationships and train our personnel,” Gilchrist said.