CBS 19 goes up in the air with the Civil Air Patrol

CBS 19 goes up in the air with the Civil Air Patrol

TYLER (KYTX) - Civil Air Patrol members from ten different states have joined together at a training base in Big Sandy to improve their skills.  

CBS 19 got a special invitation to join 112 members in their training at the Big Sandy Alert Academy to see how these volunteers learn how to do search and rescue missions.  

When someone is missing, or a plane crashes, or a natural disaster hits the Civil Air Patrol springs into action.  

"It's like helping your fellow neighbor. That's how I look at it," says Lt. Col. Joshua Schmidt. 

Schmidt became a Civil Air Patrol Cadet at 12 years old. Now he's a mission pilot who has kept many American lives safe over the years.  

"The most impact mission, the biggest one I've been on would be Hurricane Sandy response," he says.

He also responded to the 2011 Bastrop wildfires in the exact plane he took us up in Thursday. 

Civil Air Patrol search and rescue is broken up in to ground and air teams. We flew over to the Alert Academy in Big Sandy where the 122 Civil Air Patrol members from 10 different states are training for the week.  

Before we landed we got to fly parallel to two CH-47 helicopters, commonly known as Chinooks.  We watched the huge birds land. Two of the people we watched hop out of the helicopters, were Civil Air Patrol Cadets Tanner Reeves and Mollie Flood.  

"We're training on the ground team but we want to familiarize ourselves with what it's like from the air operations point of view," 19-year-old Flood says. 

"It was fantastic," 18-year-old Reeves smiles. "I've never been in a helicopter before."

"It was fabulous. One of the best times of my life!" Flood says.

Flood started in the program six years ago when she was 13, and is now training new cadets like Reeves in the Lone Star Emergency Services Academy, or as they call it, LESA.  

"It has been a great experience. I never thought I could learn as much about search and rescue in one interval," Reeves says.

What might surprise you, is at every stage, these are all volunteers who spend their time training and working for free.  

"I really care about search and rescue," Reeves says. 

As Schmidt flies on, he looks over and says, "It's great. I love it. I see myself doing this until I can't do it anymore."

"When you really think about search and rescue, at the heart of it is a volunteer spirit. Even if you're getting paid, because what happens if it's your mother or brother who's lost or went down in an aircraft or is missing? You definitely want someone out there. And for me I'm perfectly willing to put everything on the line to help someone else find their loved one," Flood says. 

The whole group will be training in Big Sandy until Sunday. There will be a huge exercise Saturday with everyone involved, and area law enforcement and first responders are invited to join.

To learn more about the Civil Air Patrol, click here.


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