Townsend, Civil Air Patrol help rescue 82-year-old

August 30, 2019

60 members of the of the Civil Air Patrol gathered at the Wexford County Airport for a full scale training exercise 16-18 August 2019. These members came from home units located all over the state of Michigan. The Civil Air Patrol Michigan Wing conducts these exercises 4-6 times a year in various parts of the state, the last time in Cadillac in 2008.

Typically these exercises consist of a ‘White Cell’ that creates scenarios involving lost aircraft and people, photographic damage assessment missions following simulated natural disasters, and training personnel in aviation, communications and the FEMA incident command structure.

While this kind of training is routine for the unpaid professionals of the Michigan Wing, this exercise had a twist. On Sunday morning, the Wing received a request from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center to conduct an air search for a missing 82 year old woman with dementia. The local search teams had been looking for her over night near Houghton Michigan in the Upper Peninsula and requested the Civil Air Patrol assist in the search.

One CAP aircraft from Houghton was already involved, and a second was requested from lower Michigan. A second incident mission base was established in Cadillac in the midst of the exercise to handle this new search, demonstrating the capability of CAP to run multiple missions at the same time.

Maj Robert Townsend (Clare) and Lt Col Steve Tupper (Battle Creek).

A crew consisting of Lt Col Steve Tupper (Battle Creek) and Maj Robert Townsend (Clare) was dispatched to a staging area in Marquette. The CAP Cessna 172 flew to Marquette in Instrument Conditions, arriving at 2:10 PM for a weather hold. The subject of the search was located alive and taken to the local hospital at 2:35 PM by local teams. The Cadillac aircraft returned safely after the 8 hour mission.

Operation White Pine (the exercise) and the actual mission were both successful and improved the readiness of the Michigan Wing of the Civil Air Patrol to respond to local requests for assistance. Any local agencies requesting CAP assets to assist in emergency management tasks are encourage to contact the Michigan State Police or the CAP National Operations Center at with their request.

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