An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Klamath Falls Civil Air Patrol Squadron holds promise for future emergency services

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- Life in the Pacific Northwest is beautiful. A landscape of hills, mountains, rugged coastlines, and stretching green forests.

This landscape provides some amazing opportunities, for instance in the heat of summer one can still snow ski on Mt. Hood and then make a short drive down the mountain to Columbia River Gorge for world-class windsurfing.

Many say the beauty is tranquil and provides a sense of peace, however this landscape is actually the product of geologic upheaval. The snowcapped mountains were formed when molten magma was forced through the earth’s crust, rising thousands of feet into the air. The iconic cliffs and haystack rocks of the Oregon coast are formed as the oceanic plate rides under the continental plate, levering it up and causing it to crack and slough into the ocean.

This geologic process continues unabated, mostly invisible to all of us, like a clock the movement is too slow to register, but every so often the tension between these plates builds to a breaking point and is released in a single moment.

Oregon and other states have a name for this—the Cascadia Subduction Zone, when that release comes it will shake the coastline with potential 8.0 Richter-scale forces and a Tsunami surge that may wash up against the Cascade Mountains, 150-miles inland.

The state is actively preparing for this, working out contingency plans and encouraging residents to make disaster preparedness a priority.

Kingsley Field recently held a national-level exercise designed to test response mechanisms for the Air and Army National Guard. It’s an all-hands-on-deck scenario and many resources are being made ready.

One little-known, but potentially valuable resource is the Civil Air Patrol. The CAP serves communities around the country and is an Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. In 2015 Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, then chief of staff, named them a part of the Total Force, joining regular, guard and reserve forces.

“The partnership between the ORANG and Civil Air Patrol is incredibly important to our organization and community,” said Brig. Gen. Donna Prigmore, the Oregon Air National Guard Commander.  “The cadets are exceptionally bright, talented, fit, and passionate about aviation. What they add to our natural disaster and emergency responsiveness is incredibly impressive.”

CAP provides emergency services and has for decades, including Mount St. Helens relief efforts, Hurricane Katrina relief and many others. If the Cascadia Subduction Zone unleashes a natural disaster, they will be ready for that as well.

“The center for disaster response is going to be Kingsley, if everything else goes by the wayside in a big earthquake,” said Lt. Col. Mari Metzler, an active-duty flight doctor at the 173rd Fighter Wing and Civil Air Patrol pilot since near the beginning of her Air Force career.

“This is the reason Gen. Prigmore is so interested in standing up a Klamath Falls CAP squadron –in case we have a Cascadia event,” she said. “We can do a lot of disaster response for which we are already trained.”

Training that includes search and rescue, disaster response, mapping the change in terrain after an earthquake and even providing airborne radio repeater services to help replace failed cellphone communications capability.

Local commander 2nd Lt. Rick Flowers says his Klamath Falls Squadron is working its way back from COVID-19 lockdowns which effectively closed the squadron for two years.

“Before COVID we had enough aircrew to fly missions,” he said; an aircrew consists of a pilot, scanner and observer. “One of the things we are working on is getting all these positions filled; we have three pilots, but we need more scanners and observers.”

Once those positions are filled then the squadron could get an aircraft located at Kingsley Field. Flowers notes that some of the capabilities CAP aircraft are equipped with include radio repeater technology, aircraft-mounted, GPS-enabled cameras and broadcast systems used to help locate lost individuals.