SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – In one of its most intensive periods of flying in recent memory, Civil Air Patrol’s South Dakota Wing flew nearly 75 hours in support of a South Dakota Air National Guard national defense exercise held the first week in August.
The flying and planning included 23 volunteer CAP members from Sioux Falls, Brookings, Rapid City and Custer. The exercise used five of the South Dakota Wing’s six single-engine aircraft to simulate adversary aircraft in a training scenario for F-16 fighter jets from the Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls.
The South Dakota Wing and the Air National Guard planned for months to make sure the exercise was completed safely and mimicked real-world conditions, and that the substantial number of aircraft and aircrews were closely coordinated. The multiple-day, around-the-clock exercise tested the Air Guard’s ability to defend designated airspace. Five CAP aircraft acted as adversaries as they flew into the airspace.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey P. Marlette, South Dakota National Guard adjutant general, flew a sortie with a CAP aircrew as part of the training. Marlette flew with Civil Air Patrol so he could view an engagement with the F-16s from the target aircraft’s perspective.
“It was great,” Marlette said. “It’s impressive to see CAP’s willingness to be incorporated into an exercise with us like this. It creates some great training for them and for us.”
CAP aircraft from Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Brookings and Spearfish made over 30 flights as part of the Air Guard exercise. The CAP aircrews used precision in both navigation and timing in their role as adversary aircraft.
“We’re pleased to provide Adj. Gen. Marlette with this opportunity to see his F-16s in action from a unique perspective,” said Col. Nick Gengler, South Dakota Wing commander. “CAP in South Dakota has a long history of supporting Air National Guard training. This exercise is one of the most demanding roles we’ve played, supplying so many targets, both day and night, over multiple days.
“In addition to our primary role supporting South Dakota Air National Guard training, it’s also an excellent training activity for our own aircrews,” Gengler said.
Civil Air Patrol is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, with responsibilities that are part of the Air Force’s defense support to civil authorities to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.
CAP has over 400 members in South Dakota, with units in Brookings, Custer, Miller/Faulkton, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Spearfish and Tea. The wing can deploy its six aircraft, ground teams and small search drones to aid in emergency response and other support to local, state, tribal and federal agencies.