Activity on the ground and in the air at the Gillette-Campbell Count Airport began to pick up Friday afternoon as Civil Air Patrol volunteers began to arrive to participate in a weekend search and rescue exercise.

Also in attendance are representatives of the U.S Air Force and CAP’s Rocky Mountain Region headquarters, who will observe and critique the efforts of the weekend exercise run by CAP’s Wyoming Wing.

CAP volunteers from the Cowboy State and across the Northern Rockies are arriving to serve as part of the Incident Management Team running the exercise, or as aircrew or ground team members.

The evaluations provide regular inputs to the volunteers, who need to prioritize and execute a variety of simulated, real world missions. They are already flying sorties in response to a simulated search for a missing aircraft with an elderly student pilot, and conducting aerial photo reconnaisiance for a simulated perceived threat to infrastructure from earthquakes and the Yellowstone Supervolcano.

The exercise kicks off in earnest Saturday morning, and additional volunteers arrive and participate in this major evaluated exercise. Residents of the Gillette area can expect to see people in uniform in the community this weekend, as well as increased flight activity in and out of the airport by the distinctive red, white and blue painted CAP aircraft.

Sunday morning, the evaluators and members of the Incident Management Team running the exercise will gather together for an in-depth after action review to help refine future training opportunities.

CAP volunteer professionals train on a regular basis in order to be ready to respond when called to serve their local community, their state, and their nation.

The members of the Wyoming Wing of the Civil Air Patrol donate thousands of hours of their time and spend hundreds of hours in the air each year in service to the Cowboy State. For example, CAP volunteers assisted the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in the successful search this week for two hikers who were missing in the Bighorn Mountains. Wyoming Wing CAP volunteers perform a variety of other vital missions including flood watch, forest health survey, and aerial photography flights.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.