Civil Air Patrol volunteers prepare for natural disasters and emergency situations

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.– Colorado is full of outdoor activities in our forests and parks, but the landscape can also create some dangerous situations.

We’ve seen our fair share of wildfires and floods, and it isn’t uncommon for hikers to get lost in the woods.

But what you may not know is who comes to the rescue during these natural disasters or emergencies.

Saturday, the Civil Air Patrol trained for these scenarios.

“We want to be proactive in terms of being ready in case there’s a disaster or a need for our services. It’s kind of late to be asked to do something if you haven’t been trained on how to do it,” Director for Emergency Services Maj. Hank Eng said.

Members and cadets of the Civil Air Patrol are trained year-round to handle a number of situations, like search and rescue for missing hikers, finding downed airplanes, and even damage assessment after fires and floods. These are natural disasters and emergencies we see fairly often here in Colorado.

“We do over 90 percent of the inland search and rescue for the US Air Force,” Eng said.

“We have 550 aircraft nationwide and we’re out there day in and day out,” Lt. Col. Chad Grondahl said.

Grondahl showed us around Saturday. He’s a man who started as a CAP cadet at just 14 years old, and a couple years later, had the experience of a lifetime.

“We refueled the Thunderbirds and on that flight, my parents were also on that, they were volunteers with the CAP, I told my mom and dad I would be in Civil Air Patrol forever,” Grondahl said.

And he’s stuck to that promise for 26 years now, teaching new cadets how to fly.

But what many people don’t realize is these men and women are all volunteers.

“The people are motivated primarily because they want to serve the community, give back to the community,” Eng said.

“I love the organization. I’ve always wanted to be in search and rescue and this is just a great opportunity. I get to fly and help a search and rescue and help my community. It’s a great accomplishment when we do find somebody and we’ve saved lives,” Capt. Jennifer Kauffman said.

Many of the members are veterans and come from across the country to help our community and many others around the nation.

They’re a team of dedicated volunteers who often go unnoticed, but will always be prepared when an emergency breaks out.

“It provides a tremendous sense of satisfaction and a direct feeling that you’re helping other people, which is priceless,” Maj. Don Bessee, Group 1 Commander for CAP, said.

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