By Sterling McGinn

 A weekend of intense training and search and rescue drills flooded the Luce County Airport on August 19-21 in a mission known as Operation Newberry.

A total of 64 mission members participated in the training in Newberry conducted by the Michigan Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. Michigan Wing is the highest echelon in the state and is headquartered in the Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Mount Clemens, Michigan.

Civil Air Patrol, an official auxiliary of the U. S. Air Forces, carries out nationwide emergency services and disaster relief missions for state and local agencies and the federal government.

Aircraft and ground teams from across the state conducted Operation Newberry for training purposes. Four aircrews used two different types of aircraft and two multimember ground teams accomplished tasks in the field, which included searching for a fictional lost individual.

The training aims to keep air patrol members effective when an emergency or disaster occurs. Crews replicated experiences that took place in the recent floods in Kentucky. There, the Civil Air Patrol supported efforts in disaster relief and damage assessment with FEMA.

Newberry’s mission was one of four exercises conducted by the air patrol this year. The exercises are moved to different locations each year, with one taking place in the Upper Peninsula.

“Prior to COVID, an exercise was held in St. Ignace and the one for the U.P. next year will be in Iron Mountain,” Master Sergeant, Matt Jensen, who serves an assistant emergency (ground) officer.

Along with a number of trainings and exercises that took place, a full incident command team was set up in the emergency operation center at the Luce County Airport.

A small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and aircraft crews focused on aerial photography of infrastructure and state highway bridges. The photography can be used to identify storm damage in the event of a local natural disaster.

Crews also participated in training to utilize the latest search and rescue technology along with Geographic Information Systems Topographic Software.

“We had a lot more than expected,” said Luce County Airport Manager Dan Ellis.