Cottageville woman gets regional award for Civil Air Patrol missions
by The Press and Standard | April 12, 2019 5:00 pm
Last Updated: April 10, 2019 at 3:35 pm
Tina Peterson of Cottageville received an award she didn’t expect the third weekend in March.
The major in the Cottageville-based ACE Basin Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol won the CAP Operation Staff Officer Award for both South Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic Region, which covers S.C., N.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. She will compete against seven other regions at the national level.
During Hurricane Florence, Peterson spent two weeks in the CAP operations center in Columbia. “We flew hundreds of hours. I planned all flights every day, usual aerial photos around the Little Pee Dee and Lumberton rivers which were overflowing. We had close to 10 airplanes up daily, monitoring the rivers.” The CAP also monitored all the dams, water treatment facilities and other sites in posing danger to citizens for both FEMA and DHEC.
Most of the aerial photos shown on media were taken by the CAP crew, she said. Cottageville chapter’s Mike Polesnick flew in one of the planes taking photos and Dan McManus worked on the mission staff in Columbia and the CAP ground team. CAP had 155 S.C. members, 415 flying hours, 7,871 photographs of storm damage. Thirty-seven cadets responded.
Peterson, meanwhile, was stuck in Columbia doing all the planning and didn’t get to fly. “It was a bummer that I got to see all the fun they were having and I got to plan,” she laughed. But she loved every minute of it.
Most people don’t realize that the Civil Air Patrol, as an all-volunteer auxiliary of the Air Force, does 97 percent of search and rescue for the Air Force. They respond to all disasters, from Hurricanes Florence and Matthew to the 1,000-year flood.
“All of our pilots, ground teams, etc. are 100% volunteers. I just think that’s extraordinary,” she said.
Many of the pilots are retired airline pilots or younger private pilots, but CAP has a broad range of members. Observers just have to go through training provided by CAP.
They also offer a CAP cadet program for youngsters 12 and up. “There are a lot of opportunities,” Peterson said. There are summer programs for those at least 16 where teens can work toward getting their private pilot licenses. Starting at age 14, cadets can get a glider license after completing a weeklong camp at Fort Jackson.
Some members have military experience, some are nurses, business people, recreational and professional pilots, journalists. “There’s always something they can do to work through the system,” Peterson said.
In her day-to-day life, she works part-time for Century 21 and home-schools the two of her five children who are still at home. She’s been a CAP volunteer for 20 years, starting while she was a teacher in Columbia and got “drafted” to run a middle school program there. Before that, she worked for the Air Force, but never knew about CAP.
Now every Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. Peterson can be found at Cottageville Town Hall, attending the chapter meeting with her husband, S.C. Wing Vice Commander Lt. Col. Chris Peterson, and now their 12-year-old daughter Jayden, who just joined.
For information on CAP, call Peterson at 843-460-7445, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com.