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Air Force Auxiliary provides aerial support to tornado-ravaged South

A Civil Air Patrol aircrew took this image April 29, 2011, in Jefferson County, Alabama. Members of the CAP are flying in support of first responders and state and local officials as they assess tornado damage to the region. (Courtesy photo)

A Civil Air Patrol aircrew took this image April 29, 2011, in Jefferson County, Alabama. Members of the CAP are flying in support of first responders and state and local officials as they assess tornado damage to the region. (Courtesy photo)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- In an effort to assist those affected by the tornadoes that swept through the Southeast U.S. last week, the Civil Air Patrol -- the Air Force Auxiliary -- is flying over areas with major devastation to assist first responders and state and local officials as they assess the damage to the region.

CAP pilots from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia have volunteered their time and aircraft to capture aerial photographs of the affected towns and villages, while also providing airborne communication support as needed.

As of April 29, CAP pilots have flown 20 sorties, shot more than 2,000 photos, and provided nine aircraft, each with a pilot, observer and scanner aboard.

"It's important to remember that Civil Air Patrol pilots participate in Air Force missions strictly on a voluntary basis," said Mark Obrien, the CAP liaison officer for Air Forces Northern at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. "In instances like these, when people's lives and homes are at stake, it goes without saying that the generous and selfless nature of our CAP pilots comes immediately to the forefront, and we often find ourselves with more volunteers than actual assigned missions. It's a clear example of the caliber of people who volunteer their time and energy to the Air Force Auxiliary."

The CAP, in its role as the Air Force Auxiliary, performs its missions for the Department of Defense, federal agencies, or state and local authorities when federal or national-level interest or assistance is requested. CAP, when federalized, flies under the operational control of the Joint Forces Air Component Commander, Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean.

"We stand ready to support any state or local agency that may need our assistance," General Dean said. "AFAUX is one of many assets my organization has available to help out during natural disasters. Currently, we have our emergency-preparedness liaison officers from the affected states on stand-by should the call from a governor or parish president come to us. We hope our fellow American citizens who have been so deeply affected by these storms know they have our support, prayers and hope for a rapid recovery."

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