Updated: May 21, 2019
Cadets and Senior Members of the Connecticut Wing Civil Air Patrol in search of simulated downed aircraft find treasure trove of Civil Air Patrol history
May 20th 2019 Woodstock, CT
Every two years, the Air Force tests the operational readiness of Civil Air Patrol (CAP). They want to make sure that members of CAP are ready to take on the roles and responsibilities of the emergency services missions in the state. CAP's responsibilities include: finding downed or missing aircraft, aerial photography and reconnaissance, (including such actions as ice patrols or flood watch), shelter operations, and missing person searches.
Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force's Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 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. CAP's 57,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. CAP also plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP's Cadet Programs.
Each aircraft is equipped with an emergency locator transmitter (ELT). When an aircraft crashes, the impact of the crash emits a signal that is detected by radio equipment. CAP airplanes and ground team members use their equipment to find the direction of the signal.
In preparation for the exercise and identifying the location of a "downed glider", Matthew Hunter, the lead CAP-USAF evaluator, called the Woodstock Airport (64CT). He spoke with Joanne and Ed Baker and the new owners Dorey and Doug Durand. What he found was more than a place to hide the emergency locator transmitter. He found that the former owner of Woodstock Airport, Rudy Tomasik, was a longtime CAP member. When Rudy passed in 2013, he left a treasure trove of memorabilia, uniforms, documents, patches and devices. The Baker's contacted Holly Markham, Rudy's daughter and told her the story. Holly, and the Bakers and the Durands decided that it would have been Rudy's wish that the memorabilia should be donated to Civil Air Patrol.
Matthew Hunter contacted the Connecticut Wing Commander, Colonel James Ridley, and advised him of Rudy Tomasik's CAP service. Rudy grew up in Massachusetts, and joined Civil Air Patrol in the early 1940's in Virginia before he was drafted in World War II. He deployed during the Battle of the Bulge with Headquarters Company, 319th Infantry Regiment, 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army. As an Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) scout, Rudy was commended two Silver Stars and one Bronze Star, and he assisted in liberation of the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp at war’s end. After the war, Rudy returned and soon purchased Woodstock Airport, re-joined CAP and was an active member for many years.
Because of Rudy's documented service in CAP during World War II, Colonel Ridley has gained National approval that Civil Air Patrol will honor Rudy Tomasik on June 22nd at the Connecticut Wing Conference with the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal. Holly Markham will be there to accept the award on behalf of her father. The Congressional Gold medal was approved by Congress in 2014 as recognition to the unpaid volunteer members of the Civil Air Patrol during World War II who provided extraordinary humanitarian, combat, and national services during a critical time of need for the Nation. During the war, CAP members used their own aircraft to perform a myriad of essential tasks for the military and the Nation within the United States, including attacks on enemy submarines off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States.
During the operations evaluation Saturday Joanne Baker prepared all of Rudy's memorabilia on a table for display to the cadets. Colonel Ridley, along with the Wing Historian Brian Waldron and a contingent of cadets from Danbury arrived early to view the memorabilia. They presented the Woodstock Airport (The Durands and the Bakers) with an encased American flag as a thank you for their efforts to showcase and pass on the story of Civil Air Patrol as told through the eyes of Rudy Tomasik. The Wing Commander also presented the airport group with a Connecticut Wing Challenge Coin.
At approximately 1145 on Saturday, a Civil Air Patrol airplane started circling the air field. This was because the airplane had identified the ELT emitting a signal at the airfield. At 1230 a ground search and rescue team dispatched by the operations headquarters in Hartford led by Major Roy Borque arrived in search of a downed aircraft. The contingent of cadets and senior members that arrived earlier stayed far away from the search team as the evaluation was under way.
Using their radio receiver, they quickly found the ELT. After a brief from CAP- USAF LTC Jackie Fleming, the ground team entered the fixed base operation to see exactly what they had found. The cadets and senior members were briefed on the historical significance of the "find". All of the cadets were then treated to snacks in the FBO snack bar, a true 1950's era snack bar that was originally run by Rudy and his mother.
Woodstock Airport and diner is owned and operated by the Durands and still hosts fly-in breakfasts at the diner. The airport has runway 01/19 and is 2200' by 60' and has been recently paved. The airport also has an active remote controlled airplane club and is looking forward to more involvement in CAP activities.
"We were glad CAP chose Woodstock for their simulated downed aircraft / downed pilot scenario," said Ed Baker. "It gave us an opportunity to share Rudy's history and massive collection of artifacts to such an appreciative group."
"The day was a great way to train CAP members while honoring our past," Colonel James Ridley stated. "We had two groups of cadets and senior members who were tasked separately for the day and they met up with a wonderful purpose: to continue training for our mission and to also honor our past and those who came before us."
Additional Information about the Congressional Gold medal may be found at http://www.capgoldmedal.com/
Additional Information about Woodstock Airport can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Woodstock-Airport/105516489505144