The threat of possible terrorist attacks is an ongoing concern within the borders of our country. We have literally thousands of miles of coastline, much of it undeveloped and often isolated. It's nearly impossible to watch all the time. So some volunteers are helping the Coast Guard, flying their own planes, patrolling the ports and shoreline. WTOC spent some time with them recently, in the air, and training on the ground and in the water.
Twenty-six pilots and 28 observers were in Savannah over the weekend to participate in an annual training exercise. These volunteer aviators must pass certain tests in order to maintain their flight status. Since much of their flying is over water, they must demonstrate an ability to get out of the aircraft quickly and safely in case they go down.
After they get out of the plane, they must survive in the water. So it's off to the pool for more training. Each pilot and observer must be able to swim unaided for 25 yards. The volunteers range in age from 35 to 85.
Among them is 85-year-old David Boyer, a World War II who served as a radar operator in the south Pacific. I think this is a worthwhile cause. "We're helping our fellow man in making sure that the water is safe for them, and if they have problems, we're there to help and avoid any kind of catastrophe," he said.
The training is tough because these men and women have to be ready for any situation, over land or over the water.
"Our mission here--and this is from Melbourne, Florida to the North Carolina-South Carolina border--is to help the Coast Guard guard the coast," said volunteer Billy Enfinger. "Both in-port overflights and security of the coastline."
The volunteer flyers are also called out to assist on search and rescue missions, making them the extra eyes and ears for homeland security. They're all part of the Seventh District Coast Guard Auxiliary. More than 6,000 people are members.