Service is the motto of the Dayton Rotary Club

From left to right: HPD Pilot/Sgt. Randy Martin, Pilot/Sgt. Kurt Overby and LCSO Capt. Ken DeFoor

It was June of 2012 when the Rotary Club of Dayton dedicated a helipad financed by their own fund-raising events, donations from private citizens and donations from local business establishments. Since that time, the helipad has been used on a regular basis by Houston Life Flight helicopters and even by the military to drop off much needed supplies during the devastating floodwaters that hurricane “Harvey” dropped on Liberty County as well as most of east Texas in August of 2017.

So, it seemed only fitting that the helipad would be called into service again when veteran Houston Police Department Sgt. Randy Martin and Sgt. Kurt Overby of the Air Support Division landed their Hughes 500 E patrol helicopter on the helipad on Thursday, March 10, to attend Dayton Rotary Club’s weekly meeting and to give a presentation to its membership and invited guests.

As is customary for Rotary Clubs, members are requested to arrange for guest speakers each week, and this was the week that the task fell upon Rotarian Ken DeFoor, who is a retired former Division Commander and pilot for the Houston Police Department. Calling upon the good will of his former division, the HPD Command staff approved the flight to Dayton and the resulting presentation to enlighten the membership as to the structure, training and assignments that are conducted by the Air Support Division. Prior to the meeting, members and invited guests were treated to a “walk around” of the helicopter and a question-and-answer session while many questions were asked about the operation of the helicopter and the activities of the aircrew.

During the presentation, the sergeants showed a video of an actual “drug bust” where the helicopter, piloted by Sgt. Overby, was instrumental in filming the activity of the drug dealers from an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet and two miles away by use of a new high-tech camera system mounted on the belly of the helicopter. It also showed the police officers approaching the drug house and the air crew were able to keep the officers informed of one suspect escaping from one of the houses and in doing so, kept the Officers safe in their encounter with the drug suspect. The sergeants stressed such filming becomes very important when such cases go to trial.

Both sergeants went on to explain that air crews are made up of patrol officers who have worked the streets for several years before they are accepted into the Air Support Division and that continued training in the division is very intense for tactical flight officers prior to the actual training to become a pilot. This procedure allows the aircrews to know from their own personal experience from working the streets, the thought process, needs and actions when assisting ground officers over a robbery or burglary scene.

The division, which operates 24/7, is composed of eight pilots and an equal number of tactical flight officers who fly with the pilot on each patrol flight and who’s main responsibility is to monitor flight operations while in route to a particular call and to the flight activity while over a crime scene. This leaves the pilot dealing with the sole responsibility of flying the helicopter to assure safety as the number one priority for man and machine. 

Members found the presentation very informative and brought home the importance of service, which is their motto. The fruits of their labor (the helipad) have helped and saved many people over the last 10 years.  On Thursday, Rotarians got a most interesting behind-the-scene glimpse of a police function that is seldom seen on the 6 o’clock news. It is quite often known as the “eye in the sky” that has proven to be the most positive element in bringing many criminal cases to a successful conclusion as well as helping to keep both Officers and citizens safe from one of Houston’s “Fox’ units.

The Dayton Rotary Club meets every Thursday at noon at the Dayton Community Center. If anyone is interested in joining the club, then please join them for their Thursday meetings.

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