The Marco Island Senior Squadron hosted a search and rescue exercise on 19, 20, and 27 January 2019. The Civil Air Patrol training mission was a joint venture that included members from the Naples Senior Squadron, and Naples Cadet Squadron. In total, 35 members took part in the sorties over the Everglades, Port of the Isles, the Ten Thousand Island and the Marco Island area. There were 22 seniors and 13 cadets actively participated in 17 air sorties and 2 ground sorties.
Twelve members completed training tasks in order to be qualified and act as Aerial Photographers, Mission Observers and Scanners, and Mission Safety Officers.
The mission scenarios were based on a fictitious category 5 hurricane that swept across southwest Florida causing severe damage in coastal communities from Everglade City northward to Sarasota. The eight different scenarios allowed teams to hone their skills in disaster assessment, aerial photography and grid-pattern search.
Two specially equipped aircraft, one from Marco and one from Naples, flew seventeen air missions over the period of three days. In addition, two ground sorties were performed on Saturday that included advance aircraft reconnaissance.
The morning weather on Saturday was a cool 61 degrees, with clear skies. Great search conditions for the SAREX. Captain Eric Havens was the Ground Branch Director for the exercise. The check-in station was in the Picayune Strand State Forest just off Sable Palm Road in Collier County.
After check-in at the rally point, required documents were signed and the team's "24 Hour SAR" packs were inspected. Packs included enough food and water for 24 hours period in the field as well as shelter for overnight, personal items and first aid. Typical packs weigh between 26 and 38 pounds.
In addition to Capt. Havens, Ground Team instruction was provided by a member of the Collier SAR team who is often involved in searches of individuals, missing persons and also searches for small and large pieces of evidence – the search for clues. The team focused on "How to identify a piece of evidence, mark its location and it potential values for the discovery the objective."
The action started with the safety briefing: work with a "buddy", stay together, do not get lost, maintain situational awareness and of one's own condition and personal well-being. the briefing included a list of hazards in our area of operations, which became useful when one of the cadets found a snake.
The (simulated) mission briefing included a photograph of the missing pilot who was very experienced and had flown many hours; a photo of his aircraft and its tail number; and topographical and aerial maps of the search area.
Once the briefing was over, our instructor talked about radios, communications, frequencies and call signs. The ground team was instructed in the use of whistles as signaling devices for movement and finding evidence – in this case aircraft debris or wreckage.
The instructor directed the teams to form up and divide into search groups. He explained the different search patterns we would be using.
The search ended when the cadets, in a coordinated effort between the aircrew and ground team, found the exact location of the wreck and of the emergency signal beacon used to simulate a crashed aircraft.
Commander Robert Boone summarized the event, "The SAREX was a complete success. Two aircraft, one from Marco and one from Naples, flew thirteen air missions over a period of three days. Let me point out that we had a great SAREX even though we had to cut it short on the first Sunday due to weather – very strong winds. We did however manage to accomplish seven sorties on the first day and six on the second day. The atmosphere was one of camaraderie, teaching and learning. Much was accomplished in a short period of time. Thanks to all who participated and who made this all possible".
Training missions are some of the essential activities performed by CAP for maintaining mission readiness. They typically include visual search pattern practice – looking for simulated downed aircraft; boating vessels in distress – and electronic searches for emergency locator transmitter signals both from the air and on the ground; downed and lost helicopter simulation; and other targets of interest. During the recent sorties, many high-resolution, geo-tagged images were taken by the CAP airborne photographers using handheld and wing-mounted cameras.
Real world search and rescue missions and disaster response missions are essential activities performed by CAP. The emergency services teams use a variety of search techniques to look for downed aircraft, boating vessels in distress, and Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signals as well as working in disaster response situations. Aerial photography is one of CAP's routine tasks. During this weekend’s sorties, many high-resolution, geo-tagged reconnaissance photos were taken by the CAP photographers using handheld and wing-mount cameras.
Boone commented after the conclusion of the exercise, "This was a very timely exercise. It allowed us to update our procedures and refresh our skills".
This article was produced from the Southeast Region Online News system. Electronic distribution is made possible through syndicated services. For more information, contact the Chief Editor Lt Col Judy Steele at JSteele@sercap.us.