3/30/2006–Hagerstown, MD–A real mission assigned by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley Air Force Base on March 19 interrupted a two-day, scenario-based search and rescue training exercise being conducted at the same time by the Maryland Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) at Hagerstown Regional Airport.
For most of the second day of the exercise, the Hagerstown Composite Squadron building housed two incident command system staffs simultaneously. Maj. Tim Hahn of Bowie, Md., acting commander of the Bowie Composite Squadron, led mission operations as incident commander for the live mission while Maj. John Long of Gambrills, Md., the wing's director of emergency services, acted as incident commander for the training exercise mission.
Lt. Col. Vernon Sevier of Baltimore and Capt. James Schmidt of Fallston, a CAP mission aircrew from the wing's Harford Composite Squadron, successfully vectored CAP ground search and rescue teams from Frederick and Arundel composite squadrons to locate the source of an active emergency locator transmitter (ELT) whose signal was picked up by the AFRCC. Scanner on the aircrew was 2nd Lt. Nick Yokanovich of Arnold, Md.
Because there were no nearby airports or marinas and the area was frequented by ultralight aircraft, there was concern that the signal may have originated from a downed ultralight locator beacon.
Ground search and rescue teams were quickly dispatched to the area in preparation for a more complex location and recovery mission. Based on vectoring information provided by the aircrew, the ground teams were able to quickly localize the source of the signal to a helicopter repair facility just south of Gettysburg, Pa. Further investigation allowed them to isolate the signal to a helicopter that was under reconstruction inside of the repair facility. The operator of the facility was contacted and deactivated the beacon Sunday afternoon.
Members of the Frederick Composite Squadron contributed a ground team, an aircrew, and communications personnel to the exercise. The team had just returned to their headquarters near the Frederick Municipal airport when they were ordered to track and locate the active ELT signal detected near the Maryland/Pennsylvania state line. The Frederick squadron's ground team conducted an electronic search from its mobile vehicle, while traveling north on Route 15 to the Gettysburg. The Frederick ground team was first on scene. Their members were cadets Anna Bladey, Thomas Bricker, Alex Morgan, Joshua Puckett, and Curtis Southern under the direction of team leader 1st Lt. Aaron M. Horton.
The Arundel ground team, in the area for the Hagerstown training exercise, was dispatched to augment Frederick's team and assisted with localizing the signal to the repair facility. Arundel’s members were Maj. Tim Strickland and Capt. Scott Harris with cadets Ray Bryan, Matt Burleigh, Kevin Harris, Andrew Lewis-Johnson, Mike Strickland, Arras Wiedorn, and Derek Wilson.
ELTs are beacons designed to activate in the event an airplane crashes, and are installed in most general aviation and military aircraft. Their signal is detectable by special satellites, which transmit an alert to the AFRCC. Although the helicopter was determined not to be in distress, deactivating false alarms is an important mission for the Civil Air Patrol because it can mask signals from distressed aircraft.
During the training exercise, CAP ground and air teams practiced missing aircraft and missing person scenarios, conducting electronic and visual searches and ramp checks. Mission Base operations helped wing members hone communications and incident command system management skills including the use of wing and Incident Management Utilities (WMU/IMU) software. The wing's communications van was also used to provide communications relay support to the exercise. Ten aircraft, 9 CAP vehicles, and 95 wing members participated in the exercises on the first day and 56 on the second.
"A lot of people came out and received good training. We were flexible enough to run a real mission and still keep out training mission going at the same time," Long said, noting that although there was strong and gusty winds the spirit of the participants was not dampened.
"These teams deserve high praise and credit for there work on this mission," added Hahn. "It was a hard one to work!"
The Hagerstown Composite Squadron kept its kitchen open during the weekend, serving donuts, hot dogs, chili, and cheese sandwiches with beverages and snacks to the mission members, trainees, and training staff.
"Maj. Long did a tremendous organizational job on this exercise and all our signoffs are a credit to his skills," said Maj. Bill Parris of Reisterstown, Md., the wing's director of operations. "Thanks also go to Maj. Konecny for running the show on Saturday and to Maj. Hahn, who not only aided Sunday's operations but also was the incident commander for the actual mission."
CAP, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 57,000 members nationwide. CAP volunteers perform 95 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counterdrug missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies. Last fiscal year more than 1,800 of CAP’s dedicated members helped hurricane victims; CAP aviators and aerial observers flew more than 1,000 air missions; ground teams performed 131 missions and visited 4,266 homes; and other volunteers distributed 30,000 pounds of relief supplies. CAP members also conducted 2,507 search and rescue missions, saving 73 lives. Throughout the year, CAP also took part in important homeland security missions; many CAP pilots flew target-intercept training for U.S. fighter pilots.
Members take a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the almost 23,000 young people currently participating in the CAP Cadet Program. CAP's cadet programs provide young men and women with a safe and motivating environment in which to grow and explore opportunities in the military and aviation industries. Cadets progress through a 16-step program of leadership and aerospace education. CAP has been performing missions for America for more than 65 years.
There are approximately 1,300 members of CAP in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 34 search and rescue missions and were credited with 23 finds.
For information about the Maryland Wing of CAP, visit http://mdcap.org/ or listen to weekly episodes of "Civil Air Patrol Today" broadcast every Sunday morning on the following radio stations:
In addition, programs may be listened to at the Maryland Wing web site at http://mdcap.org/radio/ and can also be subscribed to as a podcast.