By Capt Larry Haris, CAP, Asst Public Affairs Officer
Marco Island…On a recent Saturday, the Marco Island and Naples Squadrons conducted a one-day search and rescue exercise (SAREX) from the Marco Island Airport. The mission was attended by a total of 36 CAP members.
In preparation for the upcoming storm season, the two Civil Air Patrol veteran squadrons combined their experienced personnel and equipment assets to conduct a large single day event. Having pilots and administrative staff from both Squadrons flying and working together helped hone their skills in searching for downed aircraft, lost boaters and spotting anything unusual in the areas between Marco Island and much of the Big Cypress preserve.
Working from maps, aerial photos and last known position reports, the air crews were dispatched to the four corners of an area stretching from the Marco to the Everglades National Park. Working up to three aircraft in the same general vicinity requires the co-ordination of the planning staff, communications operators, and aircrews to maintain a safe but effective training exercise.
Naples pilots flew their Cessna 182 into the Marco Airport shortly after 7 AM to join the SE Region GA8 Airvan and the Marco Cessna 182 already positioned on the ramp. Flight crews attended a safety briefing conducted by Captain Steve Smith followed by flight assignments to a specific area of the Big Cypress. Each of three aircrews consisted of a Pilot, an Observer and a Scanner. The aircraft were dispatched to their search areas in half hour intervals at 8:30, 9:00 and 9:30 and these aircraft were recovered an hour later in the same sequence.
Then they were refueled, and new crews were assigned new objectives for a 10:30, 11:00 and 11:30 takeoff. As the crews were replaced in the aircraft, the original crew was debriefed by the operations staff to evaluate their effectiveness during their flight. Flight operations were completed by 4:00 pm and the aircraft returned to their home base to end the day.
Group Commander LTC Ray Rosenberg was on hand to review the exercise planned and executed by LTC Lee Henderson, Marco Island Commander and Incident Commander. Exercises like this one are held at least twice per year and local crews assist others in Punta Gorda and Sebring during their events to keep all the South West Florida crews sharp!
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with over 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary mode, performs over 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 54 lives in fiscal year 2011. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief, and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to nearly 27,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 70 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, in initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U. S. military veterans. Visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com