Apart from routine operations, first responders and associated agencies spend almost all their time training for jobs they hope they’ll never have to do.
But, of course, they inevitably get called out to do them for real. Think fire, drowning, armed stand-offs, hazardous spills… and in this particular case, search and rescue.
Recently, young members of the Naples Cadet Squadron teamed with personnel from the Senior Squadrons of the Marco and Naples Civil Air Patrols on a series of sorties.
The first, early on a Saturday morning, kicked off with the hypothetical scenario of a downed small aircraft and its pilot missing in the scrub of the Picayune Strand State Forest between Marco and Naples.
While crews at local CAP headquarters at Marco Executive Airport listened to briefings in anticipation of flying over the general area of the “crash” site in the forest, cadets on the ground listened to a briefing by Chief John Harraden of the Collier County EMS Search & Rescue team.
He showed them how to use their ELTs (electronic location transmitters) that would ultimately result in establishing the crash site coordinates.
“When they get the coordinates,” Harraden said after the briefing, “we send out a rapid team to search the area. In this case, they’re going to find that the pilot walked off, so it also becomes a missing person search.”
Harraden said the area’s flatness wouldn’t make the search easy.
“It might seem simple to search, but there are no visual landmarks, no references,” he said. “It’s all greenery and pine trees. It’s difficult because you can’t shoot a compass heading to a mountain or a hill, so we have to use different tactics.”
The outcome was that the cadets indeed triangulated the position of the ELT planted with the aircraft “wreckage,” and also later found the “pilot,” (a mannequin) whom they transported back to base.
“They did some team building to help carry the mannequin, and for the last quarter mile they started singing and smiling,” Harraden said.
“They learned a lot of stuff and didn’t even realize it,” he added.
Among about a dozen personnel at the Marco airport were Squadron Commander and pilot Robert “Bob” Boone, Air Operations Branch Director Bob Corriveau and Incident Commander Richard Farmer.
Choosing his words carefully, Corriveau said an occasional function of the CAP is to “fly missions to support homeland security.”
CAP’s emergency services include air and ground search and rescue, disaster relief, and civil defense, as well as cooperation with and assistance to other emergency services agencies.
Its aerospace education programs provide CAP members and the educational community information about aviation and space activities, while cadet programs are designed to inspire the country’s youth to become leaders and “good American citizens through their interest in aerospace,” according to the agency’s website, units.flwg.us/fl376.aspx.