Civil Air Patrol Practices Search And Rescue Skills

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Civil Air Patrol practiced its search and rescue skills by conducting a SAREX (Search And Rescue Exercise) at the Cleveland Regional Airport last weekend. The exercise was hosted by CAP Region 2, whose commander is Ltc. Jack Mullinax.  More than two dozen CAP members, including cadets and senior members, assembled in an upper room at the airport facility. About half of the participants traveled in from as far away as Knoxville and Jackson, Tn.

The exercise started with a mission briefing conducted by the incident Commander, Ltc.

Gordon Merrill, who started the morning's briefing by emphasizing, "Other than safety, today's primary focus is on training." He explained that the mission was being executed using primarily paper forms. The fictitious training scenario indicated that "there was a small solar flare that washed over the earth. The US was in the path of the flare. As a result, we can not use the computer based system so this will be a paper-based mission." This is a departure from recent years when there has been a massive transition to electronic tracking, but Ltc. Merrill says it's good to keep the ability to execute a mission with the paper-based system also.

Following the safety briefing conducted by Ltc. Mark Landrum and Maj. Gary Fiser, acting as mission safety officers for the day, Regional Vice Commander Col. Barry Melton addressed the all-volunteer staff, "Be safe today. Training is important, but safety is primary."  Col. Melton is in touch with all CAP operations conducted in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and his native state of Tennessee. He said, "We can be proud.  The southeast region has the highest ops tempo in the nation. Here in Tennessee, we are coming into the severe weather season, so this is a great time to make sure we all know our jobs and can execute the mission efficiently."

Following the initial briefings, members broke into various task groups. There were two aircrew teams that practiced various search and rescue maneuvers, and in addition to the mission based team, a ground team was dispatched with two cadets and two senior members under the leadership of Maj. David Ellis, who successfully led the team searching for a practice beacon that had been previously hidden in the woods, using only electronic signal finding equipment. 

Where this an actual search and rescue mission, there would be little difference in the operations. The Civil Air Patrol is tasked with executing over 90% of airborne search and rescue mission in the continental U.S.

For more information about CAP, visit  In addition to squadrons in Chattanooga (an all senior member squadron and a composite squadron that includes cadets ages 12-20), there are composite squadrons in Rhea County, Tullahoma and Cleveland, Tn.

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