GLADEWATER CAP FIELD TRAINING
Gladewater, Texas, May 19 2013- A Field Training Exercise (FTX) was held by the Gladewater Corsairs Composite Squadron on the weekend of May 17-19 2013. The training provided was designed to educate newer members into ground search and rescue methods and procedures utilized by Civil Air Patrol (CAP.) Opportunities were also provided for already trained, certified members to gain further experience in these subjects.
CAP members from the local area gathered at the Gladewater Municipal Airport on that Friday evening for sign in and a safety briefing. Before leaving the airport to travel to the training area, records were checked to confirm that pre-requisites have been met and each participant was interviewed to determine what specific training they required. This step is important as a final step in the planning for the weekend. Trainees are then grouped into flights depending upon what specialty they wish to attain and how close they are to completing the requirements.
Once the administrative details were completed, everyone left the airport for an 1100 acre deer lease nearby. We are fortunate to have access to this particular training area as it contains a variety of terrain, woodlands, swamp, water hazards and electrical interference challenges. Our members are expected to be able to deal with any of these variables while performing our assigned missions. Missions may include locating missing aircraft, personnel, disaster relief, or other tasks which the US Air Force might assign to CAP.
Upon arrival at our training site, each participant sets up their own living quarters and then, as necessary, assists others still in the process of setting up. Once the living arrangements are complete, members report to Mission Base (usually set up earlier in the day) for assignments. One group will erect our radio antenna(s) while others will be tasked with other things like digging a fire pit or setting up training and cooking areas. Once all required tasks are completed, everyone who has not yet eaten may do so and the time remaining before lights out is considered free time.
Reveille is usually rather early each morning where everyone gets up, dresses and prepares their breakfast. Each member is required to prepare their own meals throughout the weekend. After breakfast is eaten and cleared, the training schedule begins. There is a posted schedule for each flight so everyone knows what happens and when. Some of the training is for individual flights while they are combined at other times. Training includes classroom time, practical demonstrations and field events where skills are practiced. During this weekend, our participants were part way through their requirements for Ground Team ratings so the weekend included more field work than classes. A total of nine ground sorties were completed on this weekend and included lost people as well as aircraft crash scenarios. All nine were considered successful though two did not accomplish the goal of locating the assigned target. One might question why not finding the target would be considered a success. The answer is simple- this was training and the point of the exercise was to learn how to find the target. Each sortie is not complete until the team is de-briefed. All participants and trainers discuss the entire sortie, what went wrong, what went right and how to improve the next time. It is particularly gratifying when the trainees are the ones who point out what went wrong. In these two cases, it was obvious that much had been learned and mistakes were not likely to be repeated.
As the training weekend progressed, the field assignments increased in complexity and difficulty. One of our practices during the weekend is to make certain that every trainee has an opportunity to assume the responsibilities of every position on a ground team. We do this because, eventually, we are forming teams. It is important that all members understand what everyone on the team is expected to be able to do. Observing each individual’s performance gives us clues on how to shore up weak areas.
On Saturday night, the most challenging training scenario was presented to the trainees. During their briefing, they were given information covering the purpose of the sortie and a safety briefing. The safety briefing was more comprehensive than others provided for earlier sorties because the majority of the mission would be conducted after sundown. The mission required the team to locate a missing aircraft which may have had two personnel aboard when it went missing. Also provided were the aircraft color(s), registration or tail number and the fact that the Emergency Locater Transmitter (ELT) had been heard. All aircraft registered in the United States are required to have an ELT installed which, in case of impact with the ground, would begin to transmit a radio signal. Our ground teams are trained to operate a homing device which is used to find the ELT.
Each flight provided a ground team (Ground Team 1 & Ground Team 2) for this mission as staff had prepared a complicated mission and knew that more than one ground team would be required. The two teams were dropped off together and both began searching for the ELT. At that point, they were operating independently and each set off in slightly different directions. After some time, the teams were led by the ELT signal to the same general location. Since part of searching involves listening, cries were heard for help from somewhere in the nearby wooded area. Both teams quickly moved towards the sounds and Ground Team 2, led by 2Lt Matthew Sartor, reached the “crash site” first. Ground Team 1, led by Capt Harold Parks, was right behind them. Both teams had been halted just outside the “crash site” and the Ground Team Leaders advanced to assess conditions and requirements for assistance. Lt Sartor located an “injured survivor” in the aircraft fuselage but no one else. At this point, the ground teams were called in to assist with the rescue. Because Lt Sartor is an EMT, Capt Parks assigned Ground Team 2 to assist him with whatever he needed to care for the injured survivor. Since we had been briefed that there could have been two occupants in the aircraft, Ground Team 1 then left to search for the other possible survivor.
After fighting through some very heavy brush, the second survivor was located up in a tree. She played the role of a disoriented crash survivor brilliantly and initially refused to come down from the tree as she “had no idea who we were or what we wanted.” After coaxing and reassuring her that we meant her no harm, she came down from the tree and we returned to the crash site to assist as needed.
Meanwhile, Lt Sartor and his team had removed the victim from the fuselage, placed him in a Stokes basket and had begun first aid. A call had been placed for an “ambulance” and, after preparing the patient for transport, the teams began to move him to the nearest road. His injuries, if real, would probably have required helicopter transport but a quick assessment of the crash area showed there was not enough room for one to land. Staff was sending vehicles to pick up the teams and return them to base and could have provided transport to a clear space if a helicopter had really been necessary.
The next morning after breakfast, camp was broken down. There were additional training events scheduled for the day but we wanted to be ready to leave once all events were concluded. Then, Sunday’s training took a completely new direction.
Our group was very pleased to host representatives of police, training and fire organizations. Adam Young of Caddo Parrish Fire District 1 arrived with his tracking dog. He provided an extensive briefing covering the source of tracking dogs, the training which they undergo and their requirements for performance. After his briefing, staff arranged a training sortie to expose our members to actually working with a tracking dog. We learned that we were to follow behind the dog handler and remain silent until we were asked to do something. To our surprise, we also found that we had to run whenever the dog took off running. Therefore, we learned to follow in single file to enable us to keep all team members in sight as different people with different equipment to carry travelled at different speeds. With full ground team gear, this presented a new challenge because it was quite hot and humid during that sortie. Needless to say, we were careful to be sure that the team members were hydrating throughout the sortie and the rearmost member carried a radio in case of problems with the column.
When the tracking exercise was complete and everyone had recovered, Chief Paul Montoya and Sargent Brian Best of the Hallsville Police Department, Melissa Knight of Kilgore College, and Norm Garner, the Director of Training at the National Canine Center provided briefings and demonstrations of working with K9 dogs. There were two reasons the dogs were brought out to train with us. They brought Bruce, a fully trained dog, and Ty and Marvin who were still in training. We were actually helping them with the training of their dogs and handlers.
Mr. Garner did most of the briefing while the others provided the demonstrations. There were a number of interesting facts brought out by Mr. Garner: when the dogs attack, they are normally not angry at whomever they are attacking- they are simply doing what they are trained to do. Initially, in every case after the dogs had released their target, the handlers would pass along the line of cadets with their dogs encouraging everyone to pet them. That was part of the dog’s training to quickly calm down after an attack. Ms. Knight was working with Ty and, in fact, had only met him that morning. Chief Montoya was working with Marvin and Mr. Garner was working very closely with both to train them. There were quite a few attacks made by these two dogs but Mr. Garner was always the target.
Later, when Bruce was brought out, all of the weekend participants were offered the opportunity to experience an attack, but only by Bruce. Many of the cadets and one of the senior members attending took advantage of the opportunity. An armored glove extending up the target’s upper arm is provided for protection and each participant is briefed on how to act and brace themselves. When these dogs attack, they strike with great force in order to knock the target off balance while they are biting (90036, 90031 and 90048.) Each time Bruce attacked, Chief Montoya was close behind helping so no one would be knocked down. Mr. Garner and Sargent Best were also very close to assist if necessary.
Once all who wished to do so were given the opportunity to experience Bruce’s attacks, the police left. The entire training and camping area was policed by everyone for any trash or debris and we packed up to return to the airport. Once there, we held our normal de-briefing session to analyze the weekend from the trainees and staff points of view. There has never been a training weekend where staff was not able to learn something from the trainees. This weekend was no exception. There were a number of areas where improvements and corrections can and will be made. A number of the trainees were signed off as having completed certifications for several different specialties and planning has already begun for an event to be held in July.
Attendees included the following:
From Gregg County Composite Squadron,
Cadet Senior Airman Zac Compton
Cadet Airman First Class Nicholas Smith
Cadet Master Sargent Savannah Smith
Cadet Staff Sargent Trent Compton
Cadet Senior Airman Vincent Joy
Cadet Senior Airman Shay Seward
Captain Karl Falken
First Lieutenant Darrell Smith
From Gladewater Corsairs Composite Squadron
Cadet Staff Sargent Austin Page
Cadet Senior Airman Hagen Brooks
Captain Harold Parks
Cadet Second Lieutenant Billy Matt Brown
Second Lieutenant Jarrod Alexander
Second Lieutenant Kayla Sartor
Second Lieutenant Matthew Sartor
Cadet Senior Master Sargent Grace Fork
First Lieutenant Farrell Alexander
Cadet Technical Sargent Seth Grimes
Cadet Airman Madison Pietrzykowski
Cadet Airman Basic Cody Sammons
All photographs by Captain Harold Parks