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Over the Shoulder Exercise Improves Search & Rescue Skills of Civil Air Patrol

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by Cindi Wachholz, Capt, CAP
Assistant Public Affairs Officer – Iowa Wing
17 July 2010

DUBUQUE, IA  The Iowa Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the auxiliary of the United States Air Force, conducted “Over the Shoulder” Search and Rescue Exercises (SAREX) in Dubuque and surrounding areas on Saturday, July 17, 2010. More than 40 CAP members from across Iowa worked together for a day of training in air and ground crew exercises.

The incident commander for the SAREX was Maj Leo Bertling, Wing Director of Operations, and is from Cedar Rapids. Under his command, both ground and air crews worked together to successfully complete the assigned sorties within the Search and Rescue Exercise parameters. “We improve our skills every time we hold a SAREX,” said Bertling. At this SAREX, Otto Wachholtz, the Air Force/CAP State Director, a liaison between the two, was on hand, along with three members of the USAF to help improve the efforts of the CAP members in their search and rescue training. Included in the days scenarios were: A missing farmer in La Motte, IA. He was successfully located by both air and ground teams. An Emergency Locater Transponder (ELT) was detected in the Dubuque Regional Airport, IA. Locating an ELT, a beaconing device, is necessary for locating missing or downed aircraft. Photo missions were used to train air crews in Mission Scanner and Mission Observer roles. Photos taken of the upstream and downstream sides of the dam in Gutenberg, Iowa will aid in future flood threats. Mission Scanners and Observers have been officially tasked during the flooding which occurred in Iowa and Minnesota in recent years. The CAP is tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center or the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. It is during these actual emergency situations that the benefits of these types of exercises are realized. Training is the key for the success of Civil Air Patrol missions.


Utilizing a High Bird for communication in terrain that is incompatible with radio to radio contact teaches CAP members how this technology aids in search and rescue missions. The Iowa Wing of the Civil Air Patrol conducts more than a dozen SAREX’s each year. They range from Table-Top exercises to actual on the ground and in the air sorties. The training is carried out by experienced senior members of Civil Air Patrol and it is this foundation that helps to prepare its members for actual missions.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 56,000 members nationwide. CAP performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. 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 the nearly 22,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 68 years.


Written by Iowa Wing CAP

July 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm

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