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Hagerstown squadron teams with Pennsylvania Wing for exercise

Joint search and rescue training occurs in western Maryland

1/9/2012––Ground teams and aircrews from Civil Air Patrol Maryland Wing’s Hagerstown Composite Squadron and Pennsylvania Wing’s Bedford Composite Squadron recently joined the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Rangers, the McConnellsburg Fire Company 56, the Mercersburg-Montgomery-Peters-Warren Fire Company 9, Air Methods’ Life-Net Helicopter MedEvac, and other Maryland Wing and Pennsylvania Wing CAP staff for a practice search and rescue exercise mission in Buchanan State Forest north of US 30 on Tuscarora Mountain.

About 30 personnel converged on the Tower Road location and set up a mobile command post, from which teams on foot searched for a simulated missing hunter as well as a practice emergency radio beacon, similar to that which might be used by a sportsman in distress. The exercise called for aircraft to assist the ground searchers and direct them to the simulated victim by radio. The searchers would then assess the victim, administer first aid, radio in a report to the Incident Command Post on Tower Road, guide paramedics to the scene, and assist them in evacuating the patient via stretcher to a waiting ambulance or helicopter.

Maj. Doug Lundgren and senior member Mike Chilcote of the Hagerstown squadron conceived of this exercise as a natural follow-on to the fall hunting season when hunters in the area can and have gotten lost or hypothermic. Chilcote, who is also a member of the McConnellsburg Fire –EMS Company 56, suggested that this scenario would make a valuable learning exercise and promote cooperation among the local emergency response agencies.

Lundgren thanked DCNR Rangers Greg Eitner and Steve Keiper for their part in making Buchanan State Forest for this event, and also credited Company 56 Chief Pete Lynch and MMPW Company 9 Chief for arranging participation by their volunteers for the exercise. Bedford squadron commander Maj. Ben Gotschall and ground team leader Kevin Hampson “jumped right into the planning for this exercise, and it expanded from there,” said Lundgren.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 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 113 lives in fiscal year 2010. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction 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 more than 26,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 69 years. It is the largest sponsor annually of Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. For more information on the Civil Air Patrol, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com.

There are more than 1,500 members of CAP in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 42 search and rescue missions and were credited with 31 finds. For more information about the Maryland Wing CAP, visit www.mdcap.org.

The Hagerstown Composite Squadron meets weekly on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Hagerstown Regional Airport, behind Nick’s Airport Inn, 18621 Jarkey Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21716.