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Aug. 22, 2019
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Drill fine-tunes search and rescue

By Pamela A. Keene 
 
This is a training drill: When the call came that a small aircraft had crash-landed on an island on Lake Lanier, the search and rescue teams sprang into action. The all-volunteer Civil Air Patrol deployed a crew on a Cessna 182 to survey the area for a preliminary location of the plane from the air. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Flotilla 29, that serves Lake Lanier, sprung to the ready to transport soldiers from the Georgia State Defense Force across the lake to the site. 
 
“Training drills like these, when various agencies work together for a single mission, are invaluable to maximize our preparedness,” said Col. Brad Bryant with the Georgia State Defense Force, which operates under the Georgia Department of Defense. It’s a partner agency with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. “The point of these exercises is to fine-tune our communications, processes and effectiveness among all the participating organizations. As we go through each part of the training, we stop and make corrections. Then, each person and group involved will do a detailed debriefing to help us identify areas for adjustment and improvement.”
 
This particular drill was a year in planning, with members of the Georgia State Defense Force and the Civil Air Patrol meeting regularly to map out the scenario and determine the scope of the exercise. In all, more than 120 personnel took part in the exercise, including cadet members of the area high school chapter of the Civil Air Patrol. 
 
“Our approach in our training is to use the ‘crawl, walk, run’ scenario to assure that we are deliberate in how we respond to the situation,” Col. Bryant said. “It’s like a dress rehearsal, but there’s the necessary stop, correct and go.”
 
Every participant was assigned a specific duty for the day: one ground team from the Civil Air Patrol was charged with locating the plane’s alert beacon by using an electric transmitter to hone in on the signal. Others searched the flight path and debris field to find victims and casualties and triage them until the medics arrived shortly afterward.
 
“We have an old Cessna fuselage that we can use in our drills, like we did recently at Camp Rainey Mountain to simulate a rough-terrain search-and-rescue mission,” Col. Bryant said. “We had placed several Rescue Randy and Rescue Annie mannequins the in woods for that drill so the soldiers could experience bringing out these 160- to 200-pound ‘casualties.’ Our purpose is to make these exercises as real as possible.”
 
Major Don Hamrick, Civil Air Patrol incident commander for this exercise, explained the preliminaries of the day. “When we’re notified we always get the pertinent information from the pilot’s flight plan, including the number of ‘souls on board’ so that we can account for all passengers, and the projected destination. We work closely with the FAA to also – with the Georgia State Defense Force – to secure the site until the national inspectors and evaluators come in. The investigation of such an event is in their hands, but generally we’re first responders.”
 
The weekend drill was part of the regular training for the Civil Air Patrol and the Georgia State Defense Force. All members are volunteers. They were assisted by Flotilla 29 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supported the training mission. “This is the first time that these three organizations have worked together like this in training,” Col. Bryant said. “We certainly appreciate the assistance from the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Corps of Engineers. I’m sure we will see more of these exercises to help us with our preparedness.”

Posted online 3/28/16
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