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Note from Jeff Knight on the CAP exercise this past weekend

For those that missed the exercise in Blairsville, I am passing along some observations from one of the newer guys in NGMSAR. 


The IC in this exercise was the Civil Air Patrol.  If you have not had any contact with a branch of the CAP, then you don’t know the dedication and professionalism of these people.  They are a semi-military group who will fly dangerous low level missions in the mountains to look for lost planes and people.  They were excited to meet Tracy and me and to learn that they had a mounted SAR group that could bring another facet to their missions.  They knew the advantages that we have to offer with our horses and it appeared that they would not hesitate to call us when needed.  But when we go, we need to have our game faces on because this group expects a lot from it members and will expect the same dedication from us.


There were two dogs involved (from SARDOG team).  By the time they found us, I was ready to get off the mountain so my chit-chat skills were at a minimum.  When we got back to the truck, it was showing 101°.


We were dressed properly, had water, food, and go-bags, so we were prepared.  We had to use UTM coordinates to confirm our entry into the woods, placement of the first smelly clue for the dogs, and our final location (after that hike, we were the second smelly clue).  We were reading map symbols and legends to support our compass readings as we got deeper into the woods.  We weren’t on horses and we didn’t tie any knots but we used some or all of everything else that we have been training on.  And this was just a simple half-day exercise.  It emphasized to me that I need to be better at these things.  After our last exercise in DawsonForest, it showed that I need to have more experience with my horse in the woods, so I concentrate less on her and more on searching.  I flew low level survey work for DNR years ago and the term that applies is “to have eyes outside the plane”.  This means that all your flying skills must be high enough so that it is second nature to fly so your concentration is on your task at hand and not on flying the plane.  I think this applies to SAR.  Some of the skills I have but I need to be better at them so I don’t have to think about them.


The difference in terrain that far north is something else to be noted.  The hills are steeper and bigger.  If we or our horses are getting tired atDawsonForest, then we need better conditioning before spending a day or several days searching through the northern mountains.


The more experienced members know all this.  But the rest of us need that “aha” moment when we see the reasoning for all the training and the work