2010-09-16 / Front Page

Air and ground search practice completed: Missing Scouts located

Ground-team leaders look for lost Scouts in a Civil Air Patrol search-and-rescue exercise at Washington Crossing State Park on Aug. 21. After two sweeps of the park, (l-r) Capt. Patrick D. Rutherford of Manalapan, Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Raymond Witkowski of Jackson, 1st Lt. David I. Lee of Allentown, and 1st Lt. Gene Murray of Brick, and their team found the Scouts. Ground-team leaders look for lost Scouts in a Civil Air Patrol search-and-rescue exercise at Washington Crossing State Park on Aug. 21. After two sweeps of the park, (l-r) Capt. Patrick D. Rutherford of Manalapan, Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Raymond Witkowski of Jackson, 1st Lt. David I. Lee of Allentown, and 1st Lt. Gene Murray of Brick, and their team found the Scouts. MILLSTONE — Finding a missing person takes patience, time and focus, and like most other skills succeeds with practice.

Volunteers from the New Jersey Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) conducted air and ground search simulations in central New Jersey on Aug. 21. In the event that government agencies request CAP to aid in the search for a missing person, having practiced improves the probability of success, according to CAP ground team member David Lee, of Millstone.

During the exercise, Lee served as a ground team leader, which required overseeing all paperwork and team members to ensure that the team knew and accomplished its mission.

“All decisions are my responsibility,” Lee said of his role as a ground team leader.

In this exercise, the objective was to locate seven Boy Scouts and their adult leader who were overdue. The missing group had a personal locater device, which is a special radio transmitter similar to what is used on personal watercraft and aircraft.

“We knew they were in Washington Crossing State Park, so we went to that location,” Lee said. “Using the tracking radio, we obtained a signal and obtained a direction in which to proceed. We drove to a different location in the park in order to triangulate the position of the transmitter. We then headed off into the woods to locate the missing persons.”

Finding the missing group was not as easy as anticipated, Lee said.

“Due to the terrain, the radio signal gets bounced around, attenuated in an unforeseen manner,” he said. “This is why we have these exercises, to practice and learn how to interpret the information obtained from the radios, how to operate as a team, even though members of the team may vary each time you meet.”

This scenario was part of the third major training exercise involving U.S. Air Force trainer overview of CAP responses to multiple missions requiring assistance to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New Jersey State Police, the Boy Scouts of America and other federal, state and local organizations, according to CAP.

The searches were coordinated from a mission base located at the general aviation area of Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing. New Jersey Wing also provided air search support to the Pennsylvania Wing mission base at Fort Indiantown Gap in Jonestown, Pa. Approximately 40 members of the New Jersey Wing were involved, including multiple pilot-observer crews flying single-engine recon aircraft throughout the two states and adult officer-directed teen cadet searchand rescue crews conducting ground operations, according to CAP.

Aerial recon missions included identification of a potential terrorist activity against a major transportation center in the Raritan River Valley area, locating a downed aircraft on a flight path between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and the aerial and ground mission to find the Scouts in Washington Crossing State Park. All mission tasks were completed successfully. The New Jersey CAP incident commanders were Lt. Col. Steve Tracy, of Jackson, and Lt. Eric Allen Cohen, of Asbury Park. Senior U.S. Air Force trainer-evaluator was Lt. Col. Tom Dey, of Carteret.

After Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina, communication breakdowns and interoperability problems were identified as critical areas for all government agencies to address. The U.S. Air Force trainers also want to hone New Jersey CAP search-andrescue capabilities to meet simultaneous interstate and local mission challenges, according to CAP. There are more than 1,200 members of CAP in New Jersey.

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