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Group 3 Holds SAREX following winter storm in the Carolinas

A flight crew prepares to fly it's sortie
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(L-R) Lt. Veit, mission scanner, Capt Baird, mission observer, and Capt. Laviano, mission pilot (click image to view full size)
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2/24/2014––Following the recent series of winter storms that hit the southern United States, Group 3 of the North Carolina Wing scheduled a group Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) to determine its capabilities and areas that needed improvement. This SAREX gave several officers the opportunity to fine tune their Incident Commander skills, Air operations skills, communications as well as flying sorties.

Several squadrons participated in the Group exercise including Raleigh Wake Squadron, Pitt Greenville Squadron,Halifax, Burlington and Elizabeth City Squadron. Maj. John May was designated incident commander(IC)with Capt. Dennis Bissell and Lt Col.Dion Viventi as IC/trainee. for the SAREX.

The SAREX was designed to fly 9 sorties, with multiple scenarios from Emergency Locator (ELT) discovery and air to ground coordination with ground teams, to aerial photography(AP) sorties to test the air crew’s ability to locate a target on the ground and correctly identify by photograph the target.

As in real live scenarios, occurrences happen which can cause the teams to have to adjust their missions and time schedules. Raleigh Wake Squadron was designated to fly three missions, the first of which was to locate an ELT beacon for a plane that was to have taken off from Franklin County airport at 5AM and did not arrive at its destination as expected. The aircrew, piloted by Capt. Rich Laviano with Capt. Ed Baird, mission observer and 2nd Lt. Peter Veit, mission scanner, arrived over Franklin County Airport as originally planned and executed an ELT search over its assigned area which proved unsuccessful because of a malfunctioning ELT training beacon.

Following communication with the Mission Radio Operator, 1st Lt. Bryan Weil, and the IC,Maj. John May,the aircrew was given a new mission to pick a landmark and use air/land navigation to guide the ground team to that landmark. This alternate mission proved successful and the aircraft returned to mission base at RDU airport in Raleigh. Capt. Laviano, commander of the Raleigh Wake Squadron,who flew the second sortie said "it gave the crew an opportunity to practice their AP skills". This mission tasked the crew to photograph 2 specific bodies of water and four small private air strips. Because of the close proximity to each other, Laviano said,"the air crew had to use both charts and visual points of reference to ensure they were delivering the correct target pictures".

A third crew piloted by Capt. Marcus Howard successfully completed a similar AP sortie with his crew.

In addition to the three sorties flown from RDU, six sorties were flown from Elizabeth City. Three sorties each were conducted by Capt. P.Jones from the Pitt Greenville Squadron, and Capt. Don Williams from the Raleigh Wake Squadron, flying an aircraft from the Burlington Squadron. Jones and Williams each commanded an AP mission, an ELT mission, and coordinated air/ground search mission. 

While the above sorties were being flown, Captain Miller from Elizabeth City Squadron was commanding a team at Elizabeth City Airport to complete a Point of Distribution (POD) exercise with his team. The POD is new to the Civil Air Patrol, and is completed in coordination with local emergency management personnel. The PODs provide prepackaged supplies that can be transported and managed by a small team during a disaster.

After reviewing the day's activities, Capt. Bissell observed "today was a great day, we completed all of our sorties and searches successfully; all aircraft returned safely;the POD exercise was a great learning opportunity; and we learned that we need to do a better job at coordination of communications between multiple areas of operation prior to the SAREX; but overall I am very pleased."