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Coast Guard helicopter surprises Civil Air Patrol cadets
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Helicopter crew members explain the aircraft to cadets. - photo by Photo provided.

Cadets from the Savannah Composite Squadron and Statesboro Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol recently participated in Ground Team Member training during a winter exercise held at Fort McAllister State Park and J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill.

They were certified on the direction-finding equipment used by the Civil Air Patrol.

An emergency locator transmitter training device, specifically designed for search-and-rescue training, was hidden in an area of the park, and cadets had to use the direction-finding equipment to find the ELT. This is one of many tasks that comprise the cadets’ training to become GTM certified. GTM certification allows cadets to participate in live search-and-rescue missions.

One of the highlights of the weekend, Jan. 16-18, was having Sgt. Doug Sahlberg and Officer Michael Ward from the Richmond Hill Police Department’s K-9 unit demonstrate the role K-9 officers can play during search-and-rescue missions.

A few of the adult Senior CAP members were asked to hide, and the cadets saw firsthand how the dogs track and find people from their scents.

This activity also helped the cadets obtain GTM certification.

After a rainy night of camping, the cadets were transported Jan. 17 to J.F. Gregory Park to establish a helicopter landing zone. Their primary tasks were to locate a suitable and safe landing platform and secure the perimeter. Little did the cadets know they were preparing an actual landing site for a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, which circled the zone and touched down at approximately 10 a.m. The pilots and crew briefed the cadets on how they operate and emphasized the importance of safety when being around a helicopter and transporting victims. The Richmond Hill Fire Department was also present to ensure a safe exercise.

Twenty-three cadets and seven adult senior members from the squadrons participated in the weekend training exercises.

Both squadrons thanked the RHPD, Coast Guard and RHFD for their assistance.

Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 60,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP performs about 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search-and-rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 70 lives annually. 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 role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program.

CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for more than 72 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Go to or for more information, or visit the Savannah Composite Squadron at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at 810 L.P. Owens Drive, Building 128, Savannah.

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