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Gastonia Composite Squadron's Monthly Trip turns into SAREX weekend of training

Cadets perform gear check before deploying.
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Cadets perform gear check before deploying. Photo credit: SM Derk R. Beutler, CAP, PAO, Gastonia Composite Squadron (click image to view full size)
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Real World Change of Plans for Cadets and Seniors

1/25/2015––Cadets and Senior members of the Gastonia Composite Squadron plan a monthly day hike to a local mountain and practice survival tactics which include basics like shelter building, fire starting, navigation, orienteering, etc. After a successful hike to "The Pinnacle" at Crowder’s Mountain State Park in December, the cadet staff had painstakingly put together the January hike to South Mountain State Park.   Everything was in place and excitement was building until the day before. That is when everyone was informed that we were on call for a mission in the NC state-wide SAREX exercises the weekend of January 17 – 18; nothing like a real world change of plans!

Our squadron was fortunate to have Lt. Tilton of the Asheville Squadron present to instruct the cadets in ground team training. Saturday’s exercises included classroom training in equipment preparations, treating of weather and fatigue injuries, field hygiene, working with canine teams, identify missing person clues, search tactics, line and grid searching and much more.

The cadets were enthusiastic and gaining valuable knowledge from Lt. Tilton. That is when another change of plans was issued – the exercise would continue overnight and into Sunday. Cadets (and parents) made necessary arrangements to spend the night!  Squadron headquarters quickly became a makeshift barracks. The evening began with the team conducting a nighttime line and grid search, applying the techniques for locating a missing person which they had studied earlier that day. Dinner was prepared, the now famous GCS "Trail Burritos", which were a hit, with cookies and chips. Afterwards the cadets settled into a restful night of sleep at the Gastonia Municipal Airport hoping the call would still come.

The cadet staff was up before the sun, and managed to get outside without waking the sleeping Lt. Tilton for an early morning of drill. Great job Cadets!   Sunday morning brought notification that the SAREX was complete, and they had not been called upon after all.  Disappointment filled the air.

Undaunted, the Cadets continued training on Sunday by working on plotting and finding map points, use of a compass and practicing a backcountry litter carry. Teams took turns placing missing person clues around the airport, and team leaders and cadets searched for clues and found the missing persons, sometimes with injuries that needed attention.

That is when the call came in from the commander; we have a mission (training of course).  Cadets scrambled to ready packs and ship out within15 minutes. The group then headed for Crowder’s Mountain for a hike where the members were split into two teams and applied their classroom education by conducting search activities, radio communications, aircraft mirror signaling and surroundings awareness. The professionalism was exemplary.

At the regular Monday evening meeting Cadets continued working toward achieving their Ground Team 3 certifications by beginning ICUT testing. The classes and training will continue until all participating Cadets are GT3 certified. When called upon, the Cadets of the Gastonia CAP Composite Squadron will be ready to serve the citizens of North Carolina.