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Gastonia Squadron – Experiences of a Cadet at Ranger Training

Cadets prepare to depart Gastonia for Ranger Training weekend.
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Cadets prepare to depart Gastonia for Ranger Training weekend. Photo credit: SM Derk R. Beutler, CAP, PAO, Gastonia Composite Squadron (click image to view full size)
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Reaping the Rewards of a Tough Weekend

2/8/2015–– The NC Wing Ranger Training Weekend was held February 6th - 8th at Morrow Mountain State Park. Ranger Training Weekend is a chance for cadets to begin or advance their training for search and rescue operations and to obtain a grade of ranger certification. Ranger certification is recognized nationally throughout Civil Air Patrol. The Gastonia Composite Squadron had two cadets attend this training event. Cadet Master Sergeant Beutler, who currently held a Ranger Third Class designation, participated in the intermediate training exercises with the Alpha squadron. Cadet Airman Martin participated with the Charlie squadron in basic ranger training. The Gastonia Composite Squadron also had two Senior Members attend; Major Frank Parker and Lieutenant Donna Parker. Major Parker served as the Public Affairs Officer, also known as PAO. Lieutenant Parker served on the support staff.

The first day started late, at about seven o'clock pm. Cadets arrived at Morrow Mountain State Park entrance where they transferred their gear to a Civil Air Patrol van, in which they were driven up to group campsites one through three. After check-in Cadets received their squadron assignments. Cadet Beutler was assigned to the only advanced squadron, Alpha, and reported to Alpha commander who assigned a place for his tent. Meanwhile, Cadet Martin was assigned to Charlie Squadron and also assigned a place to set up his tent. Cadets were called to formation in front of the medic, bunkmates were assigned and then the medic surveyed the Cadets for any allergies, medical issues, and required medications. The evening activities included campfire classes on hot and cold weather injuries and how to treat them. It was going to be a cold night, so afterwards fire watch duties were assigned, where Cadets take turns on watching and tending the fire over the night. All Cadets not on first fire watch reported to bed.

            Saturday would warm up nicely and it all started with physical training, consisting of ab, legs, and arm workouts. Then the cadets ate breakfast and were allowed an hour to get warm by the fire. The first class of the day was a knots class, where they learned the square knot, taunt line and bowline among others. Practice continued with line and grid searching for clues. Afterward, the Cadets divided up into three teams for a Search and Rescue Training Exercise and immediately moved out. Alpha teams were taken to the other side of the park and deployed at the last known point of contact with the search victims. Alpha One was designation as the extraction team and Alpha Two served as a search team. The cadets then set out on a heading of 137oN and started their trek toward finding the target. Approximately two hours later they arrived at a ridge where a person with information was questioned. While the senior team questioned the subject the Cadets set up a perimeter security ring. Alpha Two located the target while Alpha One proceeded with questioning the hiker, the end to a successful search. The teams then packed up all their gear and returned to base. Once at base, the cadets were debriefed concerning the search. Then the task of collecting firewood for that night’s Fire Watch began.  After an evening meal, preparations for another cold night were under way, fire watch duties were assigned for the night and cadets reported to bed.

            Sunday’s activities focused on training classes and testing the skills learned. The first was a knots test, next the cadets had to build a fire, stomp it out then rekindle it back to a normal campfire. Not so easy when the wind was howling; many struggled to get a fire started. Then the assigned time had arrived; Cadets were ordered to break down and stow their gear, tents and patrol for trash. When the campsites were cleaned and vacated, Cadets and staff participated in the closing formation. Afterward the Cadets gathered their gear, checked out, and had an opportunity to buy shirts, hats and other Ranger gear. Lunch was provided and the Cadets were dismissed to travel home.

            The weekend brought many new concepts, ideas and challenges, which could be added to the tool box of knowledge, on a quest to become the best CAP Ranger Search and Rescue member possible.