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Two Coastal Squadrons Participate in SAREX

SAREX Command Center operations at Cape Fear Regional Jetport.
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SAREX Command Center operations at Cape Fear Regional Jetport. Photo Credit: 2nd Lt DeeDee Willetts, PD Officer, NC-170. (click image to view full size)
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NC-170 and NC-023 ground and aircrew members receive realistic training

6/20/2015–– On Saturday, June 20, a total of 26 members of the Brunswick County (NC-170) and Cape Fear (NC-023) Composite Squadrons conducted a practice ground and air search for a missing airplane in the Boiling Spring Lakes area of Brunswick County.  The airplane-down alert was received at 0722 and was sent at 0726 to NC-170 members and Lt Rick Paxton for NC-023.  Aircrew and ground team personnel were given information on location and time to assemble.  A mission base was established at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport on Oak Island.

The exercise scenario indicated that Wilmington Approach Control reported a probable mid-air collision between either an aircraft hitting a tower, or two small airplanes colliding.  A practice beacon signal was detected and confirmed by several aircraft in the area.  The exercise mission simulated the normal chain; 1st USAF to NC Wing to Group Five to NC-170 and NC-023.
The NC-170 commander supervised the training and the NC-023 commander was tasked as the air/ground operations coordinator.  NC-170 members would provide air and ground search personnel and NC-023 members would assist with ground search operations.
The Cessna 182 assigned to NC-170 was used by the aircrew to locate the practice beacon while two ground search teams assembled and prepared for their search operations in the 95 degree heat.  The three-person aircrew was able to locate the "wreckage" and guided the ground teams to the accident site.  While waiting for the ground teams to arrive, the search plane airborne photographer photographed the accident site.
Upon arriving at the "accident scene," ground team members learned that the mishap was really a mid-air collision and they needed to find the second aircraft without help from the Cessna overhead.  With a weaker practice beacon signal to track, the teams, mostly cadet members (under 18 years old) devised a systematic method to search for and locate the second wreckage site.  Upon arrival at the second location, the ground team discovered the "injured pilot" and administered first aid for broken bones and heat exhaustion.
"This exercise was really great," stated experienced Cadet Senior Master Sergeant Kevin 'KJ' Wliietts, Jr.  "We did not expect to find a real aircraft simulation out in the wilderness, or injured actors at the accident sites."  NC Group Five Commander, Major Ed Angelovich, agreed.  He said " A lot of thought and planning went into making the training realistic.  It lets us know what we did well, and how we can improve to be better prepared for real-world situations."
A detailed, comprehensive log of the joint exercise was maintained from the time of the alert to the debriefing at the conclusion of the operation.  The very detailed and complete log will serve as a valuable guide and training/teaching aid for both squadrons in the future.