RAPID CITY, SD — South Dakota Wing of Civil Air Patrol conducted dual East and West River training exercises this weekend to practice skills used in search and rescue and disaster relief missions. The exercise mission bases will be in Sioux Falls and Custer.
“We saw several missing-person searches we assisted with at the end of 2020,” said Col. Nick Gengler, South Dakota Wing commander. “These training missions help hone our skills in the same terrain we would search in a real mission.”
Black Hills aircraft sorties during the training will help CAP pilots refresh their mountain flying ability, which is demanding due to the thinner air at the higher altitude, particularly when flying low to perform visual searching for missing persons in the valleys below. The exercise is also expected to include ground team training and unmanned aerial search drones.
Civil Air Patrol performs search, disaster relief and other missions in its role as the U.S. Air Force auxiliary, part of the Air Force Total Force. CAP is aligned with First Air Force to rapidly respond to nonmilitary threats domestically when tasked in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities capacity to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance.
“While we have been able to continue our training during the pandemic, our opportunities for a full-on, hands-on SAREX have been limited over the past year,” said Lt. Col. Todd Epp, SDWG chief of staff and one of the incident commanders for the upcoming training event. “I know our members and I look forward to getting in the aircraft and the vans and training under “real world” conditions once again.”
South Dakota Wing, Civil Air Patrol, is composed of over 450 members organized in twelve units located throughout the state in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Pierre, Brookings, Spearfish, Mitchell, Tea, Miller and Custer. Assets include six single-engine aircraft, nineteen vehicles, and extensive communications equipment. The wing conducted four search and rescue missions, thirteen training exercises, and twelve other state and federal support missions in 2020 and was credited with one life saved and one find.