Maj. Dana Kirsch Ray, CAP
On a mild Friday afternoon in June, 27 members of CAP loaded 300lbs of field equipment and gear into 5 vehicles and drove 50 miles to Henry Coe Park for a weekend of Ground Team training. This SAREX was intended to be in conjunction with the Oakland SAREX and provide opportunities for coordinating air and ground assets. Due to the heavy volume of smoke in the air surrounding the Oakland base of operations and limited air maneuvering space the air portion of the SAREX was suspended, but the ground team proceeded as planned.
The schedule for the weekend included classroom and field exercises in the following disciplines: Shelter building, Map and Compass, Radio communications, Air to Ground signalling, use of the GPS, DF instruction, Geocaching with the GPS, Search Line procedures, and a mock-search. In addition, exposure to canine search teams, and simulated crash-scene preservation, were introduced.
Overall the weekend progressed very smoothly. Meals and breaks came at appropriate intervals allowing cadets and seniors to refresh, recuperate and relax, as the heat of the day and the effort of exertion increased. Overall the pace of learning was appropriate, the manner and method of instruction was good with reinforcement and time to practice the skills learned.
We had a few encounters with the local wildlife. On Friday night a single coyote ran off with a couple of cliff bars and damaged a backpack. On Saturday night the entire pack came through while everyone was asleep and most everyone woke up to discover something had been taken, torn or gnawed upon. It was a stealthy silent pack that swept through the site plundering candy, trash, and goodies.
Some lessons learned included:
- Bring more water. – We departed with 40 gallons of water and resupplied with 10 and found we ran a little low at the end. Almost half the people emptied their water supply as we exited the park.
- Don’t forget the coffee – there was a small mutiny when the coffee didn’t arrive until 2pm on Saturday afternoon.
- This was an introduction to ground team operations, camping and bivouacking. As such we cooked group meals and ate on paper plates. For an advanced class I recommend teaching individuals to use their stove for at least one of the meals, and to encourage individuals to be self sufficient with water and to cook and eat out of their own tin cup and to practice and use sanitation techniques.
- Bringing the MREs was a good experience. Many folks had never tried one before, and even though they were expensive it was a good lesson for anyone getting ready for field work to have tasted and tried and know how to prepare a MRE.
Overall a great opportunity, with lots of SQTRs signed off and many happy memories.