St. Mary's CAP Squadron Provides Mission Base for Search and Rescue Exercise

By Don Van Wormer, 2nd Lt., CAP
St. Mary’s Composite Squadron Public Affairs

CALIFORNIA, Md. - On a recent warm, sunny, and clear Saturday, a casual observer of flight operations at St. Mary’s Regional Airport might have thought the large number aircraft using the facility was normal for a day with good flying weather. To the experienced airport watcher, the unusual number of aircraft sporting red, white, and blue paint schemes, and wearing Civil Air Patrol markings, along with large amount of activity at the CAPT Walter F. Duke terminal building would have indicated that this was not a normal Saturday at the airport.

All of the unusual activity was due to the Maryland CAP Wing, Group III conducting a day-long Search and Rescue exercise (SAREX). The St. Mary’s Composite Squadron provided host duties, and the St. Mary’s Regional Airport was used as the mission base for the exercise. This SAREX marked the first to be hosted by the local CAP squadron and was the first to use the St. Mary’s Regional Airport as a mission base.

The SAREX provided an opportunity for CAP aircrews and ground teams from various CAP units to train together in an area of operations that covered St. Mary’s county to Ocean City, Maryland. Ground teams from the Annapolis, Arundel, Bowie, and St. Mary’s squadrons were active in deploying and recovering training beacons used by aircrews, while also taking the opportunity to practice ground search procedures. Over 50 percent of the Maryland wing aircraft assets were deployed for the SAREX, with Skyhawk, Skylane, and Airvan aircraft flying into the Southern Maryland region from the St. Mary’s, Annapolis, Easton, College Park, Bowie, and Baltimore CAP squadrons.

For the days training, air and ground teams worked a total of six missions. Three missions included the use of training beacons to simulate searches for an Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT), while the three missions simulated a search for a ground target, such as a downed aircraft. By the end of the day, 18 sorties, totaling 34 flight hours had been flown in support of the exercise.

While all flight operations were performed by CAP senior members, the St. Mary’s squadron cadets were involved in many facets of the operation, including flight line marshalling, aircraft refueling, mission base support, communications, staff assistance, and ground SAR.

Ensuring that all training objectives were met and performed safely was the task of the SAREX Incident Commander, Col. Larry Trick. Under Col. Trick, Lt.Col. Jim Babbit directed Air Branch operations, while all Ground Branch activities were coordinated by Maj. Voss Konecny. Keeping a watchful eye over the entire training evolution was Maryland CAP wing commander Col. Gerard Weiss, MD wing Group III commander Lt.Col. Wes LePre, and St. Mary’s Composite Squadron commander 1stLt Alan Douglas.

CAP, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 60,000 members nationwide. CAP volunteers perform 95 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counterdrug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.

Members take a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the almost 25,000 young people currently participating in the CAP Cadet Program. CAP's cadet programs provide young men and women with a safe and motivating environment in which to grow and explore opportunities in the military and aviation industries. Cadets progress through a 16-step program of leadership and aerospace education. CAP has been performing missions for America for more than 63 years.

There are approximately 1,300 members of CAP in Maryland. Last fiscal year wing members flew 34 search and rescue missions and were credited with 23 finds.

For information about the Maryland Wing of CAP, visit or listen to weekly episodes of "Civil Air Patrol Today" broadcast every Sunday morning on the following radio stations:

* Annapolis, MD - WYRE-AM 810, 8:00-8:30AM ET
* Baltimore, MD - WFBR AM 1590, 8:00-8:30AM ET
* Ocean City, MD - WKHZ-AM 1590, 7:00-7:30AM ET
* Potomac, MD - WCTN 950 AM, 6:00-6:30AM ET
* Rockville, MD - WLXE-AM 1600, 7:00-7:30AM ET
* Washington, DC - WZHF-AM 1390, 7:00-7:30AM ET

In addition, programs may be listened to at the Maryland Wing web site at and can also be subscribed to as a podcast.

The St. Mary’s Composite Squadron meets Wednesday evenings from 7-9 p.m. at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport, in the Capt. Walter Francis Duke terminal building, 44200 Airport Road, in California, MD. The squadron is commanded by 1st Lt. Alan Douglas. For information, go the squadron's web site at

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