TX-388th Fort Worth Phoenix Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) participated in a Texas Wing Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) on August 18th & 19th, 2018. The SAREX was held at Group VI Headquarters located at Denton Enterprise Airport (KDTO).

SAREX missions are designed to enhance overall mission readiness of CAP personnel and equipment. Emergency Services (ES) are a core component of the CAP mission. As such, each local squadron is expected to stand up teams of individuals ready to respond to crises as they occur. The teams train in a variety of roles and scenarios which might include mission aircrew, ground search crew, mission support staff, or communications. SAREX missions place trainees alongside qualified Skills Examiner Trainers (SET). These SET qualified trainers provide the trainees hands-on experience with CAP equipment and technology.

C/SSgt Suarez, C/A1C McMickle, and C/TSgt Judkins prepare to tackle a training sortie while at mission base.

Trainees typically focus on earning qualifications in one or two specialties at a time. To become qualified, the trainee must accomplish several specific tasks related to the specialty. For example, a trainee who hopes to assist in ground search missions must first learn how to properly communicate via radio before they are ready for the field. Following the task guide ensures that the SET qualified individual covers all relevant material with the trainee before signing off on their readiness for real missions.   

TX-388th Cadets and Senior Members formed an Urban Direction Finding (UDF) Team to locate the ELT distress beacon during an actual mission August 19, 2018.

Trainees at this particular SAREX focused much of their first day on basic education in their chosen specialty. However, about midway through the second day of the exercise, their training was put to the test. The United States Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), the nation’s inland Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinator, contacted the Texas Wing Headquarters with a real mission. An Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), also known as a 406 Beacon, was detected in the vicinity of the Group VI headquarters.

The base Incident Commander (IC) was contacted and an emergency response team was immediately assembled. Trainees, under the supervision of their SET trainers, went to work. A ground team was dispatched to a neighboring municipal airport, the suspected location of the ELT. The team, many serving on their first ever real life mission, was able to successfully locate the aircraft with the activated ELT sitting on the ramp adjacent to a maintenance hangar. After making contact with the aircraft owner, the ground team was able to determine that the ELT had been activated by accident during a recent maintenance inspection. The ELT was tested and turned off under the supervision of the aircraft owner.

CAP uses test ELT units like the one pictured here to assist in members’ training and development.

Trainees attending SAREX were able to walk away with a much greater understanding and appreciation of CAP’s mission to serve the nation. Cadets were encouraged because their contributions helped make the mission a complete success. Those who were not able to attend this particular SAREX are encouraged to explore future training opportunities. Clearly, training matters.

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 25,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit or for more information.

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