The Biggest Debacle Ever
Alternate Title: 2 ELTs, 4 Aircraft, 5 GTs, One Incredible Idiot, All In Nine Square Miles
The Army has a revered title for operations such as this one: the first word of that title is "Cluster," the second word I can't say in polite company. Read on for the entertainment.
I don't remember the guy's name anymore, nor would I publish it here if I did. Names have been changed to protect the guilty, that sort of thing. Anyway, he was the squadron commander of North Podunk Composite Squadron, USA. He was very full of himself and didn't really know what he was doing, but he was damn sure he was doing it right. If you didn't think so, you should have just asked him! He had been in CAP less than a year, had no prior military, ES, SAR, or public service experience, and held very few (if any) 101 card ratings. He definitely was NOT a Ground Team Leader, Air Ops Director, or Mission Coordinator. Imagine this scenario that he cooked up: 5 ground teams and 4 aircraft are dispatched to the same state park to find 3 different targets, two of which are ELTs operating on the same practice frequency. This particular state park happened to be only a few miles wide on each side.
The end result? Two airplanes had a near-midair and decided they'd had enough for the day. Smart thinking. The other two were constantly on the radio deconflicting with each other. This left the ground teams to act autonomously. Good luck finding a visual target without an airplane--you might as well look for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Ever try to locate an ELT that's operating a mile away from another one? That ought to give you a headache just thinking about it. One ground team managed to locate and pick up all of the targets, however. Any guesses who the [squadron commander of North Podunk Composite Squadron] "ground team leader" of that team was???
Moral of the story: Know when to throw up the BS flag and go home, no matter who is running the show. Its your pink body on the line. In Civil Air Patrol, you are a volunteer. You can un-volunteer for anything you don't want to do. A long time ago, the US Coast Guard had a saying: "You Don't Have to Come Back, But You DO Have to Go Out." That attitude is very dangerous and was dropped--and there is simply no room for that philosophy in CAP. If you push you limits flying into weather or keeping your ground team out too long, the hazard you are creating for yourself also jeopardizes the survivor.
This page of the CAP Emergency Services Resources™ website was last updated 07/01/2008
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