Civil Air Patrol
  • Aircrew returing to base

St. Mary’s squadron hosts joint MD/VA emergency services exercise

June 18, 2019 —  CALIFORNIA, Md. – Civil Air Patrol’s St. Mary’s Composite Squadron, a unit in Maryland Wing, hosted the June 2019 Joint Maryland Wing/Virginia Wing search-and-rescue exercise (SAREX) which included participation from several Mid-Atlantic Region units including Maryland Wing squadrons Apollo, Bethesda Chevy-Chase, Carroll, Cumberland College Park, Esperanza flight, Glenn L. Martin, Hagerstown, and Towson in addition to Virginia Wing squadrons from Leesburg and Richmond.  The incident commander for the mission was Lt. Col. Sam Herr.

Over the three successive nights leading up to the SAREX members met at the Walter Francis Duke Terminal Building at the St. Mary’s County Airport to refine and set up the incident command post for exercise.  Members St. Mary’s, College Park, and Richmond squadrons provided overnight security of equipment and space. As early morning arrived, the first air sortie was launched before 7:00 a.m.

One of the more exiting events was a fire drill led by Lang and 2nd Lt. Mike Hoerl. This was an unannounced test to evaluate the member’s response to the drill by evacuating the building and accounting for all participants.

Maj. Mike Zabetakis, the incident commander trainer, used Federal Emergency Management Agency documentation procedures of taking photos on a cellphone and posting the photos to a website. The first ground sortie was tasked to the College Park ground team, who was briefed to do damage assessment in Hollywood, Md., area.  They used the FEMA application recommended by Zabetakis with great success. While out in the field, College Park was dispatched to King George, Va., to assist in the search for an emergency location transmitter signal.

The simulated target was a Pink P-51 aircraft had taken off Friday night from Easton, Md., and was overdue at Fredericksburg, Va.  Earlier that morning, a resident of King George, Va., reported a loud bang in the area of their home. Staff obtained the aircraft’s flight plan and determined a second ground team was necessary to support the search.  An urban direction finding team was dispatched to determine the actual location of the signal. After the team finished at Breton Bay, they were dispatched to help find the missing P-51 in King George.

The College Park ground team contacted a Civil Air Patrol aircraft in the vicinity of where the loud noise was heard.  While in radio contact with the aircraft, the ground team was able to identify the ELT signal and pursue it to the actual location, a house in the area where the target was found.

St. Mary’s UDF team proceeded to where the aircraft was circling and then picked up the signal.  Both teams accomplished their mission and returned to mission base.

Cadets and seniors had the opportunity to work with a Calvert County search dog. Once the College Park team returned to base they were also introduced to K-9 Search and Rescue.  The team was provided a demonstration of the procedures of a search and rescue mission with a K-9 team. This exercise was provided by Cadet Elizabeth Konecny who shared her Saturday afternoon, K-9 and vehicle, with our members.

The exercise was supported by many dedicated Civil Air Patrol members. Ground teams from College Park, Towson and St. Mary’s squadrons arrived at the airport along with Lt. Col. Charles Davis, commander of Maryland Wing’s Group 3.  St. Mary’s squadron worked the flight line as marshallers, supervising for aircraft arrivals and departures.  Logistics and mission staff assistance was coordinated by Lt. Col. Glenn Rioux, radio communications were led by Lt. Col. John Johnson and Maj. Mark Coppenbarger who also doubled as liaison officer.  Safety officer was 1st Lt. Steve Lang who also served as the SAREX cook with L.t Stan Konopka. Lt. Col. John Ralph served as air operations branch director trainer as Lt. Col. Bob Midkiff served as the air operations branch director.  Maj. David Webster served as ground branch director and Maj. Dennis Villar was the designated planning section chief assisted by Col. Lawrence Trick, who was also the operations section chief. Public information was handled by Majors Egon Frech and David Trick, who also assisted Maj. Langford on flight line.

In all, many emergency services qualifications were signed off during the mission; making it a highly successful training activity. Col. Trick acted as incident commaner for two days before the first flying and ground team launch; entering sorties so that the mission staff could be turn-key on arrival. The incident command post was also visited by the airport manager, Ms. Allison Swint.

St. Mary’s Composite Squadron meets every Wednesday from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at St. Mary’s Regional Airport in California, Md. For information about the squadron, including meeting address and contact information, visit . Follow the squadron on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Nearly 1,500 CAP members serve in Maryland. Last year wing members flew 13 search and rescue missions. The wing was credited with four finds. Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the state of Maryland. Members flew 2,245 hours in all mission categories. Volunteers contributed services estimated at $4.6 million. For more information, contact the Maryland Wing at or follow the wing on Facebook at .

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.


Photos (left to right):

Lt. Col. Charles Davis and the College Park ground team conducted a damage assessment from a simulated tornado.

Civil Air Patrol members get together for a pre-ground team briefing: (L to R) 1st Lt. Vanessa Muniz-Medina, Lt. Col. John Johnson, Lt. Col. Charles Davis, Maj. Mike Zabetakis, 2nd Lt. Christophe Marchand, Lt. Col. Samuel Herr, and Maj. David Webster. 

Cadets from St. Mary’s prepare the air van for a flight.

Maj. David Webster, CAP
Public Affairs Officer
St. Mary’s Composite Squadron

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