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Patient Packaging: Photo credit: SM Patrick Schneider, CAP, PAO, 111th Search and Rescue Composite Squadron (click image to view full size)
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Rangers Revealed

3/16/2016––Whether you have been to a Ranger Training Weekend (RTW) or not, you have a good idea what these weekends are all about. After all, you have seen the pictures of cadets in their cool gear, looking all operator in their molly vests and packs. They return to their home squadrons proud of their accomplishments and eager to put their skills into action; Maybe even a little arrogant with their new found knowledge that they want to share with the other cadets. But they are just kids taught by kids. They really can’t be learning that much, and certainly not enough to go out on a REAL mission, right?

The 2016 North Carolina Wing Ranger Training Weekend was recently held at Morrow Mountain State Park. With over 190 members in attendance from seven states, it would be difficult for one to dispute that the 2nd annual Winter Ranger School was anything but a huge success. After all, over 100 students learned important search and rescue skills, taught by over 35 experienced cadets.

Bravo, Charlie and Delta Squadrons learned the basics, such as what to do if lost, identifying natural hazards, as well as participating in a litter carry. Alpha Squadron worked on more advanced skills. Cadets and senior members built shelters, learned mapping skills, completed a five mile hike, and built their own personal fires with just two matches, a knife, and wood they collected. Echo Squadron was reserved for those who have attended several Ranger Training Weekends in the past and were working on Ranger First Class and higher. At this point in training, there is a shift from just participating, to actually planning and organizing activities such as search operations. Ground team members learn to collaborate with air crews and even canine teams. Of course the skills mentioned here don’t even begin to cover the scope of training that takes place at RTW.

If you have never been to an RTW, challenge yourself to make that change. In the words of Lt Col Jonathan Wiggs, RTW Commander, "Cadets think they are learning search and rescue, but they are really learning leadership and having fun doing it. They may never get to apply the search and rescue skills they learn here, but they will leave with leadership skills they will use for a lifetime."

And isn’t that what Civil Air Patrol is all about? CAP’s mission statement is as follows:

“Supporting America's communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development, and promotion of air, space and cyber power.”

Support for the Ranger program is support for CAP’s mission. These young men and ladies learn the skills necessary to respond to an emergency, whether it be to render first aid to an individual in need that happens across their path, or the community as a whole during a crisis. Being able to provide ground services has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with training and heart, which cadets have both of in spades.

Lt Col Steve Strah, Civil Air Patrol’s Air Force Liason, visited on Saturday. He toured each squadron and stated, “I was very impressed with the leadership, organization and planning of each activity. One or two experienced cadets lead the subjects being taught. The cadets teaching class did a very good job staying interactive with their students, keeping them involved, and monitoring progress.”

C/2d Lt Emily Webster of Cape Fear Composite Squadron provided support to the mission by serving as one of the Cadet Administrative Officers. She stated, "RTW was an inspiring opportunity to watch as young people eagerly devoured any knowledge they could find. Previously shy, unsure cadets grew tremendously in both confidence and experience, changing from regular youth into responsible search and rescue team members, with whom you could quite truly trust your life."

But don’t just take the word of a cadet. SM Patrick Schneider of the 111th Search and Rescue Composite Squadron attended as a student of Alpha Squadron. A professional photo journalist with over 20 years experience supporting emergency operations through photography, he had this to say about his experience while at RTW, “The young men and women training this weekend can't even begin to understand the future value of the skills they are learning. This is the next generation of first responders. This training will give them the confidence to jump into action when surrounded by the chaos of a tragic event. They will have the confidence to step forward while others stand paralyzed in panic.”

At events such as RTW, Civil Air Patrol has the opportunity to bring it’s mission to life, as young people become one step closer to being tomorrow’s leaders of their community, state and nation.