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Expert Ranger Belt Posthumously Awarded to Lt Col Andy Wiggs

Bohler and Wiggs
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Lt Col Pete Bohler (left) and Lt Col Andy Wiggs at the February 2017 RTW. Photo credit: C/Lt Col Kyra Willis, CAP (click image to view full size)
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A Legacy Continues

12/8/2017––On 1-3 December 2017, over 200 Civil Air Patrol members from nine wings and four regions gathered at Morrow Mountain State Park to advance their search and rescue and wilderness survival skills. The 2017 North Carolina Fall Ranger Training Weekend, under the direction of School Commander Maj Jason Cheek, was a huge success, showing that the legacy begun under Lt Col Andy Wiggs will live on throughout the North Carolina Wing.

Lt Col Wiggs began the NCWG Ranger program, after bringing a group of cadets and senior members to train at Hawk Mountain Ranger School and returning as the cadre for a future NCWG Ranger Program. The first NCWG Ranger Training Weekend was held at Camp Butner in 2010 with 44 members attending. Since that time there has been steady growth, with ranger training weekends being held twice a year. Lt Col Wiggs once said, “Cadets think they are learning search and rescue, but what they are really learning is leadership.” Maj Jason Cheek has big shoes to fill but showed this weekend that the NCWG Ranger program will not only survive, it will thrive. Currently the NCWG has eight expert rangers, including Col R. Jason Bailey (Belt #243) and Maj Jason Cheek (Belt #263).

Maj Jason Cheek has plans for the expansion of the NCWG Ranger program. These plans include additional training and certification through the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR), of which he is an instructor and lead evaluator, giving members the opportunity to earn nationally recognized credentials. 

Congratulations go to Lt Col Bruce Brown (SCWG) and C/Maj Brandon Webber (PAWG) for successfully completing their SAR Tech II written exam and field evaluations. There will be other expansion programs within the NC Ranger Program coming in the future as well, to be announced when they are ready for rollout, as well as future plans for the integration of the new State SAR certification program through NCEM.

At the conclusion of the weekend, during closing formation, a contingent of expert rangers were present for an award presentation to honor Lt Col Wiggs. Expert Ranger Lt Col Jeff Smith (Belt #67) from PAWG presented a black pistol belt awarded posthumously in remembrance of Lt Col Wiggs (now Expert Ranger #271). Col R. Jason Bailey (Belt #243) accepted the award on behalf of the NCWG.

One cannot think of the NCWG Ranger program and not think of Lt Col Wiggs. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on for years to come.