Civil Air Patrol: North SAREX part 1

On 3/19/16 I went on a Civil Air Patrol Search And Rescue (SAR) exercise, otherwise known as a SAREX. And it was a blast. Currently I am a Cadet Senior Airman. For this SAREX I was part of a Urban Direction Finding (UDF) team. One of the big things that CAP does is track down the signals from Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) which are mounted in most (if not all, I'm not completely sure) aircraft and sea craft. UDF teams are equipped with the gadgets to go sniff these things out when they go off. Some are PLBs as well, which stands for Personal Locator Beacon which I'm pretty sure means a handheld transmitter kind of like a life alert thing.
A somewhat extreme but real case of  looking for an ELT.

ELTs can go off because of a hard landing, an actual crash, because someone manually turned it on (you don't have to crash to be in an emergency; for example if you get lost somewhere and you land out of gas) some just malfunction, and I have heard of "dumpster diving" cases where someone throws one away and it is active. Usually they can be turned off, but if not, they can be "smothered" by wrapping aluminum foil over the antenna which keeps the signals contained. In the case of them going off, they can be detected on certain radio frequencies, airline pilots routinely check this frequency and call the Air Force if they detect one. The USAF then calls CAP and CAP sends out a UDF or ground team. A ground team is more Search And Rescue and would be the ones to deal with actual emergencies, the UDF team's primary role is to find the signals. The two work together I think to a certain degree but I'm not too sure how it works, I'm still learning myself. Even if the signal is a false alarm they must be turned off, as there is no way to tell whether it is an emergency or not. The signal just beeps, it has no brain so it can't tell you much. 

I got up bright and early somewhere around four in the morning, rode in one of the squadron vans from about five to seven  and got at the army airfield/national guard training center at eight. In the morning. And it was about 40 or so degrees. Inside the a small building we (cadets and senior members) chatted, got signed in, and waited for briefing to start. 

After that I got with the UDF team. I am not currently qualified for ground team, but hopefully I can be for the next SAREX coming up soon. Right now I'm a UDF trainee. Anyways, so the the fantastic five was assembled. Me, our team leader, two other senior members, and another cadet from my squadron. We packed into a a small UDF equipped van (meaning it has antennas and a DF unit) and we got our first jobs. I was on log, meaning I would record what we were doing, logging an entry every hour. Meanwhile Cadet O'Brien (name changed, we're not Navy SeALs, but I don't know if she wants her name on my blog so I'll play it safe) was tasked with calling up every hour (or half hour can't remember) our higher-up to get instructions/tell what's going on. Our first mission was a simulated missing person search. And so it begins. But you will have to tune in next time to see how the mission went! As well as the rest of the SAREX for that matter.


  1. 4 in the morning? DARN, ANDREW.

    I'm glad you had such a good time! I'm interested to hear how the rest of the mission went.

    1. Yep, on a real mission I think it could be ANY time. Yeah, it's a long story, so a multi-part format fits really well and there is even somewhat of a suspense element.


Keep it clean; don't be mean.