Article by: C/2ndLt Thomas Mason, SquawkTALK Staff Writer
The alarm clock rasped out its urgent tone and Tom’s hand sleepily groped in the darkness to silence the ding. The glowing yellow face showed 2:45…in the morning. What was that on for? He couldn’t recall, and snorting out a half asleep verbal greeting to the early morning cold, curled back up under the ruffled sheets. Silence.
But again, another sound that brought him upright. What now? His drowsy brain only wanted quiet repose after a long stressful day.
A dark figure loomed above him. “Hmmmmm?” He managed to breathe out. It was his Mom, and she was wearing a bathrobe and her face glowed from the light of a smartphone in her hand. “Stephen’s in the driveway with his car. That’s not normal at 3 in the morning.”
How many times had he tried to not go to sleep? He knew that he would not wake up in time. Why had he lain in bed?
“Okay,” grunt, “coming!”
There, standing at the dewy front door was his best friend Stephen. He looked up and down at his lightly clad body disapprovingly.
“Dude, I know, I know, I said that I’d be ready by 3:10. I guess I have plenty of my three minutes to get my 24 hour gear packed up.”
Stephen just nodded and strolled back to where his car sat parked on the driveway with its hood opened. Tom, after fully gaining consciousness, ran to prepare himself for a long day, a real world mission for a lost dementia patient. He would end up without sleep for a full forty hours.
This is a narrative on a typical morning of a Search and Rescue mission for a Civil Air Patrol cadet. Often times, cadets will have to cope with drastic schedule changes for school, work, and other occupations to be able to go out and serve their community state and nation. “Semper Vigilans, Always Vigilant” is their motto, and rightly so for all those involved in ES (Emergency Services). Ground teams must always be on watch for deployment at all times of the day, and even at hours of the night where any other teenager would be fast asleep.
Any teen who loves adventure, ground navigation, survival in the wilderness, or just being outdoors; becoming a Ground Team Member (GTM) is for you. Cadets get to experience working with military, state police and other agencies. But even with all of these organizations on site, in a missing person search, or downed aircraft mission, CAP is the one doing the dirty work for the rest of them, accumulating a reputation for reliability, efficiency, and highly trained elite teams who know their business. CAP is involved with approximately three quarters of all aerial inland Search and Rescue (SAR) missions in the U.S. alone, and is credited with saving an average of 100 lives per year.
On Emergency Services missions, CAP officers and NCO’s that are a part of the ground team, air crew, and base crew are all treated as adults because of their legacy of trusted expertise in their specific field. Ground teams are required to be vigilant 24-7 for alerts sent out by text, email, or phone call. Once the unit is put on high alert, cadets and seniors must be packed, and ready to deploy within an hour. They are first on scene.
Many teenagers who join CAP say they didn’t regret being a Ground Team Member, or Air Crew Member. Even if one doesn’t think they have what it takes to save lives, it nevertheless gives necessary knowledge on survival and first aid. Not just that, on the more fun side of things, 12-18 year olds who normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to work with military and police are able to actually work with special equipment reserved for special operations. A cadet might say to a friend, “Seriously, when was the last time you got to use a three thousand dollar VHV handheld Harris?”
Teens aged 12+ can get involved with Emergency Services training in the Civil Air Patrol. For more information or to attend a meeting, go online to LynchburgCAP.com.
LynchburgCAP Public Affairs