Trenton-Mercer Airport - Volunteers from the New Jersey Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) conducted air and ground searches in Central New Jersey on Saturday August 21st at the request of several government authorities. Beginning at 8 am the exercise scenario involved US Air Force trainer overview of CAP responses to multiple missions requiring assistance to FEMA, AFRCC, DEA, NJ State Police, the Boy Scouts of America and other federal, state and local organizations. This was the third major CAP training exercise held between July and August dwelling on hurricane disaster, aircraft crash and lost person operations.

The searches were coordinated from a mission base located at the general aviation area of Trenton-Mercer Airport. New Jersey Wing also provided air search support to the Pennsylvania Wing mission base located at Fort Indiantown Gap.

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Ground team leaders searching for lost scout group in Washington Crossing State Park confer on initial search pattern. Target was a real group of seven cub scouts and their den leader. After two sweeps of the park the scouts were found. (L-R) Captain Patrick D. Rutherford of Manalapan, Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Raymond Witkowski of Jackson, 1st Lt. David I. Lee of Allentown, and 1st Lt. Gene Murray of Brick.

Approximately 40 members of the NJ Wing were involved including multiple-pilot-observer crews flying single-engine recon aircraft throughout the two states and adult officer-directed teen cadet search and rescue crews conducting ground operations.

Aerial recon missions included identification of a potential terrorist activity against a major transportation center in the Raritan River Valley area, locating a downed aircraft somewhere on a flight path between NJ and PA, and aerial and ground missions to find a group of seven lost cub scouts in Washington Crossing State Park. All mission tasks were completed successfully.

The NJ photo recon aircrews took high resolution images and transmitted them to the Trenton-Mercer emergency management team for evaluation. The New Jersey CAP Incident Commanders were Lt. Col. Steve Tracy, a Jackson resident and Lt. Eric Allen Cohen, a Asbury Park resident as IC in training. Senior USAF trainer-evaluator was Lt. Col. Tom Dey, a resident of Carteret.

After 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, communication breakdowns and interoperability problems were identified as critical areas for all government agencies. The US Air Force trainers were particularly interested in honing New Jersey CAP search and rescue capabilities to meet simultaneous interstate and local mission challenges.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 57,000 members nationwide. CAP performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) and was credited with saving over 100 lives in fiscal year 2009.Over 1800 members volunteered 8000 hours of their time during Hurricane Katrina disaster relief operations Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counterdrug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 22,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America since 1941.

There are more than 1200 members of CAP in New Jersey. For information about the New Jersey Wing visit http://www.njwg.cap.org.