Air patrol cadets respond to call

TRAINING SUDDENLY TURNS REAL

April 04, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

A training mission for young Civil Air Patrol cadets turned real yesterday afternoon when some members were called away from a practice session in Glen Burnie to an actual search in the Pasadena area.

And while some younger members had to stay behind because they lacked the required qualifications to participate, they learned some of the skills they will need to become certified in a few months.

The eight cadets were told about the real search about 1 p.m. when they arrived at the training site, a field near Dorsey Road and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.

About seven hours earlier, the Civil Air Patrol had been alerted to a rescue beacon that could be either from a boat in trouble or a downed aircraft. Teams from Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties participated in the 10-hour search.

"That's one of the reasons I joined the patrol -- for the search-and-rescue missions," said Bill Knepper, 15, who lives in Severn and is qualified for field work. "I'd go on this one if it turns out that we're called."

A few minutes later, he and three other qualified cadets set out to help in the search. But by 4 p.m., Col. William Mayhew, the search director, said rescue workers had determined the signal was a false alarm from a boat docked near Gibson Island.

But the real activity drained Lt. William Shipp's training mission, leaving him with four cadets to do the work.

And it wasn't just training that they were doing. Later this month, the patrol is sponsoring a carnival on the field to raise money for emergency equipment, and the area must be cleaned of trash. Lieutenant Shipp thought it would be a good idea to combine the two endeavors.

He set up a scenario of a missing 7-year-old boy, and even planted clues that the cadets would discover while picking up the trash.

"I didn't want to make it just a cleanup session," the lieutenant said. "So I decided to use the opportunity to train our cadets in ground search techniques. We had a whole bunch of new cadets come on in February, and they never had search training."

So the teens fanned out over the field in straight lines and combed through the grass and underbrush, filling trash bag after trash bag with torn newspapers, pizza boxes, soda cans and other debris. "I hope I find something," said Clint Green, 14.

But the first "find" of the afternoon went to Charles Shipp, Lieutenant Shipp's 15-year-old son, who discovered the small yellow figurine in the grass that matched the description given by the parents of the missing child in the scenario.

"Halt the line," Charles shouted out, a signal for everyone to stop in their place while a group leaders examined the evidence.

"From where this is positioned, we know its a good chance that the child walked away from the refreshment stand in a straight line," Lieutenant Shipp told the group.

Later in the afternoon, Wayne Green, 12, found four crayons. Both positions were marked on the map.

In real life, these clues could be an important step in tracking the lost child.

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