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Civil Air Patrol Trains Boy Scouts in Search and Rescue

Major Jim Vigar (center in BDUs) instructs Boy Scouts from Powahay District, Connecticut Yankee Council - BSA, in Search and Rescue. (Photo: Maj. Peter Milano)
Major Jim Vigar (center in BDUs) instructs Boy Scouts from Powahay District, Connecticut Yankee Council - BSA, in Search and Rescue. (Photo: Maj. Peter Milano)
REDDING, Connecticut -- January 25, 2014 -- Scouts from Powahay District, Connecticut Yankee Council, Boy Scouts of America, were trained in ground search and rescue skills at Hoyt Scout Reservation in Redding, Connecticut by Civil Air Patrol members from the 399th Danbury Composite Squadron.

A team of search and rescue instructors from the 399th Danbury Composite Squadron joined 185 Boy Scouts and their leaders from across southwest Fairfield County to test their outdoor winter abilities and learn new skills at Powahay District’s annual Klondike Derby, hosted by Troop 53 from Darien, CT. The Klondike Derby requires Scouts to haul their gear on homemade sleds between various learning stations where they are tested and scored based on their performance. Unit Commissioner Lloyd Sturges (BSA Troop 125) said “This Klondike Derby is based on the scouts new Search and Rescue merit badge, so working with Civil Air Patrol is a natural combination.” Colonel Sturges is also Director of Operations for Connecticut Wing, Civil Air Patrol.

Manning the Civil Air Patrol station were skilled search members from the 399th, led by Major Jim Vigar, Squadron Commander. “Our goal today is to train scouts in the fundamentals of search and rescue and to provide a learning experience based on teamwork and cooperation,” said Major Vigar. Upon entering the CAP station, scouts were given instruction on ground search and rescue delivered by squadron personnel. Major Vigar and Lieutenant Colonel “Sandy” Sanderson covered missing person profiles and characteristics along with search signals such as voice commands and whistle signals. First Lieutenant Jeff Jenkins taught line and wedge search methods and how to identify and log search clues. Cadet Second Lieutenant Kevin Jenkins provided training in identifying and preventing cold weather injuries. Scouts were also instructed on how to avoid becoming casualties themselves during an actual search and rescue mission.

The afternoon was spent in conducting mock lost person searches. “We want to give scouts a chance to see what a real search might involve by running this exercise,” said Major Vigar. Cadets from the 399th Danbury Squadron went into the woods to pose as lost hikers, leaving clues along the way. Scouts were taken out by troop or patrol and conducted the search based on their newly learned skills. They employed various search techniques, interviewed witnesses, and recorded clues found along the way. Each scout was rotated into the team leader position to ensure they had the opportunity to practice commanding a group search. The skills practiced were done in earnest as scouts were operating in falling snow and temperatures that hovered in the teens. 

At the end of the day Major Vigar noted that “the scouts performed well and the 399th was happy to help the Boy Scouts advance their knowledge in search and rescue techniques.”

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