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Puerto Rico Wing Members Participate In SAR Inland Planning Course

February 1, 2019

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Fort Buchanan, PR - As part of their training and preparation the US Army Reserve Search and Rescue Team hosted an Inland SAR Planning Course at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. Civil Air Patrol, Puerto Rico Wing immediately identified the opportunity for additional SAR training and several senior members enrolled in the course. After all PR Wing was an active contributor to the recuperation efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

From January 28th through February 1st, 2019 the group attended the SAR Inland Planning Course. They soon learned it was is not a stroll in the park. As Course Director, USAF Lt Col Gregory “Rocky” Rockwood, correctly mentioned “you will refresh mathematical and analytical skills long forgotten by many”. The five-day course is a comprehensive, “graduate-level” look at search theory and its application to land and air searches for missing persons and aircraft. The course is focused on wilderness searches. It consists of classroom lessons and practical, tabletop exercises. Course participants learn about planning an extended search using Probability of Success (POS). The tools are mathematically based and not for the faint of heart; they help quantify the uncertainties of the search problem to allow consistent application throughout a mission. In addition to that, the course covers pre-plan development, legal aspects, Civil Air Patrol National Cell Phone Forensics Team, Cospas-Sarsat System, and federal SAR roles and responsibilities.

In 2018 Hurricane Maria brought widespread destruction and chaos to the island of Puerto Rico. Thousands of homes destroyed, hundreds of people left without food, shelter or water. When the US Army Reserve 1st Military Support Command forces were mobilized they learned a valuable lesson. US Army Reserve in Puerto Rico must be prepared for future emergencies and as such they created a Search and Rescue (SAR) Team.

Among the course participants were two US Coast Guard Officers and a US Army Personnel Recovery Specialist who flew from Vicenza, Italy. Javier Fernandez, a retired US Army Special Forces Chief, was elated to be back in his native Puerto Rico.

Having such an eclectic group served as a unique opportunity to learn how other agencies work with search and rescue. Participants shared experiences and lessons learned at prior missions which help to grasp new ideas on different approaches and problem solving in the SAR arena. It was truly an enriching training experience for all participants.

Staff Sergeant Noel Laureano, USAR was one of the 1st MSC soldiers that attended the course, “This training helped us to see the different agencies that can collaborate in SAR missions”, said SSG Laureano. One of the US Army Reserve soldiers was Maj Juan “Hitman” Rodriguez. Maj Rodriguez is a Blackhawk pilot, but is also a Muniz ANG Base Cadet Squadron senior member.

Another CAP senior that participated in the training was 2d Lt Elena Alfaro, member from Lt Col Elsa M. Soto-Torres Cadet Squadron. As a civilian 2d Lt Alfaro works as a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Specialist with Centro Medico in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “Learning to work with maps and analyze situations in a limited amount of time was very challenging”, said 2d Lt Alfaro. She also highlighted the importance of the use of technology and computers in SAR missions. “I learned a lot about working with other agencies, their resources and what roles they have in SAR missions in the island”, said 2d Lt Alfaro.

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PR Wing Public Affairs Team

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