Civil Air Patrol members from across southwest Florida began gearing up Friday for a weekend-long search-and-rescue exercise.
The exercise, conducted by Florida Wing’s Group 5 with Punta Gorda in Charlotte County as the main base provided members with mission experience and proficiency training in advance of the annual, Air Force-evaluated wing exercise later this spring. A sub-base is located at the CAP Hangar at the Marco Island Executive Airport and dispatched sorties in the Marco Island area.
CAP aircraft operated from airports in Marco Island, Naples, Sebring, Punta Gorda, and Sarasota. Aircrews and ground teams conducted visual and electronic target searches in addition to photo reconnaissance sorties.
“The members have been working hard to prepare for the event and we could easily fly 50 hours to get everyone through the requirements for mission experience,” said 1st Lt. Robert Little, the exercise’s incident commander. The operations area for Group Five encompasses 9,000 square miles over a 10-county area in Southwest Florida, including Charlotte, Collier, De Soto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The group has 10 squadrons, five airplanes and about 510 members.
Group 5 was the second most active of Florida Wing’s eight groups, flying more than 1,600 hours in 2008. Of those hours, 371 were in support of emergency missions, 860 for training and 252 for cadet and ROTC orientation flights.