La Crosse Civil Air Patrol ground team takes first place

Ground TeamVolk Field Air National Guard Base, Wis. – Recently the La Crosse Composite Squadron’s ground search team set off seeking an unusual target, the title of “Champion Ground Team”. This year, as part of the wing’s annual ground search training weekend, Wisconsin Wing hosted its first-ever ground search competition. The

Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Wis. – Recently the La Crosse Composite Squadron’s ground search team set off seeking an unusual target, the title of “Champion Ground Team”. This year, as part of the wing’s annual ground search training weekend, Wisconsin Wing hosted its first-ever ground search competition. The competition drew teams from Milwaukee, Elkhorn, Madison, Racine, West Bend and La Crosse. At the end of two days of competition in extreme cold, the members of the La Crosse team stood victorious.

During the competition teams competed in a variety of events designed to test skills frequently used by ground search and rescue teams. One event measured a team’s skill in putting together packs and equipment designed to help searchers survive and operate in the wilderness. Teams also competed in tracking a downed aircraft’s distress beacon and in using land navigation skills to traverse a 4.5 mile orienteering course at night. The competition concluded with a quiz bowl and a mapping exercise.

Conditions during the competition proved a real challenge for the teams. The search for the simulated downed aircraft occurred in a forested area with snow that was chest high in many places. At one point team members had to “swim” through the snow to cross a low lying area. During the vehicle mounted portion of the search the team stopped to assist a stranded motorist who had driven into a ditch due to icy road conditions. The evening land navigation exercise took place in high winds and cold with wind chills of twenty below zero.
Despite the harsh conditions the competition went on. “When there’s a missing person or missing aircraft we can’t stop just because it gets cold” said the team’s leader, Major Todd Mandel, “you put on the right gear and get back to it.” The other team members included Cadet Captain Michael Cunningham, Cadet First Lieutenant Patrick Robbins, Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Colton Wilbur, and Cadet Master Sergeant Aden Erickson.

According to Robbins, next year the squadron hopes to field three teams, “We’d like to take first, second, and third place next year, to show the rest of the state that we’re serious about saving lives here in La Crosse.”

competition drew teams from Milwaukee, Elkhorn, Madison, Racine, West Bend and La Crosse. At the end of two days of competition in extreme cold, the members of the La Crosse team stood victorious.

During the competition teams competed in a variety of events designed to test skills frequently used by ground search and rescue teams. One event measured a team’s skill in putting together packs and equipment designed to help searchers survive and operate in the wilderness. Teams also competed in tracking a downed aircraft’s distress beacon and in using land navigation skills to traverse a 4.5 mile orienteering course at night. The competition concluded with a quiz bowl and a mapping exercise.

Conditions during the competition proved a real challenge for the teams. The search for the simulated downed aircraft occurred in a forested area with snow that was chest high in many places. At one point team members had to “swim” through the snow to cross a low lying area. During the vehicle mounted portion of the search the team stopped to assist a stranded motorist who had driven into a ditch due to icy road conditions. The evening land navigation exercise took place in high winds and cold with wind chills of twenty below zero.

Despite the harsh conditions the competition went on. “When there’s a missing person or missing aircraft we can’t stop just because it gets cold” said the team’s leader, Major Todd Mandel, “you put on the right gear and get back to it.” The other team members included Cadet Captain Michael Cunningham, Cadet First Lieutenant Patrick Robbins, Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Colton Wilbur, and Cadet Master Sergeant Aden Erickson.

According to Robbins, next year the squadron hopes to field three teams, “We’d like to take first, second, and third place next year, to show the rest of the state that we’re serious about saving lives here in La Crosse.”

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