Civil Air Patrol’s emergency services program is
designed for you to serve effectively in a crisis anywhere in the world. It gives you
opportunities to develop poise by putting theoretical followership and leadership knowledge to work. It’s also
Below, minimum requirements are listed for getting started. Be diligent and work through them a little every day so you can
experience the true gratification that comes to those who put aside lesser things. We expect you to take responsibility
for following through and to ask questions any time you feel stuck. Do not delay or you may miss a life-changing
Indiana Wing conducts
annual search-and-rescue exercises in different locales every February, May, and August. Other training
opportunities happen at the local and regional level throughout the year; see Indiana Wing’s calendar for all dates and our
squadron web site for dates we are planning to attend. You can also
participate in other wings’ trainings and SAREXs with advance permission and
special activities like National Emergency Services Academy (Indianapolis), Lone Star Emergency
Services Academy (Texas), SAR Academy (Michigan), Hawk Mountain Ranger School (Pennsylvania), and the Air Force
Pararescue Course (New Mexico).
I’m sorry it’s not easier to create a checklist for you; print this guide and turn it into a checklist with a pen. Mark it up
and make it work for you.
Here are the major steps in a nutshell:
- Join C.A.P., finish level one (2-6 weeks)
- General ES test (1 hour)
- Radio intro course (2 hours)
- Staff assistant prep (1 hour+)
- Urban direction-finding prep (1 hour+)
- Basic ground team prep (optional, ?? hours)
1. Join Civil Air Patrol and finish level one
The first step for cadets is to attend our next open house (November 6, 2019), become a member, attend Cadet Great Start
dates to finish the Curry achievement
, and acquire
a complete ABU uniform
. This can be done in just a few weeks. You can get a head-start by memorizing the Cadet Oath
on the last page of the New Cadet Guide
and putting into practice everything that is written in that guide.
Adults must pass a background check, join C.A.P. as a
, finish the Level 1 Orientation, and acquire a polo combo, complete ABU, or blue BDU. Expect this to take 4-6 weeks.
While you wait, you can continue with the steps below.
2. Pass the open-book general ES test
Review CAP Regulation 60-3
and CAP Regulation 173-3
then use the
learning management system
in CAP eServices to pass CAPT 116 - General ES
, which grants you the GES qualification.
The test is open-book and does not have a time limit. Expected time for completion is 20-45 minutes; it will go faster if you search
the PDFs by keyword.
If you’re struggling with it, give it your best shot; you can take it again right away. We can even meet early on a
Wednesday to help you work through it.
3. Pass Introductory Communications Training and rehearse the radio alphabet
To be helpful at any type of event, you need to know how to properly use a radio. ICUT is ten brief lessons that prepare you to do that. Sign
into the learning management system
, click Go to AXIS
scroll down for Introductory Communications User Training
, and click Start to begin watching each video and then take a short quiz.
Take good notes as you go so you can easily pass each quiz, and keep them handy so you can review before your in-person evaluation at the next
If it helps to have a visual progress tracker, print this checklist
and keep it near.
Estimated time to complete, including note-taking: 2 hours
4. Practice the five duties of a mission staff assistant
“Mission staff assistant” is the first role assigned to most new trainees. MSA trainees rotate
among mission base sections during an exercise to see and hear everyone in action and assist other MSAs to
fulfill age- and experience-appropriate tasks. You will probably hear some great stories, and they will get
to see how professional you are.
To qualify as an MSA trainee, memorize and practice the five duties of an MSA:
- Conduct yourself in a professional manner
- Seek guidance from a supervisor when unsure about how to handle a task or situation
- Provide support to staff members in the mission base sections, together known as “FLOPS”:
- Finance & Administration
- Help with sign-in/sign-out, updating status boards, reports, financials, and other duties as assigned
- Help reduce confusion by escorting visitors to the correct staff member:
- Take news media and casual visitors to the Public Information Officer
- Take relatives to the Public Information Officer or the Chaplain
A few more details appear on pages
in the Mission Base Staff Task Guide
, but knowing the above is enough to get started.
To get good at thinking ahead and serving proactively, practice MSA duties at squadron meetings and events, such as:
- Arrange tables, chairs, printers, power strips, and extension cords in the meeting rooms
- Set up and start the flight simulators
- Check the radios
- Set up the electronic check-in station and make sure everyone uses it before entry
- Use a checklist to verify everyone has the paperwork required for every event (CAP ID, F160, and F161)
- Protect staff from interruptions by collecting questions from parents and visitors at the door
- Update the announcements/upcoming events board
- Help members label their belongings
- Put away printers, power strips, extension cords, HDMI cables, etc.
- Organize a few orientation flights
- Look for other ways to be helpful
- Continue your education by gradually reading the Mission Base Reference Text (link below)
5. Urban Direction-Finding prep
The most inspiring way to get started in ES is get hands-on as soon as possible, and the quickest way is
the UDF qualification. There is some overlap with with basic ground team qualification, but less gear is
required and less up-front memorization.
To join a ground team as a UDF helper, collect items on the first page of this list
Also, study these five pages
from the Ground
Team Task Guide
and email your chain of command when you’re ready for an evaluation.
It may seem irrelevant to you, so use your imagination or role-play with a colleague.
OPTIONAL: Basic Ground Team Training
Most cadets think the real fun is in ground team training, because they like to march around in the woods
looking cool. Many advanced roles also require or at least recommend ground team training as a prerequisite.
If you are unsure, read on but know that it’s ok to wait.
Begin/continue collecting items on this
Rehearse the first 48 pages of the Ground Team
(PDF, 208pp), which covers:
- Preparing your equipment*
- Preventing and treating hot/cold-weather injuries
- Identifying natural hazards
- Preventing and treating fatigue
- Conducting field sanitation and hygiene
- Using a compass
- Exercising universal precautions
- What to do if lost
As you have time, keep reading and prepare to get signed off on even more tasks. Expanded details appear
in the Ground Team Reference Text
150pp). Study these on your own, drill with a colleague, and email your chain of command when you’re
ready for an evaluation.
You will read in the book about gear that is eventually expected for your personal 24-hour
pack and, later, a 72-hour pack. It is difficult at this stage to know exactly what you need—what
size pack? how durable? what brand flashlight?—and much is left to personal preference. In fact,
the more seasoned ground teams don’t even bother with a 24-hour pack. When in doubt, wait until you have
participated in a SAREX or two to see what others are using so you can make an informed decision.
RECOMMENDED: Mission Base Reference Text
There are dozens of distinct duties (see below) that you can train for in the emergency services program. For
insight into the big picture, read the Mission Base Staff Reference
(PDF, 147pp), which covers:
- Incident Command Structure (ICS)
- Facilities, resources, and staffing
- Common responsibilities
- Organizing for incidents and events
- Air operations
- Major incident management
- Multi-agency cooperation
- Practical scenarios
Distinct Mission Duty Assignments
46 distinct mission duties are listed here in alphabetical order. Looking to the future, what duties look interesting? You can pursue
more than one. If you’re not sure, read the SQTR then ask around to find out what the job is really like.
To pursue an assignment, do the prerequisites, participate in SAREXs and training, get to know people, and verbalize your interest.
- ADIS Aerial Digital Imaging System Operator
- AOBD Air Operations Branch Director
- AP Airborne Photographer
- CERT Community Emergency Response Team
- CSSCS Chaplain Support Specialist (CAP Support Rating)
- CSSDS Chaplain Support Specialist (Disaster Support Rating)
- CUL Communications Unit Leader
- DAARTO Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Response Tool
Operator (aerial photography)
- DAARTU Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Response Tool
User (aerial photography)
- FASC Finance/Admin Section Chief
- FLM Flight Line Marshaller
- FLS Flight Line Supervisor
- GBD Ground Branch Director
- GFMC Surrogate Unmanned Aerial System Green Flag Mission Coordinator
- GFMP Surrogate Unmanned Aerial System Green Flag Mission Pilot
- GFSO Surrogate Unmanned Aerial System Green Flag Sensor Operator
- GTL Ground Team Leader
- GTM3 Ground Team Member Basic
- GTM2 Ground Team Member Intermediate
- GTM1 Ground Team Member Advanced
- IC3 Incident Commander Basic Level
- IC2 Incident Commander Intermediate Level
- IC1 Incident Commander Advanced Level
- LO Liaison Officer
- LSC Logistics Section Chief
- MC Mission Chaplain
- MCCS Mission Chaplain (CAP Support Rating)
- MCDS Mission Chaplain (Disaster Support Rating)
- MFC Mountain Flying Certification
- MO Mission Observer (Air Crew)
- MP SAR/DR Mission Pilot
- MRO Mission Radio Operator
- MS Mission Scanner (Air Crew)
- MSA Mission Staff Assistant
- OSC Operations Section Chief
- PIO Public Information Officer
- PODC Point of Distribution
- PSC Planning Section Chief
- SFGC Shelter Field Guide Course
- SMC/BISC AFRCC SAR Management
- SPC National Inland SAR Planning Course
- TMP Transport Mission Pilot
- UAO Unit Alert Officer
- UDF Urban Direction-Finding Team
- WAO Wing Alert Officer
- WS Water Survival
- Skills Evaluator/Trainer (SET) for any of the above
Tips & Tricks
Succeeding in Civil Air Patrol is not hard, but you have to choose to make the effort.
- Be hungry for knowledge, experience, practice, feedback, and honest self-reflection.
- If you struggle with follow-through, seek a mentor in the squadron who will teach you a system and keep you accountable.
- Download PDFs to a Kindle or tablet, or open them in a reader app, so you can digest a page or two whenever you have a few idle minutes.
- If reading on a screen demotivates you, we can print documents at Office Depot for 2.5¢ per page. Ask a senior member for help.
- Use the free Evernote app/web site so your notes are always backed up and accessible.
- Schedule time with a friend to drill each other on skills and facts. Start by coming early to meetings or while traveling to/from events.
- Rehearse your new life-saving knowledge by practicing on your parents and siblings.
- Before buying consumables, ask around to see if anyone wants to split the cost of shareable items (e.g. duct tape,
flagging tape, waterproof matches).
- Thoroughly read this document and take notes.
- Search this page for a keyword that may bring you to an answer.
- Search the PDFs on this page for a keyword that may bring you to an answer.
- If you can’t find an answer, ask your chain of command (cc: Lt Nardoni and Lt Bagnall).