Emergency Services classic logo

Anderson Composite Squadron’s
Simple Steps to Emergency Services

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 fun!

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 opportunity.

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:
  1. Join C.A.P., finish level one (2-6 weeks)
  2. General ES test (1 hour)
  3. Radio intro course (2 hours)
  4. Staff assistant prep (1 hour+)
  5. Urban direction-finding prep (1 hour+)
  6. Basic ground team prep (optional, ?? hours)

Additional resources

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 full member, 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 exercise.

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:
  1. Conduct yourself in a professional manner

  2. Seek guidance from a supervisor when unsure about how to handle a task or situation

  3. Provide support to staff members in the mission base sections, together known as “FLOPS”:

    • Finance & Administration
    • Logistics
    • Operations
    • Planning
    • Safety

  4. Help with sign-in/sign-out, updating status boards, reports, financials, and other duties as assigned

  5. Help reduce confusion by escorting visitors to the correct staff member:

A few more details appear on pages 78-79 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:

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 list.

Rehearse the first 48 pages of the Ground Team Task Book (PDF, 208pp), which covers: 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 (PDF, 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 Text (PDF, 147pp), which covers:

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.

Tips & Tricks

Succeeding in Civil Air Patrol is not hard, but you have to choose to make the effort.

Questions?