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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 to develop a “mission mindset” for maximum preparedness.

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* when 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 winter, spring, and summer. 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, though you can go without anyone else. With advance permission, you can also participate in other wings’ trainings and SAREXs and apply for special activities like National Emergency Services Academy (Camp Atterbury), SAR Academy (Michigan), Lone Star Emergency Services Academy (Texas), 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.

In a nutshell, here are the major steps for getting started:
  1. Join C.A.P., finish level one (2-6 weeks)
  2. General ES quiz (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)
  7. Air crew prep (18+, optional, ?? hours)

Additional resources

1. Join Civil Air Patrol and finish level one

The first steps for prospective cadets are to attend our open house on November 4, 2020. After that, visit two more meetings, become a member, finish the Curry achievement, and acquire a complete ABU uniform. This can be done in just a few weeks. While waiting for an open house, get a head-start by memorizing the Cadet Oath on the last page of the New Cadet Guide and begin putting into practice everything that is written in that guide.

Prospective adults must also visit three meetings but don’t have to wait for an open house. After expressing your decision to join, you will be interviewed, pass a background check, join C.A.P. as a full member, finish the Level 1 Orientation, and acquire a uniform (choose from polo combo, complete ABU, or blue BDU). Expect this to take 4-6 weeks. While you wait, you can finish many of the steps below.

2. Pass the open-book General ES quiz

Communicate to our ES Officers, 2LT Nardoni and C/2LT T. Bagnall, that you want to begin emergency services training. They will arrange to meet you early next Wednesday evening to complete the GES Test. It is open-book and has no time limit, but plan on an hour or more for discussion. Know of another cadet or adult who may be interested? Bring them along, too!

At this time, we can also discuss what ES direction(s) you may want to go and the general steps to get there, beyond the basics below. Parents are welcome to join us for this so you can get some questions answered.

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 the short quizzes.

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 and before each mission.

Estimated time to complete, including note-taking: 2 hours

Print this radio alphabet and practice to reinforce a mission mindset. For example, you can make it a game to read license plates out loud while driving around or to see how fast you can read serial numbers and codes on equipment around the house or at work. Can you write codes down accurately when others read them to you? Tape a copy of the alphabet somewhere where you will remember to use it when giving out your email address, phone number, coordinates, or whatever.

4. Practice the six duties of a mission staff assistant

While waiting for the next exercise, you can be studying ground team skills, but you can also reinforce mission mindset by practicing how to be a “mission staff assistant.” Staff assistants can be any age and will rotate around mission base during meetings, events, and exercises to fulfill age- and experience-appropriate tasks. This is an excellent way to be helpful right away with not much training. Being a staff assistant at an exercise is also a great way to see if you might like to specialize in a certain mission base section now or later.

To qualify as an MSA trainee, memorize and practice the six 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:

Every meeting and event should be approached with a mission mindset. To get good at thinking ahead and serving proactively, practice MSA duties at squadron meetings and events, and volunteer to help at Wing events. Help is always needed and appreciated, such as:

5. Urban Direction-Finding prep

If you wish to be out and about during training, UDF qualification is the quickest way. Some of the skills overlap with basic ground team prep, but you do not need as much gear to get started and there is less to memorize.

To join a ground team as a UDF trainee, 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 ready to be evaluated.

It may seem irrelevant to you, so use your imagination or role-play with a sibling or colleague.

6. Basic Ground Team Training

If you wish to be outdoors during training, begin or continue collecting gear on this list.

“Fam & prep” skills are listed at the top of the GTM3 SQTR. 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 sibling or 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 or three or more to see what others are using so you can make an informed decision.

OPTIONAL: Air Crew prep

Members 18 years old and above may want to serve on a search-and-rescue air crew. “Fam & prep” skills are listed at the top of the Mission Scanner checklist. The details for each are in the Air Crew & Flightline Task Guide .

You can begin studying this information any time, regardless of age, though we recommend completing the above steps first or simultaneously to give you a good foundation.

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:

What Mission Duties Exist?

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, study, and verbalize your interest.

Tips & Tricks

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