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Squadron Members Participate in SAR Mission

posted Jun 30, 2018, 1:53 PM by David Froiseth   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 9:14 AM ]
On Friday June 22nd our squadron was called upon to participate in a massive ground search and rescue mission for a missing National Guard soldier at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke, Florida. 

Cadets Isaac Minck and Evangela Caliguire along with TFO Chad Tripp were part of the ground team and TFO Ben Henderson served as the Communication Unit Leader for the mission.  “All of the participating squadron members did an amazing job especially the cadets considering the circumstances of the mission” said TFO Tripp.  

The search was coordinated by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.  Roughly 450 military, police and civilian searchers on foot, horseback, all-terrain vehicles and helicopters covered a 1,000-acre area of woods and swamp.  The helicopters, from the Jacksonville and St. Johns County sheriff’s offices, along with U.S. Customs flew search grids.  Staff from sheriff’s offices in Putnam, Baker and Marion counties, plus emergency management from Clay and Pasco counties, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Urban Search and Rescue Team and other state and local groups joined the effort.

The missing soldier had been taking part in a land navigation training course designed to test their navigation skills through heavy vegetation.  He did not return as scheduled at 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Keith Smith.  He was equipped with full uniform, a navigation tool, a map and some basic food and water.  Searchers had found some of his cast-off gear, like paperwork and a tool used to find navigation points.  “The conditions are very tough these last few days, especially the conditions right now,” Smith said.  “The terrain can be grueling” he said.  “And with all the rain that we have had, and it’s a kind of swampy area anyway, waist-high to chest-high swamp, mud and water,” Smith said.”  “It’s taken our searchers a lot to get through there and we have to make sure we keep our guys hydrated.  It is a meticulous and methodical search, somewhat hampered by rough terrain and heat” Smith said.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said the soldier’s dead body was found Friday evening in the woods and that the cause of death had not been determined.

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