Civil Air Patrol Trains In Watertown

Recent Incident Inspires Location Of Search and Rescue Practice

WATERTOWN, S.D. — Saturday marked a training day for the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol.

Six cities in the state are home to patrol bases: Sioux Falls, Brookings, Rapid City, Spearfish, Custer and Pierre.

The closest base to Watertown, however, is in Brookings.

Col. David Small, wing commander with the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol, said a recent incident inspired the location of the training.

“Two weeks ago, I got a call from Watertown that one of those emergency transponders, emergency beacons had gone off,” said Col. Small.

Small said an emergency signal is sent from a plane’s “black box” if it’s believed to be wrecked.

“We have to operate under the assumption that there may be life in danger that a crash may have occurred,” said Small.

Small said previous training played a role in the mission.

“We have done scenarios before where we find one target and suddenly, there’s another. Normally, you find one, we’re done. That night, after we silenced the first one, there was still a second one out there. If we hadn’t trained for that, we might’ve all gone home thinking we’d done our job, when in fact, there was a second,” said Small.

Two planes were found that night and no one was injured.

Mission pilot Josh Hall said they are continually practices different scenarios in sporadic locations.

“You’re only as good as how proficient you are. The more we get to practice, the more proficient we are and the faster that chance of actually finding and saving someone can result in an actual situation,” said Hall.

The Civil Air Patrol prepares for anything from disaster relief to missing persons, such as Alzheimer’s patients.

Lt. Col. Myra Christensen said practice can’t predict what will happen next.

“It definitely prepares you but adrenaline definitely does kick in when you’re actually called off in a regular red cap mission. It gives you the thought process that you step back and okay, let’s take it logically and how we proceed,” said Christensen.

The South Dakota Civil Air Patrol is made up of about 300 volunteer members.

A third of their members are “cadets” between the ages of twelve and 18.

For more information on the Civil Air Patrol, click here.

Also, the Civil Air Patrol can respond by email at

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