BOISE — Members of Civil Air Patrol’s Idaho Wing and the Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Unit (IMSARU) took advantage of a break in the smoke-filled skies Sept. 20 to come together for an unusual training exercise: transporting search dogs from Boise to Ogden, Utah, aboard a CAP Cessna 206.
According to a press release, the search dog transport was one piece of a broader U.S. Air Force-authorized training exercise for responding to large-scale disasters that might occur across multiple states in CAP’s Rocky Mountain Region. The 10-day exercise involved several CAP wings, including Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.
Second Lt. Jeff Staffon of the Eagle Rock Composite Squadron in Idaho Falls was more than happy to fly to Boise to pick up the dogs. A longtime CAP member and mission pilot, Staffon credits the success of the dogs’ first flight to giving the animals time to socialize and become familiar with him and the aircraft before the flight to Ogden.
The Boise Composite Squadron used two cadet mission staff assistants. Neither Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Owen Klein nor Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Ethan Alexander had ever worked with canine units before, but they were eager for the experience and quickly caught on. After filling out the paperwork and introductions, IMSARU staffers invited the cadets to get to know the dogs better by giving them treats and lots of petting.
Search dogs are one of IMSARU’s specialty areas. Rory Olsen and Tom Kearney are nationally certified dog handlers with more than 15 years of experience between them. To prepare their search dogs for transport, they started with training the dogs to get in and out of cars and trucks, eventually graduating to larger vehicles such as helicopters and planes.
“Trust your dog” is a motto both handlers use when training and working with search dogs. Terabyte, a 3-year-old, purebred female German shepherd, started her career as an air scent search dog. Air scent dogs use the air currents to find a live individual; but Kearney noticed Terabyte kept wanting to follow scents along a path, and he began training her to trail instead.
For Daytona, Olsen’s 3-year-old female labradoodle, working as an air scent dog seemed to be exactly what she was born to do. After finding an individual, she has been trained to return to her handler and lead him back to them.
Established in 1941, Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessna aircraft and 1,944 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Often using innovative cellphone forensics and radar analysis software, CAP was credited by the AFRCC with saving 110 lives in fiscal 2019. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. As a nonprofit organization, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education using national academic standards-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Members also serve as mentors to nearly 25,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. One of the premier public service organizations in America, CAP benefits the nation with an estimated economic impact of $209 million annually.
2nd Lt. Stephanie Payton
Public Affairs Officer
Boise Composite Squadron
Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Unit (IMSARU) dog handlers pose with CAP mission staff assistants – (from left) Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Ethan Alexander, IMSARU staffer Tom Kearney, Terabyte. IMSARU staffer Rory Olsen, Daytona and Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Owen Klein.