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May 02, 2006
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Pa. CAP cadets help search for missing pilot

Copyright 2006 Lebanon Daily News
All Rights Reserved

Lebanon Daily News
ST. THOMAS, Pa. — Cody Neiswender does not mind an occasional break from school, but his most recent hiatus from class served a far greater purpose than getting some extra sleep or hanging out with friends.

The 16-year-old Neiswender and six others from the Lebanon VFW Cadet Squadron arrived at St. Thomas Township Fire and Emergency Medical Service Co. in Franklin County Wednesday evening to help the ground-search team find the Cessna 172 aircraft flown by David Weiss, 72, of Bethesda, Md. Weiss was reported missing after failing to report back to the Gaithersburg, Md., airport Tuesday afternoon. His body was found yesterday inside the wreckage of the plane near the Maryland line.

The young cadets were among 150 volunteers helping with the search that began at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

"A lot of these cadets have had practice with training missions where they had to locate simulated lost people. Quite a few of them also go to the Hawk Mountain Ranger Training School to practice search techniques," said David Kilgore, another volunteer from the Lebanon VFW post.

The Hawk Mountain Ranger Training School, managed by the Civil Air Patrol Pennsylvania Wing's operations section, is a unit of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary.

As a dozen airplanes and teams from the Civil Air Patrol and state police searched for Weiss, Neiswender and his fellow cadets remained on post in St. Thomas, waiting near the phone.

"When we get a call with a good tip, we're usually assigned to go to a designated area and do a search. We could be waiting near the phone for hours," Neiswender said. "Once we arrive to the area that we're supposed to search, we form a line and begin looking. If we see anything, even trash, we have to search that area."

The cadets are to keep potential leads and areas they have searched confidential. However, keeping information a secret is not the hardest part of this mission, said 16-year-old Cadet Emily Rentschler. Staying awake is the challenge. The cadets are on-call 24 hours a day.

"We've got two cadets in our group who just arrived, so to help me stay awake, I try to teach them a few search strategies," Neiswender said, referring to cadets Tommy Durick, 15, and Scott Myers, 16.

Cadet Sgt. Patrick Roach, 15, employs other strategies.

"I eat a lot of candy and drink Mountain Dew," Roach said. This isn't the first time Neiswender, Rentschler and Roach have volunteered to search for a missing person. The trio was among cadets who volunteered to help search for a missing boy in Bedford County a few days before New Year's Day. After a 12-hour search, Neiswender said, the boy was found drowned in a nearby pond.

"Every mission you go on, you learn something better to do in terms of search strategy. It's all about experience," Neiswender said. "There's a flurry of emotions on these kinds of missions."

Neiswender said the cadets are allowed to volunteer 72 hours.

Kilgore said Lebanon's cadets "have conducted themselves as mature and responsible young adults."

"These are some of the best cadets I've ever worked with. They're so dedicated and mature," Kilgore said. "We always clear it with their parents to make sure they can go on a mission. We really try to shield the cadets from real traumatic situations."

Full story: Pa. CAP cadets help search for missing pilot

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