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'Searchers' comb area in drill

February 07, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

INDIAN SPRINGS - People and planes, and dogs and horses combed the 6,800-acre Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area in a practice search Saturday for a hunter who wasn't lost and a plane that didn't crash.

The goal behind the day-long exercise with Maryland Department of Natural Resources officers, Civil Air Patrol members and volunteer search and rescue groups from across Maryland was to hone the skills needed in the event a real search is needed.

Those involved in the exercise took their roles seriously, but Riggs, a chunky three-year-old golden retriever member of the Chesapeake Search and Rescue Dogs Association, Inc., of Baltimore, seemed to be having a great time amid all the excitement.

Boomer, a yellow lab, and Midnight, a black lab, joined Boomer in the exercise. Their group was one of two K-9 units taking part in the exercise.

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The dogs and their owners are trained to search for missing persons, said Bruce A. Snyder, president of the Chesapeake K-9 search unit.

Snyder said exercises like Saturday's provide excellent training for members and their dogs.

The same is true for the equestrian units taking part in Saturday's search, said Jean Siewert, of Keedysville, a member of Trail Riders of Today.

Siewert said the unit has been involved in searches across the state. Horses are useful because they can cover a lot of ground quickly, she said.

The "ground pounders" for the day were about 50 young members of several Maryland Civil Air Patrol units. Their job was to do an organized search of the woods and fields.

Saturday's drill included a search for a DNR officer posing as a lost hunter and an electronic signal signifying that an airplane had gone down somewhere in the vicinity, said Susan O'Brien, DNR spokeswoman.

There are four such exercises around the state every year, said Coleman P. Brown III, search and rescue coordinator for DNR.

Besides the horse and K-9 units, and DNR forest and park service rangers, participants Saturday included the Maryland Wing of the CAP from Hagerstown, Baltimore and Mt. Airy, Md., the Hagerstown Horse Team, the Mid-Atlantic Dogs, and Western Maryland Grotto, a cave rescue group.

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