SD Wing Uses Missing Horse Search for Advanced Training
South Dakota Wing was part of the effort to find a Mustang horse that broke free from a wilderness camp in Wind Cave National Park on May 2, 2023.
The search allowed wing members to refine their air-to-ground visual search from fixed-wing aircraft, photography drones, and ground team searching.
“The incident was an unusual situation, but one that was similar to a missing person search,” said Craig Goodrich, the Civil Air Patrol incident commander and vice commander of the South Dakota Wing. “This mission was a good opportunity to practice searching for a missing person. It also allowed SDWG to work closely with the National Park Service and other agencies, which will enhance all our ability to work together if we need to look for a missing person at Wind Cave or in the southern Black Hills.”
The wing was already in training mode for May under Air Force auspices when the request for assistance came.
“Civil Air Patrol does not usually search for missing livestock,” said Col. Michael Marek, S.D. Wing commander. “But we already had training funds scheduled for use this month. We can always use more practice at visual searching in terrain like Wind Cave.”
Marek says the fact that the SDWG had a real-world target for the search instead of a simulation made it an ideal opportunity for CAP to train and provide a public service at the same time.
The horse’s owner was riding across the United States and was camping in the park with permission. The horse, Finley, got away in the middle of the night, pulling a long picket rope. The National Park Service, Custer County Search and Rescue, other agencies, and volunteers began searching for Finley last week.
The horse was located in apparent healthy condition on the morning of Tuesday, May 9, along Highway 385 in the park, about two miles from where it went missing a week earlier.