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About NESA Southeast

This program is NOT the National Emergency Services Academy conducted at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. It is similar in scope but does not qualify participants for the NCSA ribbon. NESA Southeast (NSE) is conducted over several weekends in Alabama and is an in-depth laboratory compared to the high-intensity training that takes place in Indiana.

This program's home is the Air Force's Officer Training School facilities on and around Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. You can read about the facilities, training, and frequently asked questions on the other pages on this site.

The history of this program is a history of partnerships. John Desmarais began this program as “The FTX Cycle” in 1997 while serving as the Emergency Services Plans Officer at HQ CAP. In that capacity, he helped develop a national strategy for member operational specialty qualifications, known as the Emergency Services Curriculum Project (ESCP). That same year, John created the National Ground Search and Rescue School (NGSAR) at the Miller School in Virginia as a National Special Activity for cadet and senior members.

The 1990s

Test squadrons were identified all over the country to test material the ESCP Working Group developed; the Maxwell Composite Squadron (AL-032) was a very active test unit because of its proximity and ties to the national headquarters. In 1997, John Desmarais and Michael Long developed a task-training activity that would serve the headquarters and provide the wing with a valuable resource at the same time. John Desmarais was the first FTX Director; Michael Long served as the Operations Officer.
This training originally supplemented the unit's traditional Emergency Services training and allowed (then) Captain Desmarais to test programmatic changes that would be used at NGSAR the following year. In 1998, NGSAR was moved to Camp Atterbury, IN and became part of the larger National Emergency Services Academy (NESA) after an aircrew program and a mission staff school were added. Many of the staff members for NGSAR and NESA came from units involved in testing the curriculum that is now the standard for all of Civil Air Patrol.

Over the years our program has changed significantly. Originally, the program only prepared members to be more active in Alabama Wing’s exercise schedule. Members were expected to attend several training weekends starting with a December "Winter FTX” to get the varied topics covered over several months. This grew and changed over the years to better fit into the schedules for the wing personnel, and to allow for more options for members to “catch up” on training they may have missed. Formal training exercises were eventually integrated into the program so that members could qualify for their ground team specialties by completing the program without having to go anywhere else.


In 2000, Joe Curry became the NGSAR Commandant (NESA) and it was there he met Michael Long. That year, the FTXs were opened to all the units in Alabama Wing. The following year, Michael would be elevated to Lead Training Advisor at NGSAR. Curry and Long would continue in those roles at NESA until 2002, the year Michael took over as FTX Director while John Desmarais continued to advance at CAP HQ.

2001-2002 71 members from 6 squadrons in Alabama participated; 21 participants graduated, a rate of 29.6.

In 2002, immediately prior to NGSAR, Joe accepted a job at CAP HQ. It would be his last year as a Commandant, but upon moving to Alabama he joined AL-032 and was introduced to the FTXs. In a role reversal, Joe became the FTX Operations Officer and Michael became the NGSAR Commandant for the 2003 and 2004 schools.

Part of the 2002-2003 FTX cycle was lost due to logistical and funding challenges but the program has grown each year since then.

2003-2004 32 members from 7 squadrons in Alabama participated; 9 participants graduated, a rate of 28.1.

2005-2006 academic year: Advanced and Team Leader schools were added
38 members from 8 units in Alabama participated in this cycle. 

Joe designed the original FTX logo in 2006 using ultramarine and white, the standard colors for the CAP uniform tapes, a stylized F and T for “Field Training”, and an X representing both the state flag of Alabama and the X in Exercises.

In 2006-2007 the program incorporated more scenario-based training to provide realistic real-time training.
Notable partnerships: Air Force Rescue Coordination Center participated in the graduation exercise to help us qualify a new Ground Branch Director.

For 2007-2008, Michael Long and Gary Ernest developed an automated system for task tracking and tested this PDA-based capability before moving it to NGSAR, where (then) Major Long is once again the Commandant.  Additionally, the FTX cycle was run more along ICS lines and any work done by members was tied to an operational specialty. This was primarily a benefit to staff members who had not been advancing their skills while they helped to make the FTX's successful.
86 members from 12 units in 2 wings participated 
54 graduates, a rate of 63.9.

The 2008-2009 FTX cycle was special for a number of reasons. We partnered with Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) and relocated from CAP facilities to Gilbert Hall and the OTS campus. The expanded facilities saw record participation, reaching 110 participants and featured basic first aid for the first time; a support staff; ICS training; and introduction of the “Alpha Lead”, “Bravo Lead”, and “Tango Lead” that have been used at NESA the past several years. Those staff members directed their individual schools rather than moving as a single school or program and we also expanded to a second member-owned property.
93 members from 17 squadrons in 5 wings participated in the cycle 
2,384 tasks were completed accident-free; 61 participants graduated, a rate of 65.6.

2009-2010 featured “mirror training” to allow concurrent training at both of our training areas. Participation for this year exceeded even the record-breaking numbers for the 2008-2009 programs but was not without staff and logistical challenges.
114 members from 17 squadrons in 4 wings participated in the cycle 
2,643 tasks were completed accident-free; 57 participants graduated, a rate of 50.0.

With training no longer focused exclusively on ground teams, a more inclusive name was needed for the 2009-2010 cycle. The name WESS was selected and the program officially incorporated ICS training. To reflect the more universal mission, Lt Col Curry designed a new logo with a star for each program function (Basic, Advanced, Team Leader, ICS, and Staff). The compass rose in the middle indicated our commitment to excellence in all our endeavors and the foot in the middle was a nod to our history as a ground-based program.

For the 2010-2011 cycle, OTS allowed WESS to move to the Vigilant Warrior Training Site in Wetumpka Alabama.  This provided all of our support needs in one place.  This was an exciting development, but 2010 would be the first time in our history that we did not use member-owned training areas in Tallassee.
118 members from 22 squadrons in 6 wings participated 
3,421 tasks were completed accident-free; 76 participants graduated, a rate of 64.4. 

Recognizing the need for a more representative logo, the WESS emblem changed prior to the 2011 academic year. Now on a disk, the state of Alabama replaced the foot indicating a commitment wing-wide training.

The 2011-2012 cycle was held entirely at Vigilant Warrior and set new records for participation both in and out of Alabama Wing.  We also partnered with a new air ambulance service, Air Evac 64 Elmore, AL!  This was also to be Lt Col Curry's last WESS cycle as he separated from CAP headquarters to pursue a career in emergency medicine and improve on his running.

For the 2012-2013 academic years, WESS welcomed Gary Ernest to the position of Deputy Director.  
His replacement in Advanced was long-tenured Advanced staff member Jarrod Finaly.
John Randolph solidified his role as Chief of Staff; Eddie Shurbutt moved from field training to Safety;
James Fogal lead the first Wilderness Advanced First Aid Course, and Alabama Wing
Director of Emergency Services Ande Boyer brought the first Aircrew School to Vigilant Warrior
with the help of Austin Landry.

WESS again partnered with Air Evac 64 Elmore, AL
Auburn University 
A K-9 Search And Rescue Team

Following the close of the 16th cycle in 2013, we said goodbye to a number of long-serving staff members.
Advanced GSAR will now be run by Tracy Miller and we welcome a new Aircrew Director, incoming
Director of Emergency Services Harvey Yarborough.

2014-2015 WESS continued its relationship with Life Saver 4 Sylacauga 


2016-2017 gave us a new Deputy Director, Lt Col Tom Berg from Georgia Wing and marked the first time in program history where participation from outside Alabama was greater than our local numbers.

2017-2018 Maj Ernest had been working on a major revision to the Task Track software so it could be used on the Android platform. Ultimately, he completely rewrote the software, which made its debut during our 20th Anniversary year.

214 total participants, representing 6 Wings, 40 unique units, and NHQ.
4,504 tasks were completed, 246 Ground sorties and 101 Air sorties, representing accident-free 22750 training hours.
128 new ratings for 139 graduates; a success rate of 64.95. 
Safety streak is now 4 years, representing 740 total sorties and 76700 training hours without a mishap.

2018-2019 Even though the name did not change, our scope had grown to include members from two regions and the logo was adapted once again to reflect the reach and scope of our training.

2019-2020 For years, this program was informally considered NESA South because so many students and staff moved between the two programs. Going forward, this program will be known as NESA Southeast (NSE) to leverage its reach outside of Southeast Region but will not be an NCSA or qualify for the ribbon.

The 2019-2020 NSE was canceled in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Present

While this program has become a valuable and rewarding activity, its primary function has always been to train and qualify members in operational specialties based on the national standard. The purpose of the national standard is to assure our customers that CAP can meet mission requirements anywhere in the country with a professionally-trained volunteer force that has a common standard of excellence for mission performance. With the advent of increased Homeland Security missions and the urgent need for disaster relief operations posed by weather events in the southeastern United States, we are committed to training as many members as possible to provide mutual aid and community support in times of need.



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