Hawk Mountain Ranger School

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Coordinates: 40°37′34″N 75°56′22″W / 40.626082°N 75.939361°W / 40.626082; -75.939361

Col. Phillip Neuweiler Memorial Ranger Training Facility
Hawk Mountain Ranger School
218 Pine Swamp Road
Kempton, Pennsylvania
United States
Type Search and Rescue School
Motto So others may live
Established 1956
Founder Colonel Phillip Neuweiler
Campus Colonel Phillip Neuweiler Memorial Training Facility
Color(s) Orange and Black
Nickname 'Hawk' or 'The Mountain'
Affiliations Civil Air Patrol

Hawk Mountain Ranger School (HMRS) is a Search and Rescue school operated by the Pennsylvania Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). The school, located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, is a National Cadet Special Activity.

On September 11, 2004, the school was rededicated as the 'Colonel Phillip Neuweiler Ranger Training Facility' in honor of its founder, Colonel Phillip Neuweiler.[1]


The School is located on 77 acres (310,000 m2) of CAP corporate property Kempton, Pennsylvania. The school is on the side of the Blue Mountains, approximately a mile south of the Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary.[2] The school's base camp is located in a clearing off of Pine Swamp Road. However, the school's activities make use of several hundred acres of state game land in the surrounding hills, including several sections of the Appalachian Trail and accompanying side trails.


After World War II, Civil Air Patrol shifted its focus away from patrolling sea lanes and anti-submarine warfare to enlarging its Search and Rescue operations. During the early 1950s, Colonel Phillip Neuweiler saw an increasing need for trained rescue teams for use by Civil Air Patrol's Pennsylvania Wing, which he commanded. In 1953 USAF Pararescue and survival instructors trained Pennsylvalna Wing Search & Rescue teams at Westover AFB, Massachusetts. The Air Force instructors were so inspired by the dedication, motivation, and quality of the students that they called their students 'Rangers.'

Motivated by the success of the training, Col Neuweiler moved the school to a property he owned in Berks County in 1956. During this time, the school was staffed by both Civil Air Patrol members and USAF personnel.[3] In the early 1960s, a cadet staff training program was implemented, and, combined with expertise of CAP personnel, eventually replaced the need for extensive USAF personnel for training.

By the mid 1970s, several similar schools had appeared elsewhere in Civil Air Patrol. Other nationally recognized ranger schools were held in the Everglades of Florida, at Black River Mississippi, and in Puerto Rico, and a similar program was Washington Wing's Challenger School. All of these schools were called National Emergency Assistance Training schools, or NEAT schools, by CAPNHQ in 1974, and served as the basis for CAP's emergency services training.

In July 1996, Brigadier General Richard Anderson, the CAP National Commander at the time, visited the Hawk Mountain Ranger School and recognized its lasting contributions, and called it the Harvard School of Search & Rescue.[4]

In the spring of 2004, the school began a major infrastructure reconstruction. Trees were cleared at the base camp, eight new operation huts were constructed on raised pedestals, new latrines and shower facilities were constructed. A new gravel road was constructed leading up to the memorial gardens and chapel area. The new construction was dedicated on September 11, 2004, and the training area was rededicated as the 'Col. Phillip Neuweiler Memorial Training Center'.[1][4][5]

On April 14, 2007, members of HMRS broke ground on a new 60-foot (18 m) climbing and rappelling tower.[6] By July 7 the tower was mostly completed, but construction was halted for the duration of the Summer School. After graduation of the 2007 class, work on the tower was resumed, and the tower of power was completed by August.[4]

The Ranger Program[edit]

Advancement through the various Ranger classes or grades requires a student to demonstrate knowledge of or proficiency in certain skills. There are often practical, physical, and administrative sections.

  • Ranger Third Class is the introductory level of Ranger Grades. For Ranger Third Class, a Ranger-to-be must demonstrate knowledge of basic outdoorsman tasks, complete a 2 mile hike, and perform a 1/2 mile run in 6 minutes or less. Cadets must have earned their first stripe (see Cadet grades and insignia of the Civil Air Patrol), and senior members must have completed Level 1 training. In addition, a ranger must sign a Declaration of Intent to join a Ranger Team (co-signed by a parent or guardian if under 18).[7]
  • Ranger Second Class is the basic level of Ranger Grades. For Ranger Second Class, a Third Class Ranger must demonstrate knowledge of intermediate woodsman skills, possess introductory Search and Rescue skills, obtain a basic CAP radio operators license, and perform a 1/2 mile run in 5 minutes or less. Cadets must also have earned Cadet Senior Airmen, and seniors must have declared a specialty track.[8]
  • Ranger First Class is the intermediate level of Ranger Grades. For Ranger First Class, a Second Class Ranger must possess certain qualifications from the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have completed a basic winter school, demonstrate advanced woodsman skills, possess intermediate search and rescue skills, be able to work on a team with search and rescue dogs, use an L-Per, and run 1/2 mile in 4 minutes or less. Cadets must also have earned Cadet Technical Sergeant, and seniors must have achieved a Technician rating in their specialty track.[9]
  • Advanced Ranger is the advanced level of Ranger Grades. For Advanced Ranger, a First Class Ranger must possess certain qualifications from the Red Cross and FEMA, possess an advanced CAP radio operators certification, be qualified as a ground team leader, have completed advanced winter school, be comfortable leading a search and rescue team, understand how the national search and rescue system works, and complete a one mile run in 8 minutes or less. Cadets must earn Cadet Second Lieutenant, and senior members must attend Squadron Leadership School.[10]
  • Instructor is the second highest level of Ranger Grades, and is reserved for those people who choose not to test for Expert Ranger. For Instructor, an Advanced Ranger must possess certain qualifications from the Red Cross and FEMA, attend Special Advanced Winter School, be knowledgeable in at least three different disciplines that benefit the ranger program (e.g. possess Emergency medical technician ratings, Military Service, Incident Commander ratings from FEMA, be a Registered Nurse, etc...), and be active in the Ranger Program for at least five years after being awarded Advanced Ranger. Cadets must earn Cadet Captain, and senior members must attain a Senior Rating in their specialty track.[11]
Expert Rangers are authorized to wear the Expert Ranger tab over the Civil Air Patrol tape on their field uniforms.
  • Expert Ranger Expert Ranger is the highest level of Ranger Grades, and is awarded only to those who embody the Ranger spirit. Becoming an Expert Ranger can be accomplished by completing the 'Independent Study Course' (or recognized equivalent training), that subjects Rangers to expert-level search and rescue, woodsmanship, and survival skills instruction in a practical environment, and that also stresses the development of leadership, individual skills and self-confidence. Candidates must pass a battery of practical and written tests, and their final acceptance is contingent upon the unanimous approval of a quorum of current Expert Rangers. Expert Rangers are awarded a Black Pistol Belt for wear with their utility uniforms.[citation needed]

The Field Medic Course[edit]

Just as the Ranger Program was started, a need was apparent for medical training. However, for the first seven years of the Ranger program, all medical support was provided by Air Force personnel.

Beginning in 1960, Dr. William E.B. Hall of Allentown, Pennsylvania began providing for most of the health care needs of Pennsylvania Wing CAP, and consequently HMRS as well. As a CAP Lieutenant Colonel, Dr Hall commanded the PA Wing Hospital Squadron 3102, consisting of professional nurses, doctors, and other qualified medical personnel.

In the early 1970s, Lieutenant Don Kliptein recognized that many of the cadets coming to the school already had extensive medical backgrounds, but no ranger experience. In 1971, Lt Kliptein began training Cadets to assist Sq 3102 in providing medical assistance to other cadets. Cadet medics helping injured cadets quickly improved the overall atmosphere of the cadet program, leading to the introduction of the first dedicated medical course in 1973. This new course was structured to tie in directly with the Ranger program. Medic trainees would accompany Ranger trainees during the Field Training Exercise portion of Summer Schools, combining both Ranger experience with Medical training.[12]

Today’s Ranger Medical Program still follows the model developed by Lt Klipstein in the 70’s. Today there are 4 medic grades (Field Medic to Master Medic). Student medics begin their training with a base certification as Emergency Medical Responders with additional training in field sanitation and hygiene and support of Ranger Operations. As personnel progress, they complete more specialized training in the incident command system, SAR operations, mass casualty operations and advanced medical training. M1’s are required to be first responders and Senior medics must be EMT-Basics and hold PHTLS certification. All levels of qualification currently are required to complete annual continuing education requirements and requalification in core skills and knowledge every 3 years. Today’s medical operations function out of modernized free standing climate controlled clinic building. Usually staffed by a physician capable of advanced medical care; thus limiting the number and frequency of off base transport for routine and urgent medical problems.

In 2010, HMRS started building “The Donna Connor Memorial Training Building.” Captain Donna Connor bequeathed HMRS $10,000 for a medical training building. HMRS received other donations towards this building and National Headquarters matched funds donated. The 800 square foot building provides a dedicated climate mangaged 4 season classroom and program management office as well as secure storage for training supplies and is equipped with a number of technology upgrades to improve the overall quality of medical and other training delivered.

Medic advancement[edit]

  • Field Medics have completed the basic Field Medic course, and hold certification in Adult CPR and Wilderness First Aid.[12]
  • Field Medic 1st Class is the typical medic assigned to a Ranger team. In addition to CPR and Wilderness First Aid, they have First Responder or Professional Rescuer qualifications. They have also completed the advanced field medic course.[12]
  • Senior Medics are Operational medical specialists. Although qualified to assist ground teams, Senior Medics typically support base operations or even multi-agency mission bases. Senior Medics must be at least 18 years of age, hold EMT-B qualifications or higher, and be well versed in several areas of advanced medical care. Senior Medics are awarded Red Scarves to wear with their uniform.[12]
  • Master Medic represent the leadership of the Medic Program, and are similar to Expert Rangers. They typically hold instructor ratings in multiple medical fields. In addition to the Red Scarf, Master Medics are awarded a Red Belt. Only 25 people have become Master Medics since 1972.[12]


Several Courses are offered at the school. Course durations range from afternoon activities to week and a half long adventures. The school staff prides themselves as being one of the least expensive of the National Cadet Special Activities offered by the Civil Air Patrol, and goes through tremendous efforts to remain cost-effective.

Summer School[edit]

The Summer School is the largest training session at the school, and is offered in mid-July. The summer school is one of many nationally recognized cadet activity.

Upon arriving at Summer School, cadets are assigned to one of various squadrons. Each squadron has a slightly different curriculum; some are specially tailored to emphasize various areas of search and rescue (such as medical training or high-angle rescues), while others instruct students on a broader base of search and rescue skills.

After a few days at and around the school grounds, the entire school, goes on a multi-day field training exercise (FTX) to put recently learned skills into action. Most training is conducted on the nearby Appalachian Trail, but some training is conducted off-site at fire training facilities or other nearby locations.

Upon returning from the FTX, cadets are administered tests to achieve higher Ranger grades. After testing, squadrons perform skits that dramatize their experiences at Hawk, and a graduation ceremony is held prior to cadet's departures.

Winter School[edit]

Winter School is a cold-weather survival school typically held during the month of February. Students learn through first hand experience how to conduct Search and Rescue in cold-weather environments. Advanced students learn about shelter construction and how to survive in a cold environment with minimal equipment. Two sessions of Winter School may be offered: one at Hawk Mountain, and one on the western side of Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh a few weeks later.

Other Schools[edit]

Ranger Team Competition

Teams of Rangers compete against each other in a simulated Search and Rescue scenario. During the competition, teams are evaluated on such areas as: individual equipment, team equipment, search procedures, communications, physical fitness, navigation, rescue and evacuation, leadership, fire building, and other search and rescue related skills. Winners of this event typically receive a monetary donation from the school for the purchase of team equipment.

First Aid Weekend

The first aid weekend typically offers courses in First Aid, CPR, and AED use. Graduates are certified by the Red Cross.

Ranger Staff Training Weekends

Eight staff training weekends are held throughout the spring to train cadets to serve as staff members for schools. Cadets must participate in all seven weekends to successfully complete the cycle. The staff training usually consists of more vigorous physical training and mental testing than is found in the other schools. The reason being to test the staff candidates to their limits.

Navigation Weekend

Navigation weekend is usually held in early September. It was originally created by John McGuire, former commander of CAP Pennsylvania Squadron 109, as the Escape and Evasion program.[3] This weekend instructs students in map reading, navigation, compass use, course plotting, mobility, aeronautical navigation, and team mobility.

Air Crew Survival Training

This course, offered simultaneously with the Navigation weekend, instructs aircrew in the topics of survivability, aircraft survival kits, shelter building, signaling, water procurement, fire building, and the mental aspects associated with survival.[13]

Emergency Services Weekend

ES weekend, held in the mid Spring, is an introductory course to the fundamentals of Emergency Services. Students learn a variety of skills, including: types of searches, search lines procedures, basic map and compass skills, litter and stokes tie-in and carries, operation of radio direction finder equipment, equipment needed for basic search & rescue, land navigation, basic health and medical skills, and knots.[14]

GOALS Krista Griesacker Memorial Adventure Race

This 12-Hour adventure race is held annually in honor of a former staff cadet. Krista Greisacker had spent many years training and instructing at HMRS in the 1980s. The race encompasses orienteering, cycling, mountain biking, canoeing, and rappelling. Proceeds from this race are donated to improving the facilities at HMRS.

Hawk Mountain Distance Learning Center[edit]

In an effort to rekindle interests in the Ranger program, several staff members from HMRS started the 'Hawk Mountain Distance Learning Center'(HMDLC). The HMDLC would send instructors and materials to other states interested in starting a school, and would provide logistical support to get the school running.

The first such expedition was to the Snake Creek Ranger Training Area in Miramar, Florida in 2004.[15]

In 2005, HMRS re-introduced a Staff Training squadron during their summer school to allows returning members from distant states the opportunity to become Ranger Staff.[4]

Physical Fitness[edit]

Hawk Mountain Ranger School is physically demanding. Students are expected to carry both individual and team equipment on multiple treks through the backcountry. As such, the school offers various programs designed to prepare cadets for the rigors of the school.


Physical Fitness testing is based on the Power Ranger Grade the student is testing for.
 • Ranger 3rd: 1 pull-up, 5 push-ups, 10 squat thrust in 1 minute, 1/2 mile run in 6 minutes.
 • Ranger 2nd: 2 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squat thrust in 1 minute, 1/2 mile run in 5 minutes.
 • Ranger 1st: 3 pull-ups, 15 push-ups, 20 squat thrusts in 1 minute, 1/2 mile in 4 minutes.
 • Ranger Advanced: 4 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 20 squat thrusts in 1 minute, 1 mile run in 8 minutes.
 • Expert Ranger: The Physical fitness tests for expert rangers are only divulged to expert ranger candidates, but generally encompass a series of endurance and strength related tests as above as well as some alternate event options.

Obstacle Course[edit]

Adjacent the parade field is an obstacle course that is maintained by the school. The beginners obstacle course is to do 13 push-ups, 17 sit-ups and run 1 mile in less than 8 1/2 minutes. Daily inspections of the course ensures the course is prepared well before cadets begin traversing the course.

Three Ball Soccer[edit]

A traditional Physical Training event at the school is Three Ball Soccer. Played in the parade field, this variation of the game Soccer pits one team against another, with three balls in play simultaneously. Teams are allowed to field as many players as they are able. Games are officiated by Ranger Staff, who may join either team at their own discretion.

Squadron Runs[edit]

As an alternative to Three Ball Soccer, squadrons occasionally run up and down Pine Swamp Road. Cadets are encouraged to call jodies they may know as well as create some of their own.

Ranger Staff[edit]

The 2008 HMRS Ranger Staff Handbook defines Ranger Staff as being:[4]

(...) highly trained, extremely motivated, and well disciplined member of the Ranger Program, who lives by a strict code of ethics and an honor code. [He or she] would rather resign that bring disgrace upon the Ranger Program. They are dedicated and committed to achieving the goals of Civil Air Patrol and the Ranger Program. They are dedicated not to any one person but rather the Program as a whole. [He or she] is dedicated to the art of teaching and the principles of training. A Staff [Member]'s leadership training lends itself to accomplishing the mission faster and more effectively. Ranger and Medical training is a key ingredient to aiding the injured and saving lives. [He or she] will never fail at anything they do. If something does not turn out as expected, it is used as a learning experience and will eventually enhance their ongoing training. [He or she] welcomes the challenge of doing the unexpected or untried. Staff members are trained to forge ahead and create a path rather than follow others or to sit by idly. [He or she] is trained to identify, adapt, an overcome difficult situations or obstacles.

The Ranger Staff Motto is "We Lead."[4]

History of the Ranger Staff[edit]

As the Ranger Program expanded and gained national recognition in the late 1950s, leaders of the program saw an increasing need for more staff members to oversee the program. Especially few were cadet leaders capable of instructing other cadets.

In 1960, Lieutenant Colonel John Weaver developed a program to train cadets as Ranger Staff at Hawk Mountain Ranger School (HMRS). At the time, Lt Col Weaver was commander of Pennsylvania Wing's Ranger program, and appointed Major John McNabb to oversee the new cadet staff program.

As the Ranger program matured, it also expanded well beyond the boundaries of Pennsylvania. As students from other states attended HMRS, they took home the knowledge and pride they earned. Inspired by several cadets, Major Fred Graham of the Florida Wing began a Ranger Staff Training Program in the Everglades. Staff Cadets from Florida served alongside Pennsylvania Wing Staff members at HMRS, as well as at the Ranger School in Black River, Mississippi.

Staff training[edit]

Ranger Staff training typically occurs over eight weekends from early Spring through early summer. Each weekend focuses on a different area of staff expertise, such as 'survival weekend' or 'ropes weekend.'

Staff training is typically broken into two groups. New staff trainees train together to familiarize themselves with what is expected of a Ranger Staff Member, while returning staff members typically focus on enhancing their leadership abilities and knowledge of the various Ranger disciplines.

In the Summer of 2005, Hawk Mountain Ranger School began offering a summer course to train cadets to be Ranger Staff. This course compresses the entire 8 weekend traditional course into approximately 9 days, conducted simultaneously with the school's other summer courses. This course is offered to further promote the CAP Ranger program beyond Pennsylvania.[16]

Staff distinctions[edit]

Staff personnel at Ranger schools wear distinctive uniforms. While Ranger trainees wear BDUs with brown T-shirts underneath, Ranger Staff wear orange T-shirts under their BDU's. Master Medics may wear red T-shirts and Expert Rangers may wear black T-shirts. Staff members also wear pistol belts and they wear military bib scarves whenever on base and the overblouse is also worn.

Military Bib Scarves[edit]

Scarves comply with US military specifications. They are worn around the neck and are tucked into the BDU blouse. When blouses are removed due to high temperatures, scarves are also removed.

  • Grey Scarves denote Ranger Staff trainees, and are only worn during Ranger Staff Training.
  • Yellow Scarves denote Ranger Staff that have completed one year of Staff Training.
  • Orange Scarves denote Ranger Staff Members that have completed a second year of Staff Training.
  • Green Scarves denote Basic Field Medics, personnel that have completed the initial training course.
  • Red Scarves denote Medic First Class, Senior Medics, and Master Medics.[12]

Pistol belts[edit]

Staff Members wear a pistol belt at all times. Despite their name, no pistol is worn on the belt, nor is other equipment.

  • White Belt denotes a staff member
  • Black Belt denotes an Expert Ranger.
  • Red Belt denotes a Master Medic.

Ranger Schools[edit]

Several Schools have been created solely for the purpose of training CAP Rangers. Those that still operate today are:

  • Hawk Mountain Ranger School, the original Ranger School created by Col Phillip Neuweiler in Pennsylvania
  • Florida Wing Glades Ranger School A School originally operated in the 1970s and 80s, reopened in 2004[4]
  • Snake River Ranger Training Area, where the Florida Ranger Program was resurrected in 2004. Also known as the Florida Falcon Ranger Academy[15]
  • North Carolina Wing Ranger Training Weekend (RTW), held in Morrow Mountain State Park, NC

Schools that have closed are:

  • Black River Mississippi Ranger School, operated in 1975 and 76
  • Everglades of Florida Ranger School, first operated in 1970 by Major Fred Graham to train Ranger Staff
  • Puerto Rico Ranger School, developed by Colonel Bartolo Ortiz

HMRS Ranger Tapes[edit]

The Ranger Tapes are a series of military style badges of the School. The tapes signify qualification as a Ranger. Various levels of the award exist, one for each grade of HMRS Ranger, the highest grade being that of Expert Ranger. Those successfully graduating from Hawk Mountain Ranger Schools are presented with the Ranger Tape equivalent to the grade of award they have earned. The tape is worn above the left breast pocket. The award is only worn on field uniforms (such as the Battle Dress Uniform).[17] This award is not authorized for wear on any United States military uniform.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Base Camp Dedication". Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  2. ^ Lt Col Herb Cahalen. "2009 school info HMRS web". Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  3. ^ a b "History Of The Ranger Program". Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Lt Col Herbert C Cahalen (2008). "Pennsylvania Wing Ranger Staff handbook" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  5. ^ "Base Camp Construction". Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  6. ^ "Tower Construction and Updates". Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  7. ^ "Ranger Third Class Certification" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  8. ^ "Ranger Second Class Certification" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  9. ^ "Ranger First Class Certification" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  10. ^ "Advanced Ranger Certification" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  11. ^ "Instructor Certification" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Medic History". Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  13. ^ "Pilot Survival Course" (PDF). Retrieved 5 May 2009. 
  14. ^ Riley, DiEtte (1 May 2009). "ES Training May 16–17, 2009". PAWGMBRS (Mailing list). 
  15. ^ a b Maj Herbert Cahalen (January 2005). "Hawk Mt Ranger Staff Helps Kick Off the First Florida Falcon Ranger Academy" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  16. ^ "Summer Ranger School Cadet Staff Training Course (Romeo Squadron)". Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  17. ^ "Special Activities Insignia-CAP Knowledgebase". July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 

External links[edit]