Since my birthday falls in October, I get to pick the training mission for the team. I believe that some aspects of life are best appreciated when under adverse conditions, so I pulled out my list for planning..
- Cold water √
- Cold weather √
- Minimal gear √
- Tough terrain √
- Sleep deprivation √
Last year, we crossed the Smokies via Ekaneetlee manway and swam Fontana to our pickup. 2015 trip This year, I figured I would switch it up and invade Tennessee from the North Carolina side of the park, traversing 3/4 of the park, mostly off trail.
Drop off’s would done at night in Fontana Lake, with each team not knowing their location. They would have to determine their location and rally at a UTM point. The simple rules were that you could not use established trails, except for Jenkins Ridge up to Spence, and sleeping gear would only be jackets and garbage bags. We would follow the Defeat Ridge manway from the AT down to Middle Prong trailhead.
Somewhere on Horsehoe Ridge…
Foraging and tracking..
Rally points, pullup contest winner, and Defeat Ridge manway…
Routes in red, purple, and yellow..
Rescue Swimmer II –
Herrington, Jutkofsky, Jernigan and Grieco knocked out the final part of the Public Safety Rescue Swimmer course. BUSAR’s Jason Benjamin instructed. Lots of water time, simulated rescues and a night scenario.
GRSM Tech Team Training –
Herrington and Grieco attended the Smokies Tech Team training focusing on patient packaging and setting up a highline.
VDEM SAREX – AAR by Doc Miller
I received Andrew’s text regarding the Abrams Creek carry out just as I pulled into Hungry Mother State Park in Marion Virginia where I was participating in a SAR Simulation during the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Ground Search and Rescue Academy on Black Diamond’s home turf. I regret the timing and would otherwise have been at Abrams Creek to help.
The VDEM SAR Academy is like nothing Tennesseans have ever seen. It begins Friday evening and ends Sunday evening for two week-ends hyphenated by a one week-end hiatus. Intensive certification classes run simultaneously for the disciplines of Search Team Member, Search Team Leader, “Fundamentals for Awareness, Signcutting and Tracking” and Search Management. The finale is a Simulated SAR Exercise which commences at dusk on the final Saturday. Although there was not a Management Team class this session, a scenario is customarily presented and all of the planning, searching and “rescue” is executed by the students under the eyes and ears of silent and often unseen “angels” who monitor and evaluate the process. When necessary, some functions are augmented by prior graduates to achieve critical mass for a meaningful exercise. Typically there are multiple subjects, one of whom requires medical evaluation, “treatment” and litter evacuation. This year there were two “family members” who had become lost while searching for the subject who originally went missing and was “injured” off trail.
A number of BUSAR members have worked with VDEM certified STM, STL, FAST and management personnel during the Virginia SAR Conference and the Blue Ridge Parkway SAREX earlier this year. There were four BUSAR participants in this October SAR Academy.
Rob and Ashley were FAST Instructors, Jenny was a Search Team Member candidate, and it was my privilege to function as Search Team Leader for a superbly trained FAST (clue aware, track aware, tracking) team. When assigned to a tracking or K9 team, the “leader’s” role is to provide communications, navigation, documentation and, if trained, medical support so the specialty teams can focus their awareness and observational expertise on the task with negligible distraction. Night operations add to the fun and challenge and provide valuable operational experience to the candidates for certification.
An added bonus of this Simulation was the opportunity to observe the real time location and movement of every field team on a computer projection screen in Base. The data was streamed automatically from DeLorme InReach satellite communicators which were assigned to each team along with their radio.
Computer Projection in Operations Section in Base
FAST Team Hotel Task: “Cut for sign along lake shore from Route 16 to drainage @ 5327/8229”.
We began the task at the bottom of screen and cut the sign which came from the opposite direction, then
made a big circle up to the bath house and back to the beach.
Another team’s search pattern is seen on the lower portion of the screen before it was redirected
to the injured subject to assist in evacuation from his location seen on the upper portion of the screen.
Multiple teams converging at victim location to assist with litter evacuation.
Evacuation route of multiple teams to and from location of injured subject near top of screen to
Base near bottom of screen.
Participation in a Simulation provides the actual experience of signing into a search, waiting in Staging for an assignment, receiving a briefing (instructions) for the task, navigating to the designated search area, executing the task while communicating location and status reports, being debriefed, and signing out from the search. Those BUSAR members who attended the Blue Ridge Parkway SAREX experienced a similar immersion during daylight hours. These are invaluable skills for efficient, effective search and rescue. The training, including meals and lodging, is free to any member of an agency holding a Memorandum of Understanding with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Black Diamond SAR Council serves SW Virginia and has responded in northeast Tennessee and in the Smokies.
- Johnston and Morgan responded to Abrams Creek carryout
Workouts – Finally cooling off. Greg is getting ready to test for a Combat Rescue Officer slot in Alaska, so we have been doing a lot of military PT to support him. Lots of pullups, pushups, situps, and flutter kicks. His PT test is at the beginning of December in Anchorage.
- Johnny Johnston – Mountaineer, off-trail explorer, and Crossfitter