Category Archives: Search and Rescue

BUSAR Update – February & March


Prepare for takeoff…

Training – 

Cobrathon – We created a land navigation course over at the BigPig Outdoor’s training site. Each leg of the course has a skill associated with search & rescue, medical, survival, tracking, or fitness once you make it to your objective, like the “5 minute fire” or “5 minute shelter” challenges.

Survival 101 – BUSAR’s own, Dusken Sledge, spent his time in the creek and completed the Survival 101 course.


Smokies Tech Team – Focused on patient packaging and prepping for interagency training later in the month


Interagency Training – BUSAR joined the National Park Service, TN Army National Guard, and TN State Parks for a three day training event at Pickett State Park and Obed WSR. We worked on high angle rescue, tech skills, and swiftwater rescue.

Responses – 

  • Baxter Creek Trail knee injury – self rescued
  • Silers Bald carryout 51 y.o. male – stood down after helicopter hoist

Team Workouts – Borkowski returned from New Mexico, so we welcomed him back with a 60 pound sandbag carry for the night in addition to his kettlebell and pack.

Cobra Lair Demo Workout – Several guys came up to help demo some walls for our future build. Armed with only sledgehammers, wheelbarrows, and testosterone, we had a great workout.


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July & August BUSAR Update..



 Still going strong. Changed PT time to 1830


Black Diamond Vertical Rescue Training II – July 9-10 AAR by Doc “The Legend” Miller

BUSAR was represented during week two of Black Diamond  Vertical Rescue training by Jenny Jutofsky, Ashley Lewis and Ken Miller.  The same cadre of great instructors and enthusiastic students enjoyed perfect weather after severe storms Friday night. Many basic and advanced skills were checked off including:
  • ascending on frog and rope walker systems
  • rappelling on rescue 8, brake bar rack (J and U) and micro rack
  • rappelling on a weighted line
  • change-overs from ascending to descending and vice versa
  • building anchor systems
  • building and using hauling (2:1, 3:1, 4:1 and 5:1) systems
  • building and using lowering systems
  • changing from haul to to lowering systems and vice versa
  • belaying climbers and those on rappel as well as rescue loads
  • hauling and belaying semi-tech rescue loads (litter patient and bearers)
Day 1 training concluded with a surprise rescue scenario to access, evaluate, package and evacuate (semi-tech) a “victim” who had fallen from the waterfall cliff. That included quickly rigging hauling and lowering systems for a safe carry-out to the road. After de-rigging and re-packing all the gear, supper was followed by knot tying, marshmallow roasting and networking around the campfire.
Day 2 began with re-rigging 4 ropes on the rock for vertical students to practice and have skills evaluated. A horizontal tensioned line was rigged down below so the K9s could get some harness time as well.  Sunday’s weather was beautiful and we completed 16 hours of great instruction and hard work over the week-end.
Weekend 3 Black Diamond Vertical Training will be August 20-21 beginning at 9am.  I have reserved campsite 5. There will be a pot luck dinner provided Saturday night with a gear auction. If you have any old gear you want to get rid of, you may donate it to the auction.  All are welcome!
Swiftwater Rescue Training II – July 29-31 TARS Hiwasee River
Herrington, Morgan, Hesse, Grieco, & Jutkofsky attended. Benjamin instructor – Lots of raft work, tethered swimmer drills, patient packaging, night ops, haul systems, foot entrapment drills, etc. This link has pics and vids:
Swiftwater Rescue Training II – August 19-21 TARS Hiwasee River
Same as training as above. Ransom and Lewis attended. Benjamin instructed.
Black Diamond Vertical Rescue Training III – August 20-21 AAR by Doc “Hunk” Miller
BUSAR was again well represented at Backbone Rock where the hard core were undeterred by the threat of thunderstorms with heavy rain on Saturday. Rather than risk potential exposure to lightning and torrential rain from the coming storm if it proved necessary to urgently de-rig 5 ropes, hauling and lowering systems, the superb Instructor cadre (who have done that more than once before) already had Plans B and C ready. Cobras Hesse , Sharbel, Jutkofsky and Miller would join the rest of the Basic and Advanced students in a pre-planned technical rescue scenario, moving a litter up and over the Rock.
Backbone Rock is a pillar, forming a 100 foot high fin of solid stone, on a ridge of Holston Mountain. It is surrounded by a bend in Beaverdam Creek and penetrated by “the World’s Shortest (10 meters) Tunnel” The task was to move a litter loaded with a simulated patient up and over the Rock to a  Medevac unit on the other side using only the equipment in the supplied Wilderness Technician Pack, what we had on our harnesses and four 150 foot ropes. The north face of the precipice initially slopes gradually from our starting point near the creek, but soon angles upward 30, 45, 60 degrees through a rhodendron hell terminating in a 30 foot high vertical face. The first task was to send out recon parties to scout the best way through the hell to the top of the ridge and down the other side.
Once the route was determined, the litter team clipped in and began their semi-tech ascent into hell with the “patient”. Meanwhile the recon teams began rigging a route through the rhododendron to haul the litter team and patient safely through the increasingly technical terrain.. The rhodo hell was traversed by bushwhacking with the aid of a 3:1 haul system to help us gain the vertical face below the cliff top. Simultaneously, a team was rigging additional  anchors on the ridge top.
When the litter was in a stable location at the bottom of the north face, the haul system was quickly broken down and moved to the the new anchors on top where a belay system was also rigged. The litter and an attached attendant were then protected with a belay line and hauled with a z-rig to the top of the cliff while the rest of the litter team ascended by a separate route to meet them.
Meanwhile the other recon team scouted the safest place to lower the litter and attendant to the Medevac unit on the south side of the sheer vertical cliff. The second haul system was broken down and moved ahead of the litter to the top of the sheer vertical drop above the creek on the other side. Anchors were built, then lowering, belaying and hauling systems were rigged.
Finally the litter and attendant were lowered down the vertical face, tied off mid-face, and then hauled back up for a short distance for gain experience changing from a lowering system to a hauling system, then back again. The litter and attendant were then lowered safely to the ground for transport before the storm arrived. It was a great learning experience for everyone involved and clearly demonstrated why we must learn and practice these technical skills and teamwork and be ready to think “outside the box” to solve problems with limited resources. Our ultimate goal is to become so proficient as a team that the litter never stops moving!
Saturday afternoon was spent rotating through hands-on stations in Land Navigation/Map Reading, Anchor Building and Litter Patient Packaging while the predicted rain approached slowly.  A cookout followed, featuring a bountiful feast and the best pork I have ever tasted, lovingly prepared by Grill Master/Black Diamond Coordinator/Lisa Hannon Award recipient Mike Maggard. The rest of the evening was spent with a fund raising gear auction and socializing in the Pavillion or around campfires before the heavy rain began.
Training Plan C was executed Sunday morning and we gathered beneath the Pavillion. Ropes were fed through pulleys rigged from the rafters and attached to brake bar racks through which rope could be fed for climbers to ascend or descend continuously. Skills practiced included ascending, descending, changeovers, climbing on prusik knots, climbing on a system of parts (someone hands you pieces and you figure out how to climb and descend with them), etc. My parts were an adjustable foot loop on a Petzl handled ascender, a spring loaded Gibbs rope grab, a non-locking carabiner and a prusik which I held in reserve. This was also a great opportunity to practice building anchors and hauling and lowering systems, and running those systems. Instructors were available to sign off on student skill sheets and we were able to accomplish almost as much as we could have on the Rock but for the weather.
It was another week-end of fantastic training and everyone returned home safely. I strongly encourage anyone seeking an opportunity to learn or practice technical rope rescue skills to take advantage of Black Diamond’s warm hospitality. There will be one more session this season on September 10-11 and all are welcome. Next year the same training will occur the second week-ends of June-September.
See you on the Rock!  Doc


  • All quiet of the Western front. A couple of us responded to dispatch for the two callouts, but enough resources were on hand


  • Jason Benjamin – Oak Ridge Fire Captain, Swiftwater instructor, technicial rescue instructor, rescue swimmer instructor, and stuntman/stunt coordinator


  • BUSAR is celebrating it’s 1 Year Anniversary!!
  • Finishing up most of the technical classes of the summer and transitioning back into manway trips for the fall


Oh Snap!..BUSAR June Update


Team Workouts

It’s heating up, the sweat is pouring

Ski’s working hard, Doc finds it boring

As tough as  iron, as strong as steel

He shrugs off pain, that others may feel

At seventy four, the Legend rolls on

An inspiration to all, when your motivation is gone

It may be hot, it may be cold

But Doc Miller shows Cobras, that you are never too old!!




June was a busy month. We started out with an in-house technical day at the beginning of the month at Lookrock, focusing on anchor systems, rappelling, and ascending.


Mid-June was a training weekend with Black Diamond team out of Virginia. Doc Cobra sent an awesome write up of attending their vertical rescue training with four other team members, so I will just post that in it’s entirety..

AAR Black Diamond Vertical Rescue Training Week 1
BUSAR was well represented at Vertical Rescue Training Week 1, the first of four monthly 16 hour sessions based on the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Wilderness Rescue Technician (WRT) Standard. The training site is Backbone Rock in Shady Valley, TN, just south of Damascus, VA. The Lead Instructors were Billy Chrimes (VDEM Training Specialist and Deputy SAR Coordinator), Bryan Saunders(VP Virginia SAR Council and original BD SAR Coordinator) Mike Maggard (Black Diamond SAR Coordinator and past Training Officer), Rob Blevins (BD Training Officer), Bob Barlow (Black Diamond Life Member, Encyclopedia and Guardian of the Culture) and Victoria Airey from the Baltimore area who brings an equal wealth of knowledge and experience in cliff/cave Vertical Rescue Techniques as well as Certification and extensive training in Professional Rope Access (SPRAT, industrial high angle rescue) . They were assisted by a host of other superb Black Diamond veterans. Five Cobras attended: Geist, Sharbel, Jutkofsky, Lewis and Miller. Three worked on Advanced Rope Techniques (ART) skills and two worked on Basic Rope Techniques (BRT) skills.
Subject matter included knots and their proper utilization, tied redundant harness, rope calls, semi-tech rope movement on “scree” slope, ascending, descending, rigging, anchors, hauling and lowering systems. The Instructors are extremely accessible and eager to share (and learn) new information at all times  After hours were spent sport climbing on The Rock and socializing around the campfire where additional learning continued, embellished by tall tales of harrowing true-life (and death) experiences. Black Diamond walks the walk (Rocks the Rock), not just talks the talk!  The weather was great and we completed a full and busy 16 hours of training.
Students climbed and rappelled in a variety of harnesses (tied, climbing, caving, rescue) on a variety of systems (Frog, Knots, free / Munter, Rescue 8, Brake bar rack) from both high rigged points and low ones (sharp edges) over a variety of edges (against the vertical wall [crossing Velcro inline rope guards] and away from the undercut face).
Everyone gained new knowledge, experience and friends, at no cost (other than transportation), from highly professional and competent instructors with years of real-world cliff and cave rescue experience who gave freely, generously and selflessly of their time and talent, “that others (especially rescuers) may live”.  Don’t miss out on this great opportunity if you can help it!  We owe a great debt of gratitude to Black Diamond and VDEM.
I have reserved camping in Site 7, July 8-9 and Site 5, August 19-20. The Black Diamond Annual Cookout will be after training Saturday August 20. Their final formal vertical training of the year will be September 10-11.
That others may live!
TARS Swifwater I class – Ocoee, TN
Seven of us got to attend Swiftwater I class on the Ocoee this month. It has been almost 20 years since I started guided down there in college and after the class on Sunday, we ran a trip for fun and old times sake. Great class with lots of time in the water and very little down time.
Day 1 was a half day of classroom lecture
Day 2 was self-rescue techniques, eddy swims, rescue wading, and throw bag rescues
Day 3 finished out the course with strainer bar, tension diagonals, rope launching techniques, and foot entrapments
Responses – 
            Laurel Falls – Herrington 2:1 low angle haul and carryout for the broken ankle pictured above. Ankle picture courtesy of Tammy “Tough As Nails” Siler. Her sister is tough too!
  • Jake Bezahler – wilderness therapy guide out of Waynesville
  • Received another donation for gear. Finishing out helmet purchases and some gear for training

May BUSAR Update..

Killing two birds with one stone, I am going to copy my updates to the park SAR coordinator on here instead of separate write ups…
Workouts – Going strong. We had a fitness trainer from Alabama come join us one night. He trains people for Spartan races and loved the workout.

Training – 
Nine of us attended the SAREX at BLRI this month. I thought they did a great job on the simulation and the flyer is attached. It would be great to host something like that in the Smokies, as I think it was the best way for some of the team to get a feel for big searches, i.e. briefing, task assignments, debriefing, etc. Our team made the find, but we just got lucky on the assigned area.
Jernigan and Ransom both lead 4 man teams that included one National Guard member, giving them good opportunities for field leadership. Spieden had tracking assignments, Doc Campbell got slated as safety officer, and Lewis was in management.
We have decided to make it our annual May training event as the experience of a large scale operation was invaluable to everyone.
On Sunday, we had JJ, an investigator for NCIS, teach a class on crime scene considerations per SRT2 Task Book.

Responses –
  • Morgan – Rainbow Falls
Other – 
  • We bought a domain name and should have a website up for our year anniversary in August
  • We are planning on pursuing 501(c)3 status and had a fundraising think tank session
  • We got our first sponsor through my blog. He bought us a couple helmets and radio pouches
  • June training will be high angle at Look Rock with the team, then high angle with Black Diamond team and then swiftwater training down at the Ocoee through TARS, via BCRS

Survival 101 Graduation Special…

SAR Logo WL 062014

At the Virginia SAR Conference this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Trisha Fitzgerald, the owner/operator of SAR Gear Plus. Trish has decades of SAR experience under her belt and after watching portions of my class has extended a special offer to all Survival 101 grads.

20% off orders over $100

If you are interested, email me for the coupon code. Include your name and class number in the subject line. Example: Bo Cephus 32/40

And thanks to Trish for making the woods a little safer!!


BUSAR April Trainathon..


The only thing better than getting the greatest picture of Ski being rescued by the Jernigator is looking back at April’s training and realizing that the BUSAR beast is unstoppable. With over 440 hours of training logged by the team, and without a budget, I am both amazed and humbled to be surrounded by such talent and dedication.

K9 SRT Day: The month started off by working with the canines of the Tennessee Special Response Team led by Art Wolf. This group of highly skilled and dedicated canine handlers train every week. We worked an 18 hour old track and trail, a couple live find area searches, and some human remains searches. I have seen some janky dog teams on real world searches in the past, but all the TN SRT dogs are certified through NASAR in multiple discipline and then get put through the ringer by Art. Hats off to a great team and many thanks for allowing us to tag along. We look forward to working with them in the future.

BTRT-E: In mid-April, five of us rolled up to New River Gorge and were students (and one instructor) in the five day NPS Basic High Angle Rescue Training – East. It was the best in-house training I have experienced during my 16 years in the park service and the credit goes to Kevin Moses and his fine cadre. Lots of great material, scenarios, and great cliffs.

Virginia SAR Conference – Later in April, five of us headed to the mecca of SAR, also called the Virginia SAR Conference. I was scheduled to teach a 2 day Wilderness Survival for Search & Rescue Personnel class and my class was blessed with a decent night time temp of 29 degrees. This four day event allows two days of intensive pre-classes, followed by two days of mini-classes. This was part of the offering for Saturday. The 0600 and 1700 PT sessions were lead by the BUSAR boys.. IMG_1460

Lots of good classes, new friends, learning opportunities, and networking. We are all looking forward to next year.

With two PT sessions a day and classes in between, even the Green Ninja got tuckered out!!

Smokies Tech Team day – Fresh off BTRT-E, we got the invite to train with the Smokies Technical Rescue Team. Halfway through, we got a call for a semi-technical rescue and got to put some rope action into play. Training, real rescue, and then then weekly workout..BUSAR Trifecta complete!


Smokies Litter Team day – April finished off with five cobras rolling up to spend half a day on litter team training. No pics from that, but here are a couple from a Rainbow Falls rescue where one of our members was on the ground team when another dropped through the canopy to hoist the patient out. Good work Greg and John!! Video link to hoist: