There is an old saying, probably from the military, “if it ain’t rainin’, it an trainin”. It refers to our need to be ready to respond in any weather condition. SAR missions are required any time of the year. So, we take a weekend in February each year for our Winter Skills exercise.

This past Saturday, twenty-six SAR volunteers participated in this year’s training. We concentrated on the strategic element know as Patrol and Confinement. This strategy has three main concentrations: prevent the missing person from traveling further away from his last know point (LKP); detect clues; and, cause the missing person to move in a direction you want them to move. Tactics included are: lookouts from bluff lines and scenic points; road and trail patrol; light and sound attraction; placing signs on trails; and, others. We were in the White Rock Mountain area with six targets placed along White Rock Mountain Road and Bliss Ridge Road. The targets included a camp fire, simulated crashed ultra-light aircraft, pickup truck with a hunter who wandered away from it, ATV, person yelling for help, and an emergency flare.

According to FC SAR Team Training Officer Max Miller, “The players did a really great job. All of the targets were located within about 3 hours.” Probably the hardest to locate was the person calling for help. He was simulating a child’s voice and was several yards off the road. In order to detect him, Patrol units had to stop their vehicles every few minutes, turn off the engine, yell ‘Marco’ and listen for the ‘Polo’ return. If nothing was heard, they move up the road a bit and try again.

The training started with a refresher on the tactics used, some practice with map and compass, an orientation to using binoculars and spotting scopes. After the field work, the Pleasant View FD and SAR Team members provided the group with a feast of home made stew and chili.

Attending the exercise were Responders from the Christian Aid Miniseries SAR Team 10 located at Hunt, Crawford Fire District 3 (Locke Station), Franklin County SAR Team, Johnson County SAR Team, Pleasant View FD, Watalula FD. Special thanks to the Pleasant View FD for hosting the event at their Fern Fire Station. Also, thanks to the United States Forest Service and the Concessionaire at White Rock Mountain for their cooperation. (see related photo)