Carl’s blog – A year in the life of a WILSAR trainee

Carl LoughneyName: Carl Loughney

Age: 39

Job: Warrant Officer (Army)

 

A year in the life of a WILSAR Trainee

So I have made the plunge, I have finally decided to get off my backside and do something worthwhile for the community!  Over the next few months I will be writing updates on my progress as a trainee search technician with Wiltshire Search and Rescue (WILSAR).

You would be right to think that a serving Warrant Officer that has been in the Army for nearly twenty years would have had enough of the outdoors to last him a lifetime?  As a soldier I have been extremely fortunate to have had a very long and fulfilling career, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end!!

So It was with the fear of finding myself at the end of a desk 9-5, Monday – Friday which made me look elsewhere for fulfilment and the idea of volunteering was posed by my wife (Thanks Stacey!) as a way of using my spare time constructively and giving something back to the community (although I suspect that she was tactfully trying to get me out of the house).

After looking at some options (St John’s ambulance etc.) I finally decided that I liked the look of the Lowland Search and Rescue and decided to email the Membership Officer and get a feel for what it was all about. After a very swift response I was awaiting the recruitment evening with anticipation.

Recruitment evening

On arrival (slightly late I might add).  The first thing that struck me was how professional everyone was, from  the people outside arranging parking to the setup of the hall everything seemed very well organised and almost “military”.  It was no surprise then to learn that WILSAR have a large number of serving and ex serving members of the Armed Forces amongst their ranks (Pardon the pun).

The next pleasant surprise was that a number of the skills and qualifications needed to be a search technician are routinely taught in the military and although not necessarily transferable offer a good start point for someone like myself who has spent a whole career using communication systems, medical procedures and search techniques.

The evening was very informative and gave a great insight into what might be expected of a trainee search technician as well as what can be offered in return, of the fifty people that turned up for the evening some 30 people expressed further interest.  The operational members of the team were excellent in answering questions and showing us around all of the equipment.

The thought of searching for venerable persons who may be lost, cold and scared certainly struck a chord and as a father I am grateful that such an organisation exists, we are extremely fortunate, where do I sign?

Night Skills Training – 24 Jan 16

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the round robin skills day on the 17th Jan but from what I’ve heard it was a very useful day, especially for those that have not done any type of outside navigation using a map and compass.

The night search skills operational training began with the normal call out procedure, i.e. a text message containing the information required and the RV. We are then required to reply to the text in a standard format that is used for callouts. I have been assigned the Call sign Tango 01 (Trainee 01) for the period of my training.

We met up at the RV which as normal was being controlled by one of the Operational Team Members and after parking the car I proceeded to sign in at the rear of the Control Vehicle before being issued with a high vis vest.

Whilst waiting for the others to arrive I got chatting to some of the other trainee members and what became apparent was the spread of different people who have volunteered to train, this theme also runs throughout the operational members who range from paramedics to retired writers all willing to give up their spare time.

So after a bit of milling around (which I’m told is normal). We were divided up into teams and given the exercise scenario which was going to be used for the evening. We then mounted up in our vehicles and drove to the drop off point just North of Devizes, each team was given a team leader and we set of on a Hasty “Route and Path” searching for the missing person.

Susan took us down the path and described some of the search techniques used when looking for missing persons and the importance of looking for anything out of the ordinary as the method of searching using the “box” method.

What struck me was the reality of the scenario; it could easily have been a real live missing person out there.  Just as we came to the end of a track and into a small copse, Penny (one of the trainee members) found one of the simulated missing persons that had been laid out for us to try and find.

It really was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and although the search was hampered later on by some pretty awful weather everyone had found the exercise beneficial not least to identify any shortfalls in clothing and kit – next on the shopping list, Gaiters and spare shoes for after the search!!

 

 

 

 


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