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!!





2016-02 Callout Melksham

Friday 29th January 2016

Called out at 11:45 to search for a despondent male in the Melksham area.

Teamm stood down at 17:45 as the man was located.

WILSAR take part in Exercise Opus Resilience

8 January 2016  |  News

Thursday 7th January 2016

Today, three members of WILSAR took part in Exercise Opus Resilience, a multi-agency table top exercise simulating a Mass Casualty Incident.

WILSAR Chair, Gail Leaman, Adrian Sawyer and Sandra Penfold, all trained Search Managers, joined teams of senior officers from the Police, Ambulance Service, Fire & Rescue, NHS hospitals, Environment Agency, Military and Search and Rescue to rapidly process information reports and decide response plans.

Whilst we hope that there’ll not be a Major Incident like a plane crash in Wiltshire, training and preparation is key to being able to respond.

Exercise Opus Resilience

2016-01 Callout Swindon

Tuesday 5th January 2016

Called out at 02:30 to assist Wiltshire Police in the search for a vulnerable 63 year old lady in Central Swindon.

Searches carried out through the night and Team stood down at 08:30 pending further police enquiries.

*UPDATE* Later that afternoon the missing lady returned home safely having spent the night at a friend’s house.

Join us in January 2016!!!

WILSAR are recruiting again!

As you slowly recover from the Christmas festivities and start thinking about what you’re going to do in 2016 that is worthwhile and rewarding, how about considering volunteering with Wiltshire Search and Rescue?

We’re looking to recruit motivated, committed and outgoing volunteers to become part of our Team. We need operational members to help us provide support to the Emergency Services in the search for missing vulnerable people. This can be anywhere in Wiltshire and occasionally assisting other Lowland Rescue teams in the surrounding counties too. We are also recruiting support team members to assist with other vital roles such as fundraising, maintenance, admin or welfare.

WILSAR Flood TeamAs a new member you will begin Team life as a Search Technician but have the opportunity over time to advance to Team Leader and Search Planner. Other skills can be achieved such as Bank Search, Flood Response, Swift Water Rescue, Bicycle Search, Tracking, Missing Person Behaviour, Navigation Awards and First Aid qualifications.

All of our members are 100% volunteers; limited kit is supplied but personal equipment, fuel and training is self-funded. A level of commitment to callouts, training and fundraising is expected throughout the year. You will however become part of a professional team where you will make good friends, explore the outdoors and get rewarded with the warm feeling that you are helping people in need.

To become operational applicants will be expected to attend regular training sessions over two months, leading up to a weekend residential Search Technician course in March where they will meet and train alongside trainees of other teams from around the UK. You must be over 18 with your own means of transport and be fit enough to walk 5 miles in under 2 hours. Due to the nature of Lowland Search and Rescue you will also be required to complete a Police background check.

A New Members’ Information Evening will be held in Devizes on the evening of 12th January 2016. Anyone who would like to attend to find out more about volunteering with WILSAR and meet some of the Team should send an email to for more details. Please give details about yourself and why you’d like to join WILSAR. Full training will be given so no experience is necessary but please include any relevant skills or experience you have such as previous SAR work, outdoor skills, first aid training, administrative, fundraising or other charity work etc.


Group pic

WILSAR Chair’s Xmas Greeting

Dear All

“‘Tis the season to be jolly” and all that… When so many of us look forward to time with the family, maybe parties or perhaps you could be working, it is also a time to remember that for various and sometimes very sad reasons, people go missing. It is also then that we remind ourselves about why we signed up and trained in the first place to be a member of a Search and Rescue Team and then act on it.

WILSAR has had a very busy year approaching 60 call outs and I would like to thank all of our volunteers for your time and commitment to the Team. Everyone in the team, the missing person and the Police depend on our help so please continue to respond to callouts and consider your availability. I extend that gratitude and season’s greetings to Wiltshire Police, all the other Lowland Rescue Teams, our supporters, fundraisers, donors, all the other services we’ve worked with and all the families and loved ones of the missing people that we’ve assisted.

Have a happy and peaceful Christmas and all the very best for a great New Year ahead.

Kind regards and take care,

Gail Leaman

Chair – Wiltshire Search and Rescue

Xmas hamper for Salvation Army

22 December 2015  |  News

Honda HamperHonda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd have kindly donated a Christmas hamper to Wiltshire Search and Rescue as thanks for our service to the local community. Earlier this year they have already made a generous donation and arranged for a new portable generator for us.

This close to Christmas we decided that there were plenty more worthy than us so Honda have kindly agreed to pass the hamper on to The Salvation Army this afternoon on our behalf. They do fantastic work helping people in need all year round, not just at Christmas and will pass this on to those who will benefit from it.


2015-59 Callout Salisbury

Monday 21st December 2015

Called out at 12:30 to search for a missing vulnerable male in the Salisbury, Old Sarum area.

Team stood down and search suspended at 21:30 pending further police enquiries.

The missing man was located in a hospital outside of Wiltshire shortly afterwards.

2015-58 Callout Swindon

Tuesday 15th December 2015

Called out at 23:00 by Wiltshire Police to search for a missing elderly lady suffering from dementia.

The lady was located by police very shortly afterwards and before WILSAR Team deployment.

2015-57 Callout Amesbury

Tuesday 15th December 2015

Called out at 01:00 to search for a vulnerable missing female in Salisbury.

Missing lady located and Team stood down at 11:30