Posts Tagged ‘carl’s blog’

Carl’s Blog part 5 – Nearly there…


Team photo at ENDEX of Ex Ironman.

Thursday 17th March 2016 – Nearly there…

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited on a training exercise, closely followed by our last initial training subject and completion of the UKLSI Lowland Search Technician course all in quick succession; it’s been a busy couple of weeks!

Exercise IRON MAN was a multi-agency exercise led by WILSAR and took place in Swindon’s Lydiard Park. From a personal perspective the exercise was really interesting  and demonstrated the cohesion of the search team in a challenging environment. The fact that the team was tasked with locating a live MisPer and the park was full of people enjoying a Sunday (Mothers’ Day) stroll made the exercise all the more realistic.

The Exercise gave the Team the opportunity to deploy all of the equipment available to them and once all of the briefs had taken place I followed a search team out to take some photos and observe what was going on. The scenario was that a 10 year old boy had gone missing after a disagreement with his parents and was last seen on his bike in the park, the teams were split up and given their search sectors whilst the specialist teams (bike and bank search) deployed into their respective areas.


Water Team members deal with a simulated casualty (a searcher fell in!) on Ex Ironman.

The scenario developed throughout the afternoon and involved extraction of simulated casualties from water as well as the successful recovery of the MisPer. On completion the kit was cleaned and packed away followed by a quick debrief and team photo before everyone got away to enjoy the rest of the day with their families (and apologise/grovel to the mothers and wives that had been neglected!!)

So many people giving up their free time just highlights the selfless way that the Team and the emergency services go about their business. Training for such eventualities is clearly vital, not only to confirm current procedures but also to identify areas for improvement as every professional organisation should . The feedback from the emergency services was that it was a huge success, I certainly enjoyed it and it provided a great insight into what I should expect on my first live callout.


LST students wait for a team leader brief, Matt waits for lunch.

After a week back at work and the midweek training session I travelled with Matt Croft, Damon Saddler (two other WILSAR Trainees) to the Frank Chapman outdoor centre in Worcester to start the LST course. On arrival we signed in and found our beds before being told that the chef would be late due to traffic congestion so we foraged into town in search of food. A Wetherspoon’s burger later we returned to find that the majority of the course had assembled and were waiting to start.

The weekend consisted of some classroom work and a number of outdoor demonstrations/exercises designed to teach, assess and confirm our new skills as well as those of the newly qualified Team Leaders.  We also received our team uniform and equipment which made me feel a little more integrated into the team but saw a certain member getting a bit of a complex, I won’t mention any names but there’s no point in crying when your hi-vis doesn’t fit, maybe lay off the biscuits?!


Receiving a search demo on the UKLSI LST Course.

The exercises took place on the training area across varying terrain both by day and night looking for live MisPers played by the UKLSI staff.  The exercises were centrally controlled to enable the teams to assist each other as and when the situation changed, this normally meant trying to catch a MisPer that didn’t want to be caught – cue the Benny Hill music!!


Signing in at the UKLSI Muster Area, Jon struggles to spell his name.

At the end of each training day we were given the opportunity to network with other Search Teams as well as find out a little bit more about the other new members of our team. We were also treated to the magical phenomenon of Adrian “Dynamo” Smith performing his card tricks over a couple of sociable drinks.  As you can guess the snoring that night in the dorm rooms was horrendous and sounded like a mixture of Norfolk pig farm, Darth Vader and chainsaw!


Feeding chickens – not a UKLSI search Competency!

After a rubbish night’s sleep we were up early to complete the assessment exercise which lasted most of the morning.  After ENDEX we were given feedback and sent on our merry way and although feeling a little tired when I got home I think I speak for all of the trainees when I say it was a great weekend.  The instruction and administration was first rate, there was plenty to learn (and eat) but the balance was struck just right. I am now confident that I would be able to contribute effectively as a searcher if called out on a live search and be an asset to the team. I just need to remember it’s the “Northumbrian Rain dance” and not the “Cumbrian River Dance”!?

So we’re nearly there, I’m now just waiting to refresh my medical skills and police vetting (a WILSAR requirement) in the next couple of weeks to become operational. Obviously I would much prefer if people didn’t go missing but hopefully by the time my next blog hits the pages I will have been out to assist the team in an active search.

Search is an Emergency, Be professional, Searcher Cube, Searcher Cube, Searcher Cube!!

All the best and happy Easter!


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Carl’s Blog part 4 – Wet and windy Wiltshire!!

8 March 2016  |  News  |  , , ,


Tuesday 8th March 2016 – Wet and windy Wiltshire!!

So the past couple of weeks have been fairly quiet on the WILSAR front and training has taken a bit of a back seat to half term holidays, trips to London and rain, lots of rain, especially on Salisbury Plain!

Because of the lack of activity I have mainly been keeping myself busy at work (yes I do have a job!) and trying to avoid the soul destroying political debates on the radio. Am I the only one that found myself hunting round in the garage for old CDs (remember those) to listen to on the way to work?  I’ll take Enya over the EU referendum and Donald Trump’s hairpiece any day….


WILSAR’s Vehicles Officer showing us around the kit during the RV and set up training.

Following the break there has been a bit of progress on the training front and this week we have taken part in Vehicle and RV set up and also completed our 5 mile fitness assessment, the latter taking place on Wednesday evening in the hills above Calne. I must add at this point that I’m not often found hanging around in country car parks after dark but there is a first time for everything!?

Arriving quite early on the car park soon filled up and after checking in and listening to a safety brief by Adrian (Smithy) Smith we were off into the darkness. After such a long time serving in the military you become accustomed to doing things in the dark without light, especially when you are in a tactical situation so despite suppressing the urge to tell people to turn their torches off we settled into a nice strolling pace around the Wiltshire countryside.



Selfies don’t work particularly well in the dark, especially when you are struggling to stay on two feet!!

The pace was fairly steady but needed to be as the recent rainfall meant that the risk of ending up on your backside was rather high especially when descending down steep chalk paths. The pace is also set to replicate the pace that you would be walking at if conducting a live search and strikes a balance between quick enough to minimise the risk to the MisPer but slow enough to ensure a thorough search is carried out.

The five mile course is to be completed in 2 hours or less and must be completed twice a year for WILSAR members to remain operational, the terrain is a mixture of open fields and short steep ascents/descents and meant to replicate the typical ground you would be expected to cover in the event of a call out.

Luckily the rain held off and the chat and banter that was flying around amongst the trainees meant that the two hours passed fairly quickly. Before we knew it we were back in the car park and following the obligatory debrief we signed out and were on our way home.

We only have one more core subject to cover before attending the UKLSI Search Technician course which means that we are one step closer to becoming operational and earning a coveted “Red Jacket.” My mother always said I would be a red coat, I’m not sure this is what she meant?!


Not WILSAR related but I enjoyed a trip to the Natural History Museum during the half term holidays (giant scorpion not to scale.)

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Carl’s Blog part 3 – No Excuses!

12 Feb 2016 – Week 3, Call out Training, No excuses please – REPLY!!

So I’m into week three of my goal to become a trained Lowland Search Technician and a rung further on the ladder to becoming an operational member of WILSAR.

This week has seen quite a bit of progress in that I have managed to secure a place on the Lowland Search Technician Course (UKLSI LST) in March and have completed the second core subject required to become operational.

Aside from my normal day to day tribulations at work I have become used to the idea that I will be going off to do something different and learning new skills on a weekly basis, so much so that on Wednesday evening I sat with my kit on at 1845hrs waiting for the text message informing me of the RV and timings for this evening’s training (we had already received it by email).  It was slightly embarrassing when my wife pointed out that the training was on Thursday and she had wondered where I was off to!! (We have all got up for work on a day off before haven’t we?? Or is that just me?)

Again, we RV’d at the normal meeting place and stood around waiting for the other trainees to arrive (something you become accustomed to after a 22 year career in the Army) before assembling in the classroom ready for the evening’s training. After some initial problems with IT set up we cracked on with our next core subject which was WILSAR’s call out procedure.


I’m with WILSAR will not cut it with the local constabulary!!

Gail, the WILSAR Chair, took the lesson and explained all of the protocol and procedures that are adopted by WILSAR when being called out.  Images of blasting around the lanes of Wiltshire with blue lights plugged into cigarette lighter sockets were quickly extinguished as we learned that advanced driving techniques would not be required and that we were to (quite rightly) adhere to all UK road laws during deployment.

Although the call out procedure is quite straight forward (a text message with all of the relevant information on) there was a huge emphasis placed on EMERGENCY and the fact that when being called out someone’s life may be at risk which really brings home why so many people have volunteered to become a part of the team.

It is also worth adding that no one is under any obligation to attend every single callout as WILSAR fully recognise that people have other priorities and Jobs that pay the way. So instead of “Sorry my uncle Dennis’s cat has died but I’ll be able to attend once I’ve washed my underpants and put some boiled eggs on the stove” a text with YES or NO will suffice which keeps it nice and simple and allows the search managers to plan quickly and effectively, minimising the risk to the missing person (MisPer).

After a quick break we were introduced to the Team’s policy with regards to Professional Development and Progression, Colin (WILSAR’s Training Officer) explained that all WILSAR members will be invested in to progress and further enhance their skills; it seems that if you have the will and the desire they will give you the tools to become qualified and competent, whether that be to become a Team Leader or to specialise in one of the other areas that the team operate, they are ideally placed to assist.

All in all a very positive week, next up is Vehicle and RV set up which sort of marks the half-way point in the new member training. Finally if anyone needs a lift to the UKLSI course in March just let me know at the next meeting, I have space for three in my car, now I’m off home to play on my son’s PlayStation and get the fast driving thing out of my system!

Catch up soon… Carl.

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Carl’s Blog part 2 – Medical training, tea and cake!

Carl’s Blog continues…

3 Feb 2016 – New Member Medical Training

Adrian Sawyer’s watchful eye

As a new member of WILSAR and a prospective trainee we have to complete five different “core” subjects before we can then be loaded onto the residential search technician course.  The first of which saw us RV at the Wiltshire police HQ on Wednesday evening to conduct some initial medical training under the watchful eye of WILSAR’s medical lead Adrian Sawyer.

On arrival I was pleasantly surprised at the number of new members that had turned up for the evening. Apparently this was the largest group of new members the WILSAR team had seen for some time and had nothing to do with the malicious rumour that there would be free tea and cake at some point.

So, before starting Adrian gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves and what we do for a living as well as what previous medical experience we actually have, he also threw in the curve ball of adding “something interesting about yourself”.

As I sat their trying (and failing) to think of something interesting about myself it became apparent that the range of jobs and qualifications the assembled class brought to the party was vast, from boxers to race car technicians to fire arms officers to nurses everyone had something different to offer and all but a few had done some kind of medical training in the past, albeit to varying degrees.

The brief started with some of the policy and the guidelines that WILSAR operate within when it comes to medical training and the fact that all of the training they conduct is geared toward a national standard which allows SAR teams and emergency services from different regions to work together in the event of a large scale incident.

Yes, tied up!

The MIBS stretcher

It was then time to get our hands on some of the equipment and after some initial reluctance there were plenty of volunteers to be tied up (yes tied up) using the MIBS stretcher and the other equipment available before moving outside for a demonstration from an operational team bringing together all of the things that we had been shown.

The whole evening had gone very quickly and there is plenty to take in, the fact it was just after 10pm was irrelevant as the training and demonstration had been first class. Just enough time for questions and a quick wash up and we were released. After waiting round for a further 10 minutes the tea and cake still didn’t materialise so I decided to go home.

Unfortunately I won’t be attending the Bank Search Training at the weekend but I’m looking forward to the next core subject and climbing a further rung towards becoming an operational member of the team.  Just time for a quick apology for some inaccuracies (and typos) in last week’s blog where I referred to my night search team leader as “Susan”, it always takes me a while to remember everyone’s name. Sorry Sandra, I will get the drinks in on the next social!!


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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!!