In the early to mid 80’s, I was part of the Dartmoor Rescue Group, Okehampton Section until work commitments got in the way. About 2 years ago I decided the time was right to rejoin so I applied to rejoin a Dartmoor Search & Rescue Team, but this time the one based at Ashburton.
(See the earlier blog post http://alpew.posterous.com/helicopter-training)
Times have changed somewhat as in the 80’s the training was very informal, whilst now trainees are given a logbook consisting of sections that cover all aspects of skills required including First Aid, micro navigation, swift water skills, ropework and radio competancy. Before you can be nominated to become a Full member, a completed logbook will require over 60 signatures signing off the various skills required.
But before you get to that stage, you need to get through the selection day.
Having sent my application to the team in early 2010, I was invited to join a selection day at the team’s base along with 13 other hopefuls in October of that year. The day consisted of a written test along with demonstrations and tours of the team vehicles and some of the equipment. Finally the prospective trainees were taken out on the moor in pairs to see what their navigation skills were like before heading back to the pub for a spot of socialising with the others and some of the full members.
I think its fair to say I under estimated the level of micro navigation involved. I was very rusty having done little detailed navigation in wild country for some years, and hence I, along with 2 others, was called back for a second chance to prove we were up to the task. By this time I had pulled my socks up and got myself out on the moor to practice and I was pleased to get the call to join the other 4 already successful applicants and become that year’s intake of trainees.
The team trains every Wednesday night throughout the year. A rendezvous (RV) is given for that night’s exercise and a theme. SaR Ex (Search & rescue Exercise), navigation, first aid, swift water training, rope work, etc, etc. It is up to the individual trainee to be proactive and work on his/her logbook to get the 60+ entires signed off. The training traditionally has a final test which is the fabled ‘All night Nav’ exercise. Trainees up for assessment, are taken out in pairs by 2 members and are put under pressure and tasked to route plan, navigate, find targets and reroute themselves typically getting back to camp around 5am in the morning. The idea is to test if they can be relied upon when they are tired and under pressure, which is a situation not uncommon on real callouts. Once they pass this, they are forwarded to the committee for approval to become full members and receive their team jacket.
The training has been fantastic. Not only does it get you out and on the moor in all weathers, but you also get the opportunity to do lots of different things including working with RAF Chivenor and their air-sea rescue Seaking helicopters. In addition as the team is a voluntary charitable body that relies wholly on public donation, members get involved with fundraising activities as well. Everything from providing safety cover at organised events such as Ten Tors, various sponsored walks and runs, running presentations and talks to local groups interested in what we do, as well as helping at larger events such as the Dartmoor Classic. All great fun and very worthwhile.
Finally, the reason why most people initially join is to assist the public who get into difficulty on our patch. We are called out by the Police, 29 callouts to date this year (Oct 2012), and our callouts vary from people lost on the moor, as you would expect, canoists in diffuiculty, and also increasingly these days, looking for despondants, vulnerable adults and children, or dementia sufferers who have gone missing anywhere across the moor, South and East Devon, including urban areas such as Exeter and Torbay. As a Senior trainee I have already attended callouts (Previous post http://alpew.posterous.com/my-first-rescue-team-callout) and what makes me proud is that a group of people are on call 365x24x7 to go and look for people who they don’t know, in their own time day or night for no payment what so ever. Community spirit is alive and well.
Last night I was awarded my team jacket having successfully completed my training and have now become a full member. Getting to this stage has been a challenge and I have learnt an awful lot from a lot of great people. The team members by their nature are a very giving bunch and I can’t thank them enough for helping me to get through the training. To say I am chuffed to bits is an under statement. The training is ongoing however to continue to improve my skills and make sure I fit into the team and that it all gels together and works efficiently on a callout when our services are required.
I can’t wait!
Team website http://www.dsrtashburton.org.uk/
Team Twitterfeed http://www.twitter.com/Dartmoor_SRTA