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Callouts 2012

Monday, 15 April 2013 13:26

Life as a search and rescue trainee

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Life as a search and rescue trainee

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Our blog includes various posts written by our trainees on their experiences in a search and rescue team as well as different aspects of the training. But up to now, they’ve been all from the guys. So to put that right, newly qualified member Emma (congratulations!) has written about her experience of being part of our team from the initial selection day to earning her ‘team jacket’

Emma’s account of life as a search and rescue trainee….

This weekend I went on my first callout. My phone beeped at me with a grid reference and off I went. It is strange to think that 18 months ago I was only vaguely aware of Mountain Rescue and now I find myself part of team on Dartmoor.

So to rewind, 18 months ago I was sat at my desk writing my doctoral thesis in marine biology and I was distracting myself by looking for other things that I would rather be doing. I came across a call for volunteers for mountain rescue on Dartmoor and thought it looked like an interesting thing to be involved in. I duly sent off my application and the following weekend I found myself in a room with about 16 other people beginning the assessment process.

We were a pretty diverse group 14 men and 2 women from all walks of life. Firstly, we were given a talk by Team Leader Rob. He told us that we were all cogs in a machine and each cog was as important as the next, if a cog was too big or too small the machine wouldn’t work properly. That brought home to me how important it was going to be to work as part of that team. Overall, the assessment was an interesting, exciting, and very challenging process.

The second stage involved a written test with a map to check our general orienteering skills and a chat with a team member about how we would deal with different incidents. Finally, we headed out onto the moors, just as the rain began, to test our orienteering skills to the full. We navigated into the night before heading to the pub for a well-earned pint! I have to admit I was somewhat surprised and delighted the next day when Mickey (the training officer) called to invite me to become a Dartmoor Search and Rescue Trainee, I had assumed that they were only looking for 14 stone muscular chaps but apparently an  8 stone girl could still have something to offer…..

(To give you a more in-depth idea of what the selection day entails, a blog has been written on the 2012 event.) 

The last 18 months have involved comprehensive training, mainly on Wednesday nights, in different rescue areas. This has been hugely diverse from advanced navigation, to river safety, rope work, radio use and casualty care. Every training session has been professionally run and I have always learnt something new. It has pushed me to do things I wouldn’t normally do, like jump in a fast-flowing river, or dangle off a tor at night. It has given me confidence in my own skills, but most importantly it has taught me the importance of being part of a close-knit team. We were continually assessed and our training is recorded in a logbook. All of our training comes together on Search and Rescue nights where we are given a scenario and work as we would on a proper callout.

The final part of our training is known as the “All Night Nav”. This is where we spend an entire night navigating the moors in the winter. My first attempt was a complete disaster. I stepped out of the car, panicked, forgot everything I had been taught and couldn’t find my way out of the car park. Not a great start. Needless to say the night didn’t improve and unfortunately I failed. However, the massive cooked breakfast cheered me up nicely!

Our next All Night Nav was scheduled for 10 weeks later. I knew that I had 10 weeks to get my act together and not let myself down quite so spectacularly. With the help of team members, friends and family, I spent as much time as I could wandering the moors and felt considerably more confident when the next one came around. As the night went on and I was hitting all my targets my confidence grew and by the end of the night I really knew I could do it! It was a great sense of achievement to be told the following morning that I had passed!

The next Wednesday night I was given my Jacket and added to the callout list.

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It is a huge personal achievement to have come this far, however, I am well aware that I couldn’t have done this without the help, support and patience of the team members and other trainees. For this I will always be grateful, and I look forward to being able to help new recruits in the same way in the future. I am excited to be a cog in a very well-oiled mountain rescue machine. Thank-you to everyone for their help and support.

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