We work so hard to advance ourselves and our skills that it’s easy to leave the basics behind.

The weekend my county held basic field training for entry-level SAR personnel and those moving up to leadership positions. Everyone helps out, including old dogs, er, dog handlers, like me.

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The old and the new.

During this exercise I had the joy of turning back the clock and using the old fashioned X-Y system for plotting points on a map. The map has four corners (A/B/C/D) which are used as reference points.  A ruler divided into tenths of an inch is used to measure over and then up/down from the closest corner.  A location in the upper left region of a map might be designated A2337.  That’s 2.3 inches to the right, and 3.7 inches down. It’s not as precise as the newer GPSs, if you’re trying to find someone it’ll get you within hollering range.

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“Remember to switch sides before your next turn so one arm doesn’t end up longer than the other!”


At the end of the weekend, I got to refresh another skill: helping carry a (simulated) patient out of the field in a litter.  My arms are slowly returning to their previous length, and by about Wednesday all will be well again.

All of the new SAR personnel did exceptionally well, and the new team leaders and field leaders were indeed leaders, not merely managers. If anybody in my family goes missing, these are the people I want looking for them.

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