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SAR "Meatgrinder"

Training, training and more training is key to safe, effective SAR operations. A couple of time a year, Wind River SAR conducts a "24 Hour SAR Pack Test." After one such training, where a USAF SERE (Survival Evation Resistence and Escape) Instructor tagged along with his amazing expertise, some asked if we could 'dial things up a notch?'

Ok; we can do that... So some 40 hours of near-constant training evolutions were planned, and an IAP (Incident Action Plan) was drafted.

Participants dubbed it the "SAR Meat-Grinder."

Underlying all the training evolutions was a sharp focus on ICS (Incident Command System).

Exercise Cadre assigned a Team Leader for each evolution, and they had to choose a Safety Officer. For each evolution they were required to use an ICS-201 Form, locally modified for SAR use.

It all started with a Dog Mt. hike, here being briefed by River 7.

After almost 2 hours of full gear, uphill hiking they were directed to RTB (Return to Base) ASAP...

2 1/2 steep hours later, they were thrown in a van and driven to their next assignment: Plan a rescue strategy at a waterfall on a near-by bridge - in under 5 minutes.

Teamwork's division of labor, and structured information flow, allowed them to easily accomplish the assignment.

Back in the van, they were driven further into the backcountry...

... where they were met by a Deputy, who briefed the next evolution: "Numerous and conflicting reports of hikers in peril on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)."

After packing the Stokes Litter, loaded with a couple ropes and rescue rigging gear, about a mile on the PCT they found two 'patients' that need rescuing - Ok; one was 'dead,' and the other 'damaged'...
... and the rigging of a ropes rescue system began.
The stokes litter and wheel were quickly lowered...
... and the 'patient' was packaged to be raised to the trail using the mechanical advantage provided by the system.
Just about up to the trail, about 1/4 mile to the road where a simulated "rig for air ops" prepared for the potential of a hoist operation.
Then the gear was repacked, thown back on the stoke and off again up the PCT.

About 5 miles, 3,000 ft. and several hours later, they emerge from the drizzling darkness on the 41 Road, on top of Mowich Butte!!

Nicely done fellers; but we're not done yet...

Bleary with exhaustion, they were individually quizzed and given tasks, with a "Drop and give me 20" for each wrong answer, or failed task.

Somewhat rehabed with a couple hours sleep, they were once again told to "rig for air ops," including harnesses and imporovised tethers, for an evolution with an Oregon Nat'l Guard BlackHawk.

Upon arrival, a medic is lowered.

After a briefing, the ship is fired back up and, in teams of two, board the BlackHawk; clipping their tethers to D rings in the floor (each safety-checking the others).
A view (out the open window) of Bonneville Dam, in the Columbia River Gorge:
Upon returning to the training area, participants disembarked from the aircraft, and organized themselves to conduct hoist-op tagline training.
Off to the sticks for shelter-building.

Various techniques and materials were employed, from tarps to full-on natural shelters.

Oops; no sleep yet - the Coast Guard Jayhawk is here for night hoist-ops...

(Had there BEEN light; it would have looked something like this: from a previous daytime tagline training.)

As the crew was using nigh vision goggles, we could not take any pics (the flash would have wiped out the NVG's; sub-optimal).

... as lightsticks were all the light we had - except when spotlights under the helo turned night to day!

The planning/organizing done earlier payed huge dividends.

After tagline ops, we all wandered into the nearby tree line, and they establishe a tree-top hover, blasting
us with branches, dirt, pine cones, tree frogs and other various 80+ mph projectiles!!
Rather entertaining...

Ok fellers; NOW you can crawl into your shelter for some shut-eye...
Only one evolution left...

Biscuts 'n Gravy at the Wind River Inn in Carson!

Oh, and coffee; LOTS of Coffee!!

This training, for the first time in our experience, brought together many SAR skills for an extended time. Overall the exercise was a success; truly pushing participants in ways real world "Knock-Down-Drag-Out" missions do...

Nicely done!!