Friday, May 24, 2019

SAR Tracker I

Mother's Day Weekend we had a search & rescue tracking course at a nearby campground.  This was a really interesting & informative course - and the instructor was phenomenal!  

First of all - this is our fine accommodations.
Not complaining about the tarp, since it was warm & dry & had somewhat comfy beds.  It wasn't even that far to go to the bathhouse where the showers & toilets were.
Laurie & I got there Friday afternoon & had settled in a cabin with 6 other ladies.
I thought it would be great to grab the top bunk, since there's a plug right there for my charger.
 It was a pain in the butt in to get in & out of and there was no place to put my glasses, etc.
Halfway thru the day Saturday, we learned that a lady from another SAR team that we've trained with before was in a cabin (with the tarps) by herself!  Needless to say - Pat got roomies for the second night. 

There were 30 people at this course - 2 teams came in from Canada, one girl from a team in Ohio, a guy from Illinois and 3 teams from Michigan.  It was taught by this guy who is considered the best tracker in the world.  He's 3rd generation Portuguese Army and started tracking when he was 8.  He was put in combat when he was 16.  He's not one of those guys who start teaching after retirement, either.  He was getting paged to go on searches while he was teaching us! 
Fernando Moreira
Fun fact - the ringtone on his phone sounded like a tricycle horn.  Not what you'd expect!

And since English isn't his first language, I'm really glad that he gave a slide show during the classroom portion Friday night, since what he read / said wasn't actually the words that he listening didn't make sense most of the time.  But as he was speaking out in the field or telling stories, it was OK.  We did learn a few new phrases from him.  We had "kaboba-sticks" which were the thicker wooden skewers (that you'd use for, you know, KABOBs) dipped in bright orange paint to mark tracks.  Instead of asking if things made sense, he'd ask "common sense?"  And he'd tell us to get in a file, instead of single file.  There were more but those are the ones that we heard the most.  And giggled about.

Here we were learning how to determine direction of travel.  There are footprints under some of those cones and once we found a print, we had to figure out where the next would be.

 Here Fernando is describing how to look at tiny details to confirm there is a print here. 
  We got into pairs & one would walk on the road, then we'd have to mark the prints.  Holy crap!  This was tough.  It's called micro-tracking for a reason.

Fernando would randomly put us in get into pairs or groups for different exercises.  I wasn't sure about my partner at first, since we had sat there at breakfast Saturday and decided he probably wasn't really a cop from Illinois.  Since he was dressed in head-to-toe camo & had all the fancy gear including a scarf  like you'd see Army guys in the desert wear, we guessed that he was secretly a bounty hunter or something since he already knew Fernando....  We'd joked saying he would either be the best person to have as a partner, or he'd be the worst.  All gung-ho and annoying.  He was neither.  He was just an average guy, somewhat unprepared & still recovering from a stroke he'd had in October.  Fernando put us on a lot easier terrain than Laurie & her partner got (above)!
 Here's the camp cat came to visit - she rubbed on every set of legs along the road!
Here, we're out looking at tracks on the road after dinner, because things look different in different lighting. 

Friday night, a lot of us met for a bonfire.  Of course it wasn't anywhere near the cabins, it was way up in front near the campers that Lt. and some of our team brought.  And it was probably the only fire ring in the campground that didn't have benches around it.  And not everyone brought lawn chairs.
So Saturday night, we decided to meet in one of the "village" meeting halls.  The camp was divided into villages with 5 or 6 cabins, a bathhouse & some of them had a classroom type building.  So instead of sitting around in the cold, damp, spitting sleet, we had a nice warm room with plenty of folding chairs and light.  Laurie & I were among the first to arrive, with Lt, Fernando and one of our guys.  We sat around & chatted a bit until Lt decided to round up some people.  He came back a few minutes later carrying a case of beer, saying he stole it from the Canadians!  Hot on his heels were 3 of the Canadian guys.  A bunch more trickled in after that.
It was neat that everyone mingled and chatted.  There was a bottle of nasty cheap vodka being passed around and I'd never tried Blue Moon beer before & it was pretty tasty! 
Sunday, we were put into teams and sent out into the woods to track someone who had gone thru them.  They left a set of footprints and marked where they went into the woods and then where they exited.  I was in a team with these 3 hilarious Canadian guys - who thought I should be team leader since "one of us is not like the other" - picture that line being sung, tho!  They sang Abba's Fernando, since why wouldn't they?  They saw my name on the back of my ballcap and sang a bunch of love songs.  But when we needed to be, they were all business. 

Note to self - while it's a good idea to carry your Kaboba-sticks in a PVC quiver on your backpack....a lid would be useful!  Especially when you have to bend over. 
 Yeah.... the compass included in my first aid kit probably won't be very effective.
 Our village was just a short distance from the lake.
So I grind my teeth when I sleep and wear a bite guard at night.  I was a dork & managed to leave said bite guard's box stuck in the top bunk and didn't realize it until I got home & crawled into my bed, exhausted, Sunday night.  I thought I was going to cry!.  Randy went to the store and bought me one that I could make do with.  I tried calling the campground 100 times and left messages Monday, no answer.  Then as a last resort I called their 800 number Tuesday and found life!  I told him what cabin I was in and the guy said, yup - the girls were in that one.  DUH!  But he said they were open & I could go anytime and get it!   So that Tuesday after work, I took a lovely drive up into the country to retrieve my damn bite guard. 

Here's a nice article in the Lapeer The County Press


1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Not something I would ever want to do but I applaud you for doing it.


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