The First SAR All-Hands Exercise of 2018

The first all hands training exercise of 2018 was hosted at Vulcan Mountain Trails and some private roads in Julian, CA. The exercise started at 0700 and thanks to the Vulcan Mountain Winery, the many participating SAR members had sufficient parking.

Each of us had to be self-sufficient. That means to pack our own meals for the day, carry enough water for the day, chair, layered clothing in addition to all of our SAR instruments. I should kindly mention that donuts and coffee were generously provided to team members, and that was the only exception to the self-sufficiency rule of the day. Thanks to whomever supplied that!

After parking, I boarded one of the 4x4s of the motorized team which transported all non-motorized team members to the Command Post (CP). There, I set my personal belongings down, submitted my completed T-card to the check-in table, and let my unit leader know that I am present. I stood near my comm unit team members beside the door of the MC5 truck (but out of the way). There is a good turn out of pre-academy Citizen Volunteers like myself for this mission. As we observed the SAR set up process and helped to move things forward at every opportunity, there was much time in between to socialize.

At 0830 we all gathered around the Incident Commander and Unit Leaders for the first mission debrief. Although this was only a training exercise it was carried out as if it were a live mission. The differences between the live missions and the training exercise, was the following:
1. we were allowed to take photos with our personal cameras, because during live missions all photos and photo-taking instruments (including smart phones) had to be forfeited as evidence.
2. everyone was more relaxed about our humor because during live missions we did not want to present anything other than a focused and professional attitude in case the subject’s loved ones (and the press) were observing us at work.

During this debriefing we learned the following facts that may be applicable across all other missions:
1. Mountain lions are less of an issue at Vulcan Mountain, but be aware of your surroundings anyway.
2. Be aware that ticks are an issue and gaiters are highly recommended.
3. Layered clothing is recommended for all day events.

The other take-aways that I learned during this mission:
1. The equipment check-out form is a crucial document to maintain because the Radio and GPS devices which are handed out are expensive to replace. Should the responsibility of maintaining this document be handed to another SAR member, it should be clearly communicated. I misunderstood a team member when they advised me to hand off team members to her after equipment check-out to only perform the task of equipment handout and let her document the handoff. By the time we found out about the miscommunication, we already had 2 radios checked out without names on the checkout form. Thankfully, all equipment was returned to the comm unit at the end of the day.
2. Personally, I was over-confident about my ability to bear the cool temperatures throughout the day so I only had 3 layers on and left the gloves behind at home. This was a mistake.

Overall, this training exercise was a great experience, and it was fun getting to know my team members better.