Search and Rescue exercise overtaken by real-life emergencies

A ground search and rescue for overdue snowmobilers in Nunavut.

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When 413 Squadron Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel recently left 14 Wing Greenwood for a SAR exercise at Summerside, P.E.I, they couldn’t imagine how events would unfold.

“Two Hercules aircraft and two Cormorant helicopters were setting out for a week of SAR training in Summerside, P.E.I., when the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Halifax tasked all four aircraft to respond to two different emergencies that morning,” recalls Lieutenant- Colonel James Marshall, commanding officer, 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron.

“There were two SAR incidents that occurred that required aircraft support,” stated Major Rhonda Stevens, officer-in-charge at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax. “The first was a ground search and rescue for overdue snowmobilers in Nunavut followed by an airplane crash at the Îles-de-la-Madeleine.”

Three of the exercise’s four aircraft were tasked to support the search efforts in Nunavut while the last remaining Cormorant was sent to assist recovery efforts at the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, but was later stood down as rescue efforts were no longer required.

While the exercise was scheduled for six days, the squadron was only able to get two training days in with one of the Cormorants.

“That’s the nature of search and rescue operations,” said LCol Marshall. “It is a series of unforeseen events that demands readiness and flexibility to get people and equipment in place and on time.”

The purpose of going to Summerside was to set up a temporary headquarters to execute a major SAR operation – whereby multiple assets are required to provide 24/7 SAR coverage. While the continuous nature of an exercise scenario was not executed, the real life nature of SAR operations continues.

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