Real rescue takes place during Ranger training

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Students on a recent Canadian Ranger search and rescue course experienced a real emergency during their training, and had to evacuate one of their own for medical attention.

“They did a great job,” said Warrant Officer Barry Borton, a Canadian Army instructor. “The whole crew went to help her.”

Sergeant Mary Miles, commander of the Ranger patrol in Fort Severn, a Cree community on Hudson Bay, broke her ankle and had to be carried on an improvised stretcher to get medical attention.

The accident happened  in rough terrain in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, near Orangeville, while Sgt Miles was navigating alone as part of the course. As soon as the other eight students were alerted to her predicament they went to her rescue.

“The Rangers cut down a couple of trees to make poles and used T-shirts to make a stretcher,” WO Borton said. “They carried her for 1.3 kilometres over rough ground to get her out to the road, and then I was able to drive her to the hospital. She had a hairline fracture and a chipped bone.”

The accident happened during a 10-day course run by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to train Canadian Rangers as OPP-qualified search and rescue operators.

The Rangers, who are part-time Army reservists, play a key role in search and rescue operations in Ontario’s Far North, said Sergeant Jamie Stirling, the OPP’s provincial search and rescue co-ordinator.

While the OPP has prime responsibility for ground search and rescue in Ontario, assembling an emergency response team and getting a plane to fly the team into a remote First Nation can take eight hours or longer, depending on the weather. By then the Rangers, responding to an official request from the OPP for Canadian Army assistance, have usually found the missing person or persons.

“The Rangers are one of our number one search and rescue partners in the province,” Sgt Stirling said. “They know their local territory where they live and they do a tremendous job for their communities in life and death situations.”

Sgt Miles was one of nine students on the OPP course, which ran out of CFB Borden.

The course consisted of classroom and field instruction, as well as practical training, which included night exercises.

“It’s been very challenging,” said Master Corporal Linda Kamenawatamin of Bearskin Lake, an Oji-Cree community 425 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout. “I’m very tired. I wanted to give up but I knew I had to keep going on, so I kept going. I’m very proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished. I’ve learned a lot and I am the first Ranger from Bearskin to pass this course. I will be able to take back a lot to my community from this training. We have a lot of searches in my community.”

The Rangers now have OPP-qualified personnel in every one of their 20 patrols across Northern Ontario. More than 40 Rangers have completed the OPP training in the last six years.

“We see a lot of changes in the Rangers,” Sgt Stirling said. “They are coming to us with an increased sense of purpose. They know that by coming they are going to be able to help their communities in emergencies. I ask them why they are here on the course and the overwhelming answer is they are here to help people who are lost. And the Rangers do that very efficiently. They really do serve their communities.”

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