Never have I ever felt so…so…. Well, so lame-brained! Never have felt so dopey in my life than when I went to take the SARTech II test. I had one of the best teachers. I had the book. I had some time to practice. But once I got out there in the woods I fumbled with the compass, GPS and walked in circles! It was a fabulous experience, but oh my….
What is SARTech?
SARTech simply stands for Search and Rescue Technician. There are several levels. Level II is usually approached by those desiring to do more than merely be aware of the structure and basic workings of emergency responders. Level I is more for those moving up in their dedication and experience, so that they can lead teams, manage events and train up-and-comers like myself. For the Level II exams, there is both a written and field test.
The text, Fundamentals of Search and Rescue, provides details of all aspects of procedures, equipment, techniques and skills needed to be of benefit in the trade. The National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) offers the book, online courses and exams, as well as other materials and information profitable to an avid SAR career. I found this along with other resources through endless searches online, but was unsure of which to choose. Until, that is, Julie found me 🙂
On one of the many Facebook pages where folks gather to chat about where to buy body parts for K9 training, among other things, I responded to a question posted by another member. Though I do not recall the actual question, my response was a casual complaint on how difficult it is to break into the SAR world. Julie, a veteran of not only working K9s and SAR, but also of our beloved military, commented back. And since then I have been giving her gray hairs!
That was a few months ago and I’m telling you, my gosh! This woman has helped, in a few, short months, more than I have found in the six years I’ve been pestering others and trying to get into this. Along with Heather, Julie organizes and helps run the Cherry Tree Township VFD K9 Search Team, which is an entirely volunteer service organization in Pennsylvania, “dedicated to finding the lost and bringing them home safely.” Her partners are Camo and Ameika, two fine GSDs (German Shepherd Dogs) that are, like her, always ready to jump in and serve.
What did you do?
When Julie called me early September and let me know one of the country’s top examiners, Jimbo Canfield, was rolling through her town later that month, I just had to sign up. Little did I know what I was really getting into. Likewise, I’m not certain Julie knew what she was getting into with me!
For one day, I followed Julie around in the sprawling, wooded area around her home. She previously set up mapped out drills to introduce me to the skills I need to build if I am to become a dependable teammate, and prepare me for the field test. It was actually fun! Letters are posted on trees in the woods at strategic locations, not in alphabetic order. Each coordinate is based from the former marker. For example, “B” is the starting point and I have to locate the next letter by navigating with my compass 145° from that point. The trickiest part is as you walk through the woods, if you do not keep count of your paces and make sure you’re going straight, you will not find the next marker (letter). Well, you may find a marker, but not the right one and thus be way off the entire field test. Trust me on that!!
Another skill-building exercise that, for some reason, I did much better was finding the cards. Playing cards are hidden in various places along a determined path and you must find them within a certain amount of time. They can be hiding in tall grass, under brush, up in the cleft of a tree or rock–pretty much anywhere within a predetermined distance. Fun!
Since I am not the most dexterous person, but do enjoy a challenge, learning several basic knots was both frustrating and encouraging. Tracking, in my opinion, was most interesting because it seems to be a rich mix of both science and art. Before all that there is the written exam, which is also timed. If one does not pass the written exam there is no point in taking the field exam. I am ashamed to say that I did not do quite well on either, even after two weeks of cramming.
Then I found out most folks participate in seminars and have about three months to prep for all that! Silly, silly me.
Why would I do all this?
About midsummer last year (2018) I found that I also need to be certified for my pup to even attempt her exams. In fact there is a list of requirements that need to be satisfied by the time of Hanani’s certification, that involve much more than getting her committed to the scent.
More than that, though, as I have pursued this venture, training a dog for cadaver work, I have gained a deeper appreciation for first responders. Sure, we have our fabulous police, EMS and fire folks, but I had not fully realized so many others volunteer simply because they are driven to assist. I certainly did not go into this blind, but I did not understand how deep and extensive the training, certifications and all is. We have people from all walks of life, all over the country that spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money, just to be available to assist in emergencies. The more I am involved and the more I learn, the more I am compelled to learn and do more.
These people who have dedicated so much, for so long to SAR are an indescribable breed, as are their K9 partners. I am blessed to get to know them and hope to return the blessings 🙂
Now, to get Hanani ready for her CGC certification! (Canine Good Citizen)