Search and Rescue Exercise in the Tararuas

As previously noted a major Police Search and Rescue Exercise was held on the Weekend 16-18 April in the Tararuas. Wellington VHF Group AREC provided communications for this event - a major in the LandSAR training programme - with the SAREX Base located in Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.

View in a larger map. SAREX Base location at Flag (approx). SAREX Area (also approx) shown in green.

LandSAR Volunteers and Wellington Police SAR Squad were out in the bush and in training locations near the SAREX Base, drilling on a variety of skills required by SAR personnel - these include Track and Clue Awareness, First Aid, Crime Scene Conduct and Communications / Message Handling, among others. Teams were briefed to come prepared to spend at least two nights in the bush, so also covered was individual fitness and preparedness to 'rough it' overnight.

WVHFG AREC folks attended throughout the weekend, deploying Police SAR communications equipment (STSP's - Short Term Special Purpose Repeaters), issuing radio equipment to LandSAR personnel, and manning the SAREX communications centre. This event was primarily for the purpose of training the LandSAR members involved, so the communications side was manually logged (as opposed to the computer based logging system frequently used). From a comms perspective, the SAREX provided a useful opportunity to verify familiarity with equipment and processes.

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Above: Comms HQ, along with a Police SAR STSP.

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Mark ZL1VMF liasing with Search Parties. Also shown is Iroquois 05 on Final Approach to the SAREX Base Helipad. (It's there, I promise! Approx centre of shot. Useful wider view of the vicinity of Marchant Base, though.)

One of the tasks of the team at "Marchant SAREX Base" was to liase with the RNZAF Iroquois. The involvement of the aircraft was a little unusual (as limited opportunities for Military support are presented in training, a once-in-three-years sort of event) and provided useful novelty and also an excellent training opportunity for various SAREX participants, with helicopter insertions and retrievals drilled as part of the weekends events. This included AREC and Police SAR communications staff, deploying and retrieving the STSP's.

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Iroquois 05 undergoes checks before taking off to retrieve the STSP's on Sunday morning. A fuel tanker deployed from RNZAF Ohakea stood by to refuel the bird as required.

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The retrieval party included our own Rick ZL2TVY (Centre in first image). Also shown here boarding the Iroquoios.

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RNZAF Fueling Tech runs tests on the tanker while the Iroquois is airborne. Later, Police and LandSAR Volunteers relax wind down while waiting for the event debrief to begin.

At the debrief John Yaldwyn ZL4JY (for AREC) and Rex Aubrey (for Police Comms) spoke, and generally noted that comms was run fairly successfully for the whole event. A mix of LandSAR and Police communications facilities were used and tested, along with HF-to-voice linking. The annual LandSAR Exercise provided for excellent hands-on testing and training and feedback across-the-board was positive.

Credit to SGT Jo Holden of Wellington Police (Wellington SAR Coordinator) for a well planned and executed exercise, and to John ZL4JY, Rex and all the guys involved from the comms side of the house. I gained a lot of value out of being involved, and would highly recommend to AREC members (and infact, any licensed amateurs who are willing and able) from Wellington Region to take advantage of any invitations made to be involved in LandSAR - a place where our communications skills have a useful contribution to make to our wider community.

Attendees during the course of the weekend included: John ZL4JY, John ZL2HD, Rick ZL2TVY, Mark ZL1VMF, David ZL4TAC & David ZL2SX.

Article, Images and Video by Mark Foster ZL1VMF

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