Chris Brookman took the reins for our navigation training this spring, combining GPS with map and compass into a two-part course spread over our March and April SAR training dates. With a classroom session completed on Tuesday night, approximately 20 IMSARU members headed to the field in the Highlands Hollow area on Saturday morning. Chris laid out several different courses in this in-town area that is a bit more confined than our usual search environment, allowing for a multi-leg orienteering course testing basic navigational skills. This was a first-time learning experience for some, while others used the day as a refresher. The orienteering course covered reading and understanding map features for navigation, GPS setup for various combinations of coordinate systems and datums, GPS navigation to a coordinate location, taking a compass bearing, and walking a specified compass heading. Next month’s training will build on these basic skills as well as pulling everything together in a simulated search environment.
Thirteen members worked indoors on tracking skills on the evening of February 6th and another nine members did the same exercises on Saturday, February 8th with the addition of an impromptu outdoor challenge in the fresh snow and drizzle. Both groups practiced recognition of footwear types and drawing footprints, as well as matching vocabulary terms from the JHPTS glossary and a brief exercise in reading a short line of sign.
The tech team gathered on a plateau above Highway 21 near Grimes Creek for training on Sunday, February 23. Emphasis for this day was on building and operating the belay system. Seven current members of the tech team at the Technician and Specialist levels got a chance to practice belay system fundamentals while also instructing four prospective tech team members. The team built a full system, allowing several iterations of lowering/raising a single rescuer load, and giving everyone the opportunity to work on various parts of the system.
All IMSARU members interested in deploying to the field in winter are required to spend a night out before being winter certified. To meet that requirement, twenty IMSARU members journeyed about a mile up the road from the parking lot to Sunset Peak in Boise County to spend the night. Ten of those folks were out for their first winter over-nighter with IMSARU. Fears of insufficient snow depth as recently as the end of January were unfounded, as February has been kind, nearly doubling the snowpack at the training site. In fact, we found enough snow to render quinzee huts unnecessary. A variety of shelters were employed, including a simple uncovered trench with tube tent (spartan approach), covered trenches, and standard snow caves. Everyone looked pretty good in the morning, so we’ll use that observation to qualify the training as a success. Tune in to the March-April newsletter for more details.