FTL: First Weekend

Field Team Leader Training.

Class Description

Intermediate-level training in search team management, implementation of search tactics, supervision of team performance, proper use of semi-technical rescue equipment, and evacuation management. The FTL course consists of approx. 60% classroom and 40% field instruction. Field work is held regardless of current weather conditions unless extreme conditions present personal safety concerns. Successful completion prepares the student to adequately function as a Field Team Leader under the indirect supervision of the Operations Section Chief.

Physical Ability and Conditioning: Search and Rescue is hard, physically demanding work. Prospective students to the field classes must be capable of ascending steep slopes (up to 60 degrees) over rough terrain, in the dark, while carrying a backpack that may weigh up to 40lbs. After several hours in the field under the previously described conditions, the student will then enter the rescue portion of the course. During the rescue SAR personnel will assist in the carry-out of a patient as part of a rotating 6-person team. The litter with patient package may weigh up to 300lbs. Read my post on patient packaging and litter carrying.

I learned so many things from this class.

The first thing explained to us was we needed to know everything from FTM (Field Team Member) class well enough that we could teach it.

That includes many rescue knots, carrying a litter, land navigation using a map and compass, helicopter proticol, radio communications, and boring government terms, organization, and paperwork.  (Sorry folks, but if I were to tell you that the National Incident Management stuff was riveting you wouldn’t believe me if I told you water was wet.)

The instructors found a way to make all subjects covered pretty fun. The Power Point presentations are often sprinkled with jokes, quotes, and funny pictures and the personal stories from the instructors really juice things up.  Often the stories from the instructors are more instructive than anything included in the prepared lessons.  I saw not one nodding head nor glazed eye the entire weekend!

We learned a few new knots.

Double Figure Eight Loop – Click to see an animated video

butterfly knot

This knot can be used for a harness or as an anchor for rappelling.

Emergency Harness – click to see animated video

This is a simple harness that anyone can do.  It is very useful for those steep drainages we sometimes have to search.  Simply strap one of these on yourself and anchor a rope to a nice tree to prevent a head over heals tumble down a rocky slope.

Butterfly – click to see animated video

Use this pretty knot on either side of a damaged rope.  A useful thing to know when you discover the rope you are hanging from got chewed on by a nasty rock.

Munter Mule – click to see animated video

or click here for Appalachian Rescue’s easier-to-tie version

This knot gives a controlled slide through a carabiner.  It is used when rappelling.  We will learn more about how this nifty knot works next weekend.

Triple Redundant Harness – click to see how this one is tied

A more secure harness than the emergency harness.  This version uses a bowline hitch, but it can also be made with water knots.

We learned that we carry more stuff

Here is an old posting about what I carry in my SAR pack

First, we have to carry all the things an FTM carries:
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket
  • Waterproof (windproof) pants (these don’t have to be expensive, just functional)
  • Wool or synthetic shirts or sweaters.
  • Wool or synthetic pants, or BDU’s with appropriate thermal underwear. NO JEANS!
  • Long underwear made of wool, silk, or other synthetic material – Cotton thermal underwear is not acceptable.
  • Gloves for cold weather with either leather palms, or a leather outer glove layer.
  • Stocking Cap or Balaclava
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Wool or synthetic socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket and pants.
  • Long pants – preferably rip stop material. NO SHORTS
  • Lightweight shirt – preferably of breathable material.
  • Hat
  • Gloves with minimum of a leather palm.
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Backpack large enough for daypack use
  • One quart minimum canteen or water bottle
  • One day supply of quick energy food
  • Whistle
  • Compass (Silva or Brunton preferred)
  • Headlamp with a set of spare batteries and bulb.
  • One other alternate source of light with spare batteries & bulb
  • Personal First Aid Kit
  • At least one 30-gallon leaf bag
  • Waterproof matches or disposable lighter
  • Storm Shelter (can be items already in pack such as garbage bag)
  • Handheld radio
  • Toilet paper
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Moleskin
  • Gaitors
  • Sunscreen
  • Signal mirror
  • Parachute cord
  • Small notebook & pen
  • Insect repellant
  • Water purification tablets or filter system
  • GPS Unit – Know how to use this and have it set up properly before putting it in your pack!

Field Team Leader Equipment List

All required equipment from the Field Team Member Equipment List (see above), PLUS:

  • 25 feet of one-inch nylon tubular webbing
  • Two (2) Locking-D aluminum alloy carabiners
  • UIAA approved climbing helmet (or hardhat with chin strap)
  • Electric Headlamp w/ extra batteries and bulb

We learned about ourselves.

Most of what makes up an FTL’s job is management of people.  It is the most important and most difficult skill to learn.  Within five minutes of walking into the classroom I was given a personality test.  Shockingly, I tested quite high as a “Showman.”  No surprise there.  Eleven years ago I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and came out with INTP.  I took it today scoring INTJ (although the J score was quite low.)

How useful it can be to understand how you think and react to events! Take the Myers-Briggs Jung Personality test free online here.

In order to successfully lead a team, one must understand different personalities and how to work with them.  Every personality type has jobs that best suit them.  Note: I have a big mouth, never give me the radio.

What it boils down to:gumby

It’s all about practice and experience in the field.

You are not physically fit at the moment to carry all this stuff.

Teaching and doing shows for four to eight year olds may help or hinder your ability to be a leader for adults.

Your mouth is gonna get you into trouble one day.

Limit the amount of Pizza and Mexican Food you eat at training weekend.  Rescue pants need to fit tomorrow!

Semper Gumby!


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