FTL Weekend Part Three: The Search

our coordinates

our coordinates - Team Golf

We practiced all day.

We gathered in groups, folded our maps, checked our boots, and tightened our packs.

We oriented our maps, set a bearing, followed it, and counted our paces.

We slipped in snow, fought with brambles, spread out to search, and doubled back.

We found our markers.

We were practicing land navigation with our map and compass as a team.

It was all just practice for what was to come.

The Mock Search

It was time for all of us to put what we learned to the test.  The students and instructors gathered together to learn what we could about the search to come at the briefing.  Three people were lost in the woods behind the community center and we had to find them.  There was already snow on the ground and the temperature was to drop into the teens at night.  None of them were prepared to be out in the weather.

ftl mock search weather

During the briefing several people asked some very good questions.  It was very important to find out everything we could about the people missing, the situation, and the search area.

After briefing everyone went to gather their equipment and sign in.  I on the other hand really had to use the ladies room.  Cold weather and drinking water all day, you do the math.

As I was making my way back to the classroom, several people in the hallway told me my name was being called.  I was wanted in the last room, the incident command center.  A team had already been picked for me and I was needed to begin briefing for my task.

Turns out I was placed with a signcutter team, cool!  The only thing I really knew is that they would be very detail oriented.  These guys see things the rest of us walk right by.  I imagined them crawling along the ground inspecting leaves with magnifying glasses, sniffing pine needles, and tasting rocks.  This was going to much different than keeping up with a search dog.

Our task was to walk to the stream and cut for sign along it.  Two other signcutter teams had been sent out to look for other clues.  The rest of the teams were ground searchers, scouring the woods for the lost ones with flashlights.  My job was to lead the team of signcutters, which really meant, follow behind and let them do their job.  That left me with the radio, navigation, notes, keeping track of everyone, and searching for more obvious clues with my flashlight.  I was excited.

We did not even get to the start of our task area before the trackers found several sets of prints.  Popsicle sticks, tape measurers, and note pads emerged from pockets while I watched.  I began to realize there were a dozen questions I could have asked at the briefing that may have been of use for the sign cutters.  Several of which would have involved shoes.  We followed the tracks to the stream, I radioed base indicating we started our task.

I followed along counting my paces, inspecting the map, learning a bit about sign cutting, and trying to listen to the radio. I found it was not easy to keep track of all of the traffic coming over the radio and paying attention to my other responsibilities.  One being not falling face first into the  icy stream.  Calls coming in were constant.  Teams starting task and giving progress reports were intermixed with clues being called in and questions asked.  Was that one of the teams indicating they had found one of the missing persons?  I continued to listen and jot down information as we crawled forward.

I was learning much about how to work with a specialized team.  I was also learning that the extra layer of clothing I intended to take off once we were moving would stay put.  Following sign cutters does not involve much of a physical workout.  Just have to remember to wiggle my toes every once and a while.

We may have been going slower than many of the other teams, but these guys were hot on a trail in the snow, picking it out among a mess of other prints.  I was beginning to wonder how far I was from sniffing a few leaves myself.

This stuff is interesting.

A call came over the radio.  Misty’s, the lost woman’s, shirt was found.  Later, someone called about hearing a whistle coming from the woods.  Could it be who we were looking for?

Tune in later to find out…

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