FTL Weekend 4: The Search Part Deux
What was that over the radio?
We were out in the snow with the temperature dropping. The sun had gone down hours ago. I was stopped in my tracks trying to sort out the messages bouncing around on the radio waves. Someone heard a whistle in the woods? Could a team finally be near enough to hear a call for help from one of the lost people?
A team asked if anyone else could hear the whistle so they may triangulate its location, but nothing came of it. I called a question over the radio to sort out my notes. Misty, was still missing, the other two guys we were looking for were found. Boy, it sure was cold. I hope she was keeping warm out there.
The signcutting team continued on. Our path along the stream merged with a much larger path cutting through the dense, brambled woods. The tracks we were following met so many others beaten into the wide path. The stream bank fell away in a steep slope to our left. Random tracks weaved in and out of the woods from the orienteering task earlier in the day. We began calling out for our lost woman more frequently, yelling loudly into the woods and cupping our ears to listen.
Was that someone’s voice calling out? A female’s voice. It sounded distant. We called out again.
There, in the woods! Following the calls, we backtracked to a small set of footprints entering the woods along a narrow animal trail. We lined up to begin sweeping the woods. The other woman on our team found her at the end of that small path in the woods. It was Misty. She was laying on something on the ground groaning that her leg hurt. My team medic began helping the hurt girl immediately. I itched to jump in and help. No. Tonight I am a field team leader. My job now was to delegate and plan the evacuation.
I asked a member of my team to help the medic with the patient. I directed my other team member to dig the handful of glow sticks out of my pack to find and flag a good evacuation route through the woods. I needed to find out exactly where we were on the map. I had an idea, but was not completely confident on my coordinates. I turned on my GPS, which would only turn on long enough to fix five satellites, then my coordinates, only to turn off from loss of power a minute or two later. The rechargeable batteries I put in stunk. Finding the coordinates I placed on my notepad were close to that on the GPS, I called base with our find and location.
I ducked under the branches to find out the status of our patient. She indicated Misty had hypothermia, a hurt leg, back, and neck. Misty groaned that she may have smoked too much. Those were probably not cigarrettes.
The team member helping the medic was crouching at the patient’s head holding it stable I called back on the radio requesting more evacuation equipment and manpower. Only then did I realize I had been talking to instructors that had materialized out of the woods. Of course they had been there all along, making sure our “lost person” was doing ok and to watch the mock search unfold. I looked down to see the guts of my pack began to spill out at my feet. The medic assistant’s phone began to ring I was asked to answer then hand it off to someone else.
What was it that I needed to do next? Teams that had been searching nearby began to show up to help carry the litter out. One of the instructors took over command of the rescue and asked me to coordinate the evacuation route. I followed the green glow of light sticks hanging from the trees out to the road. Awesome! A great path was found through the woods back to the wide trail by my team-mate. At the road I sped towards base as fast as my cold walking feet could carry me. I sent teams I met along the way to the glowing path to help get the litter out of the woods. Other’s I met at a big mound in the middle of the wide path where I also met a second instructor. He asked me my current coordinates, which I gave him. All teams were called to my location for evacuation planning.
I was cold no longer. The adrenaline was finally reaching my toes. Man, there was a lot of people gathering here! Most of the teams only had a total of four people. I began reorganizing everyone into teams of six with an FTL leading each team. Then I designated them team numbers and gave instructions on where they were to take over carrying the litter from the previous team. I walked back to where the litter would be coming out of the woods to meet one of the teams I had asked to stay put and began to explain the evacuation plan. Oh crickey, they didn’t have a number! Team zero was born, and not too soon The litter was already being carried out of the woods.
I watched as the litter was smoothly carried and transferred from team to team all the way back to base. A few times I called out team numbers to take over as we made our way through the snow. Misty was wrapped up like a blue burrito with even her face protected from the cold. She was finally carried into the warm building with our team medic by her head. As they unwrapped her, pieces of what looked to be pizza boxes were thrown on the floor. Where did those come from?
Back outside, everyone was given instructions. I was asked to turn my radio in and go back inside for briefing. Everyone was making their way back to the main classroom, including my two other team members. I was called into the smaller classroom, back into base. While I was drawing our search route on a map and answering questions I began to get a feeling I was missing something. When questions turned to what the patient had said when we found her, it hit me. I only heard what Misty said when we first found her, it was the medic and my other team member that really got a chance to talk to her. There were to be two debriefings. I had missed debriefing with my team. Ack!
I was saved when my team showed up behind me and began filling in what I did not know. Boy was my team fantastic!
The entire search was fantastic. The mistakes I made and the lessons I learned that night were invaluable. I have them written down both on paper and more importantly in my mind.
Is there anything better than learning from experience?
Oh, and Misty turned out to be just fine, her fake injuries and fake “trip” seemed to have no lasting effect.