Teller County Search & Rescue Land Navigation Training – Robert Volpe


Last Saturday several members of Teller County Search & Rescue (TCSAR) gathered in Mueller State Park for some in the field land navigation training.

TCSAR does ongoing training in a variety of search and rescue related skills. Regular trainings keep member skills fresh and provide training for new members who are progressing through the various trainings required for the different levels of TCSAR.

Saturday members were briefed on their “mission.” Their objective was to locate several targets, like a certain tree or rock outcrop, using GPS, map and compass.

Training coordinator, Don Johnson said, “Emphasis is placed on using all skills, not just GPS to locate targets. The teams will use map and compass to triangulate off of identifiable landmarks to determine their exact location on the map and navigate to the targets.”

The course was laid out well in advance so there were no tell tale footprints in the snow to give away there location. Each target was from 3 to 5 miles away from the staging area.

Members were divided up in teams and chose one person to be the team leader. From the staging area each team was assigned a target to locate.

For these field trainings members are required to be appropriately equipped for the mission. Each member’s personal gear must include clothing that will keep them dry and warm. Dressing in layers with a windproof waterproof outer layer is paramount to being able to regulate your body heat as the situation presents.

Jeans or any cotton fabric is highly discouraged. Cotton fabric breaths well, but retains moisture that can lead to serious, even life threatening cold. Wet clothing conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than when you are dry.

Add wind to the equation and it doesn’t take long for the body to go into a potentially deadly condition called “hypothermia.” Hypothermia happens when the body’s core temperature drops. If the core temperature is not raised the bodies internal organs shut down resulting in death.

The training coordinator or mission coordinator like to incorporate as many search and rescue skills as possible into each training mission. Besides the main navigational exercise, members refresh skills on radio etiquette and use, familiarization with personal and unit equipment, and, in this instance, using personal locator beacons.

Personal locator beacons are small radio transmitters. Each team carries one of these beacons. The beacon sends a signal that is automatically updated every two minutes.

The mission coordinator can keep track of each team’s location in the field on a computer in the command vehicle. Having these beacons increases the speed at which other teams or resources, like helicopters or medical assistance, can respond to a victims exact location.

If you are interested in joining TCSAR this is the prime time to do so. April is the month the unit conducts their most extensive training. The April trainings cover all or most of the skills needed to become an active member of the unit.

Members are classified according to the kind of trainings they complete. Members completing he minimum training requirements are classified as “Mission Support.” Some members prefer to go no farther than that, but if you are more the outdoor type, you can progress to more field oriented classifications and mission specific skills like “High Angle Rescue.”HiH

Teller County Search & Rescue is supported mainly by donation and receive little financial support from the county. Please support TCSAR with a donation of your time and/or money to keep this unit alive.

For more information about membership contact: Janet Bennett 719-505-2194

Photo captions

Pic 1 – TCSAR members look over a map before heading out on their mission.

Pic 2 – USGS topographic maps show a lot of information, including symbols that tell you the steepness of the terrain.

Pic 3 – The teams find out which target they will be looking for.

Pic 4 – You have to figure out where you are before you figure out where you’re going.

Pic 6 – Mission Coordinator Don Johnson gives a pre mission briefing to the teams.

Pic 7 – Mission Coordinator Don Johnson goes over the ins and outs of a personal location beacon.