The Manawatū Police SAR Squad and Horowhenua LandSAR recently partnered with the Air Force’s 3 Squadron for three days of solid SAR training.
The training, from 14-16 October, saw them put their skills to the test, including a scenario to locate a lost group in the Ōtaki Forks area – a key entrance to the popular Tararua Forest Park.
Horowhenua LandSAR organised the training which LandSAR groups from Tararua, Wellington, Horowhenua and the Manawatū also attended.
Pahiatua Constable Ben Luders, who is a member of the Manawatū Police SAR Squad, says the squad was responsible for the Incident Management Team (IMT), which saw them perform key roles over the three days.
“The SAR Ex kicked off on Friday night with the Police Squad and LandSAR members working long into the night to prepare search plans for Saturday,” says Ben.
“The 3 Squadron NH90 team provided winch training for the volunteers on Friday before inserting the ‘lost party’ into the Ōtaki Forks area.
LandSAR volunteer Juliet Burgh with her SAR dog Tony.
“The initial scenario involved a group of four people completing a three-day circuit in the Ōtaki Forks area with one member becoming separated and lost. The location of the group was also unknown.”
On Saturday, a fresh IMT crew of police staff and LandSAR members took over and while the NH90 crew were flying search teams in, a curve ball was thrown in to make the new IMT work hard with additional lost parties in the Ōtaki River.
By midday on Saturday, all lost parties were successfully located, and the field teams ran through medical assessments and stretcher carry exercises.
On Saturday afternoon, the IMT handed back to the original IMT team and the field teams settled in for the night while plans were made to get them out the next day.
"The Sunday saw the NH90 tasked to start retrieving people from the field,” says Ben.
“By midday everyone was back at the Levin Showgrounds drying out their gear and discussing how it all went.
“Due to COVID-19, it has been a few years since a local SAR Ex has been run. It takes a huge amount of planning and organising for an event like this, with almost 40 people in the field and about the same number in IMT and support roles.
“It is an awesome training opportunity for all groups involved and helps prepare for large scale searches, as well as providing valuable training for police staff and our partners, LandSAR and the Air Force.
“Amateur Radio Emergency Communication, an associate member of LandSAR, were also heavily involved and provided comms support, including field radios and IT support.”