Local Rangers host training exercise

  • Sep. 15, 2010 12:00 p.m.

By Alex Rawlings-From training 3,000 feet up in the mountains to training on the sea, the Sandspit and Masset Ranger patrols have been busy for the past couple of weeks.”We were flown into Terrace (for the weekend of Aug. 27) after headquarters had given us a warning order,” said Sandspit Patrol Commander Peter Grundman. “We didn’t know what we were in for. We were told it would be three days, and we should bring all our equipment… it was interesting. One group was chosen to go to Gil Island, and one group went to Mount Kologet.”The group that included Masset Patrol Commander Maryanne Wettlaufer, Sandspit Ranger Laurel McNeil, and Mr. Grundman were chosen as the group to do a land-based training exercise a few thousand feet above sea level on Mount Kologet.”We were helicoptered in, and then climbed another 1,000 or so feet up the mountain to a boulder field where we line searched for a B-36 bomber that had gone down in the 1950s,” said Mr. Grundman. “According to internet research the plane had been doing mock bombing runs on its return voyage to the States, they iced up and lost some of their engines (they have six), and the crew bailed out, parachuting to Gil Island. Nine were rescued, and five crew members were missing. Rumour has it that when it was located they did find a body, but only the United States Air Force really knows.”After a successful weekend of training on the mainland, it was the Sandspit Patrol’s turn to host a training exercise on Marble Island over the Labour Day weekend.”We had nine participants, and two headquarter staff, one a warrant officer and the other a clerk who has seamanship experience. We used Jim Henry’s boat. He was valuable because of his local experience. He is very good on land and on the water,” said Mr. Grundman. “Our role as Rangers isn’t really search and rescue. We are more local knowledge experts. Soldiers would seek knowledge from local Rangers, especially in a place like here where there are unusual resources and conditions, like weather. We provide a leg up, so to speak.”The exercise also involved both local Coast Guard and the Auxiliary Coast Guard who helped with person retrieval, first aid, and water survival.”We were in the Sandspit Harbour for our water training day where we had two-thirds of the patrol in the water. It is interesting to think that most swimmers in the water, after two or three minutes, without assistance would die, not because of hypothermia, but because of swimming failure. A person’s muscles shut down and then they are unable to hold their head above water. PFDs (personal flotation devices) don’t hold your head up, only life jackets do,” said Mr. Grundman.The group headed for the west coast for the weekend in a zodiac provided by the Coast Guard Auxillary, and made camp at Dawson Harbour where they hoped to carry out the training exercises.”Helijet landed in the harbour the next morning and we were going to shuttle the rangers out in groups of three or so, but unfortunately the weather closed in on us so we put off flying. Safety first always. We had poor visibility from the air, so we took the zodiac out to do reconnaisance,” said Mr. Grundman. “We would typically look for landing areas, or rocky outcrops where we could discharge a crew if needed and figure out how best to assist in a rescue situation, but even that was difficult in that weather. It was moderately bad with large swells, and rough seas.”Though unable to carry out the full training exercise that, with any luck, will take place next year, the Rangers were able to practice communication techniques on the vessel over the weekend.”Often, in rough weather, especially out on the west coast, the only way for the navigator and the coxswain to communicate is through the use of hand signals. There are several that are used, and they all involve touching or tapping the shoulders, the head, the arms, and the back. They tell you when to turn, when to stop, when to keep going and things like that,” said Mr. Grundman. “It was really interesting. Training gives a good background for dealing with situations.”Kids can even be a part of this. According to Mr. Grundman, there is a vibrant Junior Rangers program in Sandspit and Masset.”Kids can come and hang out and learn. It is like boy/girl scouts and it teaches kids how to use maps and compasses, build shelters, and the favorite… start fires,” he said. “We sent them out in the rain with a few matches, a little bit of newspaper and let them go to it. Eventually they did get fires started, and they all had a lot of fun.”Anyone interested in being a part of the Ranger Patrol on island can contact Peter Grundman 637-5499, Maryanne Wettlaufer in Masset, or Laurel McNeil 637-2439. Junior Ranger Patrol takes place every other Thursday in Sandspit. Contact Ms McNeil for more details.