Published in the May 11th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News
Military to practise search and rescue in Grande Prairie
The skies and fields of Grande Prairie will be abuzz starting Friday as Winnipeg’s 435 Squadron moves in for a five-day search and rescue exercise mission.
About 100 Winnipeg-based military people will be conducting the large-scale search and rescue exercise at the Grande Prairie Regional Airport and mountain areas around the British Columbia-Alberta border from May 14-18.
Residents of Grande Prairie, located northwest of Edmonton, will see action from both the air as well as ground level.
“They’ll notice,” said Capt. Jeff Noel, Wing Public Affairs Officer. “It’s not just the 435 Squadron — we’re going to be having personnel and aircrafts from (other) squadrons coming in as well.”
Members of the Civil Aeronautical Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), personnel and aircraft from the 39th Rescue Squadron with the United States Air Force Reserve from Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, and a Transport Squadron from Yellowknife will also be invading the northwestern Albertan city to participate in the exercise.
“It’s a practise for people we’ve appointed as search master and their staff, to gain experience on how to co-ordinate search and rescues,” Noel said. “We’ll also be conducting low-level flight missions.”
Search masters co-ordinate entire search and rescue operations. They are in charge of coming up with how and where to send their aircrafts and deciding where the search should be conducted.
“The search and rescue exercises are to maintain our proficiency,” Noel said. “A major search would be initiated, let’s say, if there was a missing aircraft or a missing person.”
The five-day training mission includes two phases. The first phase is the actual search and rescue scenario which will provide training for the 435 Squadron Search Masters, while the second phase includes parachuting, assessing casualties and a simulated transfer of casualties to the hospital. American para-rescue jumpers as well as local police, fire, and ambulance departments will be involved in the second phase.
Every squadron across Canada conducts yearly search and rescue training exercises in their area of operation.
Last year, 435 Squadron’s exercise took place in Lethbridge.
“We pick areas towards the West to give our crews the opportunity to conduct training in a mountain environment, which we don’t have in Winnipeg,” Noel said.
435 Squadron is part of the Trenton base and conducts search and rescue from northwest Ontario to the Alberta/B.C. border and from the American border to the North Pole.