Christmas isn’t always the best time of year for poultry but Serve On’s newest International Response Team members kicked off the festive season in style with the 'present' of a chicken-inspired name for their cohort at their first training weekend.

 Phil talks through the October selection group's memories and analysis of the weekend

Phil talks through the October selection group's memories and analysis of the weekend

So, a big welcome to the ‘Cluck Hunters’!

Following in the footsteps of the ‘Moo Hunters’ and the ‘Baa Hunters’, the plucky survivors of our two tough selection weekends turned up full of excitement at Salisbury Fire Station on Friday ready to start their Serve On careers from scratch.

Egged on by existing operational members who will take them under their wings for the next 18 months of training, the new recruits had a gentle classroom introduction to life in the Serve On family, laid on thanks to the generous support of our friends at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

 The November selection group discuss their memories of the weekend.

The November selection group discuss their memories of the weekend.

First up was a chance to relive the highs and lows of selection, remembering the pain and the triumphs of the weekends, comparing thoughts and analysing what each challenge had been designed to achieve.

Later, Operations Director Dan Cooke led them through a discussion on the key values that Serve On holds so dear and which will be their guiding principles in the months and years to come.

 Craig explains the anatomy of a disaster deployment.

Craig explains the anatomy of a disaster deployment.

Saturday morning brought the all-important administration chores as Operations Manager Craig Elsdon explained the necessity for the paperwork which underpins what we do, supported as ever by admin ace Finky.

After a kit demonstration by Rab, each new recruit cut the wooden block which will one day become their prized ‘diamond’ award for completing training and passing the final assessment.

 Rab explains some of the kit needed by Serve On operational members.

Rab explains some of the kit needed by Serve On operational members.

Then came the ‘Animal Farm’ task that would decide the group’s collective name, to be regarded as a badge of honour as their shared trials and tribulations through training develop their esprit de corps.

In a cacophony of different farmyard noises, Anton’s fowl impression ruled the roost so clucking was chosen as the sound to be hunted. Then came the challenge.

 Blindfolded 'Cluck hunters' seek out their crowing colleague. 

Blindfolded 'Cluck hunters' seek out their crowing colleague. 

Blindfolded and individually spread around the Fire Station yard, could they hatch a plan, come together in some kind of pecking order, with only whispering allowed, and, as one complete group, trace the sound of their squawking colleague?

Did they have the h-endurance? Could they pull it off?

Of course they could, and did, but their weekend’s work was not over.

In true Serve On style, new and old members had to build our tent accommodation and marquee in the grounds of the Black Horse pub at Durnford, in the dark and the rain, before we could hold the Christmas party and annual awards.

 Party time as volunteers let their hair down for the Christmas party and annual awards.

Party time as volunteers let their hair down for the Christmas party and annual awards.

The evening was a celebration of Serve On’s hard work and many achievements with a slideshow put together by Craig which captured many of the highlights of another eventful year.

 Treasurer Dave receives his well-deserved award with thanks from Chairman of the trustees Paul Rose (right) and 'compere' Pete Dunning (centre).

Treasurer Dave receives his well-deserved award with thanks from Chairman of the trustees Paul Rose (right) and 'compere' Pete Dunning (centre).

Colourfully presented by compere Pete Dunning, the Unsung Hero award went to our dedicated treasurer Dave ‘the cash’ Cook and there were special awards for Garry Wonnacott, for selfless commitment to Serve On, and Dan Cooke for outstanding contributions to Serve On.

There were awards, too, for Helen Littlejohn, Rescue Rookie Jazz Williams, Clare Gollop, Becky Elsdon, Dave Dunford, Andy Harris, Andy Lai, Anton Welcome (2), James Lewis, Lizzy Stileman on behalf of Team Rubicon, Ethan Elsdon, Vern Young, Rab Smedley and Nick Borritt.

Martin Phillips collected his ‘diamond’ award as Dan explained the significance of the trophy for the new recruits aiming to one day earn theirs by passing final assessment and becoming operational members of the IRT.

*Our Christmas party was a chance for volunteers, who give up their time freely, to let their hair down a bit after a tough year but there will be more challenging work next year and our new recruits will be part of that.

Training them comes at a price and it's not chicken-feed.

If you can, please help up to harness their amazing talents to help people in need, at home and abroad, in future.

£1,500 could fund a new set of kit for a volunteer working in floods
£1,300 could fund a new set of kit for a Community Resilience volunteer
£1,000 could buy a personal issue kit for a new volunteer.

£300 could buy a dry suit for a volunteer to wear during flood rescue

£80 could fund a set of overalls for a new volunteer

£30 could buy a pair of boots for a new volunteer

Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

 https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/7081

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