What an awesome effort!
Our latest International Response Team recruits have just completed their gruelling four-day Operational Assessment after two years of training, and what a brilliant performance by all.
It was a massive endurance and skills test for the eleven ‘Cluckhunters’ as they are affectionately called (it helps a little to know that previous cohorts were the ‘Baahunters’ and the ‘Moohunters’) as well as for all the directing staff and role-players who made it possible.
Not including the weeks of planning by a great many people to get ready for the ‘deployment’, the mammoth exercise involved:
69: Hours from start of ‘deployment’ to ‘endex’.
5: Average hours of sleep in that time, mostly snatched during transportation between scenarios.
22: Kilometres walked
17: Casualties rescued
5: Walls breached
21: Directing staff, working all hours.
7: Role-players, often enduring hours on end buried alive
376: Miles driven between scenarios
2: Boats involved
1: Search dog
2,800: Metres over which final stretcher-borne casualty was carried
The #FakeQuake19 exercise begun with a text alert late on Tuesday night alerting team members to a 7.6R earthquake on the mid-Atlantic micro-continent of Jacksonia and asking for their availability. Early on Wednesday morning they received the text telling them to mobilise to HQ for 1800hrs.
HQ was a hive of activity as directing staff finalised scenarios and the ‘Cluckhunters’ arrived to check incoming information on VOSOCC, and to begin prepping their operational equipment and preparing for a flight to the Republic of Jacksonia, a Federation of three countries - Zoyland, Eastombi and Landrug.
The ‘flight’ landed the recruits, and three embedded operational team leaders, at around 1am in the country of Eastombi where the team found Jacksonia Defence Forces (JDF) directing them to cross the border into more badly-affected Zoyland.
They then had to navigate through the darkness, cross-country, for eight hours to reach the military airfield at Hammbridge, southern Zoyland.
There they endured a less-than-friendly welcome from suspicious Zoyland border guards.
Already exhausted, the recruits set up a Base of Operations (BoO) on the airfield perimeter and split into two teams for rescue tasks.
While one team was transported up-river by boat for a fruitless search for a missing child, the other team were driven to a collapsed building where they used technical search equipment and breaking and breaching skills to rescue two casualties.
Back at the BoO, the team had a visit from an important local dignitary.
As night fell the teams were told they were needed in the west of the country and had to dismantle the BoO in the wind and rain and pack up their heavy equipment for an internal ‘flight’.
They landed two hours later in western Zoyland and barely had time to build a new BoO before they were tasked to a village which had been flattened by landslides.
With the help of a Search dog and handler they scoured a vast rubble pile and rescued two casualties before they were called to a collapse of a stone factory and living quarters where a below-ground void was the only entry point and that was blocked by furniture and thick concrete and bricks.
The teams worked through the night to rescue two more casualties but in the morning they were told there was far greater earthquake damage in the north of Zoyland and, with the rain still teeming down, they had to pack up the BoO once more and race to catch another internal ‘flight’.
They had already been on the go for 48 hours when they arrived in Kimbala to find themselves needed at the site of a huge factory collapse with numerous trapped casualties.
As half of the team set up the BoO, the other half began rescue work on the rubble pile, using their vibraphones to locate casualties, before the BoO-builders joined them.
Throughout the night the recruits were involved in a series of rescues, using technical search equipment to locate casualties, propping and shoring techniques to make buildings safe to enter, and breaking and breaching skills to tunnel through concrete to reach and to extricate the injured.
Even as they did so it became a race against time as local government officials informed them of a military coup and told them they had to leave the area by 8am.
First they had six more casualties to find and to rescue.
The found them, collapsed the BoO and left the area right on time before a drive west in search of an emergency flight out.
The only flight option was in return for the rescuers carrying out a wide-area search of a private airfield looking for hiding refugees. They found and guided refugees to safety then discovered a casualty in need of evacuation.
With the clock ticking down and their flight waiting at the end of the runway 2,800m away, the team had no option but to carry the sizeable casualty all the way.
Only when they arrived, exhausted, were they told it was the end of the physical exercise – ‘Endex’ – though the operational assessment was continuing.
Photos by Matt Evans, Nikky Williams, Craig Elsdon and Martin Phillips.
And here’s a short video capturing some of the exercise:
Huge congratulations to all those who took part, and survived, and huge thanks to the directing staff and role players who put together the exercise, in particular Jacko, Dan, Pete, Tony, Craig, Abb and Brett.
Huge thanks too to all those outside organisations and people who lent their facilities, their time and their patience to support the Operational Assessment across The South Downs, Shoreham, Chilmark, Moreton-in-Marsh and Lyneham, without whom it could not have happened.
In no particular order, thank-you to Brighton City Airport, including airport manager Barry Hawkins, senior air traffic controller Bruce Greenall and Darren and the airport firefighting team, for use of the fabulous Shoreham Airport building and airport perimeter; The Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Brett Davies, for use of the amazing training facilities on Rig 5; MoD Lyneham, including the REME and the Defence College of Technical Training for access to the runway and surrounding grounds and vehicles at Lyneham; KDC Paving and Landscapes for quarry access; Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, for his time and great interest; Advance Helicopters for training on operating safely around helicopters; Lancing College for access to its grounds for searches; Worthing Sea and Royal Marines Cadets; Adur Cruising Association for use of its private slipway and car park; Sussex Police for background support; Graham Mountford and Skywatch Civil Air Patrol for aerial support and transport options; Chilmark Estates Business Park; Team Rubicon UK; Jacko, for allowing the team to knock holes in his bungalow; the people of Worthing for putting up with the noise while they did so; and Barry Homewood and Gary Swaby for their sizeable acting talents.