Joint Foundation Course in Mountain Rescue – 2007

For the third year running, the Team organised and took part in a fully residential Joint Foundation Course in Mountain Rescue based at the excellent facilities of the Bolton Scouts District Bibbys Farm Scout Campsite & Activity Centre, at Heath Charnock, nestling in the foothills and reservoirs of the West Pennine Moors.

This weekend is totally supported by Bolton MRT, in terms of exercise venues, exercise casualties, equipment, vehicles & full course catering. (With huge thanks to the members of Bolton MRT Support Group)

The weekend is aimed at new members of MRTS, i.e. of circa 6 – 12 months experience, and is intended to cover some subjects not generally covered at a Team level and to cosolodate other topics and course members experiences to date.

The highly experienced course instructors are drawn from the Teams attending this years course and from Teams who have attended the course in the past.

The full time instructors in residence included 7 from Bolton MRT, including the overall course organiser our Team Leader Garry Rhodes, the Deputy TLs of R&PMRT and NEWSAR and the chairpersons of Cheshire & Staffordshire Lowland SRTs, not forgetting long term course supporter and instructor Simon Thresher from Calder Valley SRT.

This year the course was different in that we extended the invite beyond the usual MRT’s to our colleagues from the Association of Lowland Search & Rescue, from the LSAR teams at Cheshire & Staffordshire.

28 trainee MRT & SRT members attended this years course, with 3 from Staffordshire SRT, 6 from Cheshire LSRT, 9 from NEWSAR & 10 from Bolton MRT. The trainees present were split into four groups each under an experienced course helper / instuctor.

For the older Bolton Team instructors, it was a case of renewing an old aquaintance, in the form of Staffordshire’s Chairman (TL in MRT parlance) Jim Campbell, as he used to be a member of the RAF MRS and has operated on many an exercise and incident with the Bolton Team when he was in RAF Stafford MRT.

Friday evening activities began with a DVD of the previous years course, followed by a lecture on Professionalism and Personnal Requirements in MR. The usual night time search exercise then commenced locating objects in the adjoining fields. Given that the objects were cans of beer and packets of toffees it came as a great surprise that the trainees missed 2 cans in the field. ( found later of course by the instructors sweep team ! )

The morning dawned all too quickly with many a hangover in sight and a very dull wet drizzly morning greeting everybody. Despite fingers being crossed and even the odd prayer, the weather became so bad the planned appearance of a RAF Sea King SAR helicopter did not take place.

Lancashire Constabulary ASU helicopter was also ’clagged’ in at its Warton base, but the morning was saved by our friends at Greater Manchester Police ASU, who managed to get their helicopter into the venue, allowing all present an excellent lookaround their aircraft.

The day then continued with a series of lectures and mini practical exercises, with casualty care sessions coming under the expert instruction provided by Bolton MRT member & very experienced A&E Charge Nurse Alistar Greenough & ex Bolton MRT member and now NWAS Emergency Ambulance Technician Iain Peel.

Late afternoon saw all the course students undertaking a rigerous 2 hour ’steep learning curve’ on a very physically demanding introductory session to steep ground stretcher handling work, in the confines of Noon Hill Gully on the edge of Rivington moor.

A surprise visitor to this exercise was local GMP Police Sergeant Dave Kehoe, a former Bolton MRT member who took great delight in telling the trainees he had attended this same course way back in the late 1980’s.

For our colleagues from the Lowland SART’s this steep ground stretcher handling work was a complete new experience and despite the sweating and sheer physical hard work (& the odd curse ! ) it was one they all throughly enjoyed.

The evening lectures with a surprisingly still attentive audience introduced guest lecturers from Greater Manchester Police, regarding note taking and the Police disclosures act and Forensic & Scene of Crime protocols from a Home Office Forensic Officer. The evening was rounded off by a lecture from MR (E&W) Public Relations officer Andy Simpson on what the MRC does for you.

The very last lecture, a practical table top search managment exercise finished at 23:00 Hrs, which rapidly descended into a ’how much can you drink before you fall asleep’ competition. (Okay we’ll give it to you, NEWSAR won this again)

Sunday morning saw another (too) early full English breakfast (Welsh ? for our NEWSAR colleagues) to line everybodies stomachs for the morning and early afternoon sessions, which included 5 moorland search & rescue practical exercises.

As these sessions were coming to a close at just after midday everybody received the news that the Bolton Team had a real life emergency call-out to attend on the local moorlands and the entire course was dispatched to this, by the Bolton MRT TL. (see incident 138/2007 for full details).

During the progress of this incident NEWSAR in turn had to depart quickly for a urgent search incident in their home team area.

With incident 138 concluded, the trainees from the three remaining teams returned to the Bibbys Farm centre, where they viewed an excellent DVD that had been filmed and edited throughout the weekend nonstop by Bolton MRT members Dave Healey & Steve Fletcher.

A comprehensive training manual was yet again produced for this years training course with copies handed to all the trainees and instructors present. At this point it is appropriate to thank Bolton MRT member Steve Nelson for his assistance in printing this manual & special thanks to P & M Printers of Warrington who printed 40 copies of this manual completely free for the use of course members.

All trainees present on the course were presented with an attendance certificate. (Garry Rhodes our TL, wanted a special certificate for attending this years course as it was the 20th foundation course in MR he has attended in his MR career, 1 as a trainee, 19 as an instructor)

Thanks also to the two young scouts and the weekend staff at Bibbys Farm who played excellent exercise casualties for us on the Sunday mini-exercises.

Thanks also to Tina Tennant, Gillian Gregory, Carolyn Sawyer & Gary Murray for all their catering support under ’he who must be obeyed’ BMRT Catering Officer Chris Tennant. (Of the famous comment ’Do you want some sausage casserole but there’s no sausage in it ?’)

Next years course is at the same venue and will be held over the weekend of Friday 17th – Sunday 19th October 2008, with the usual attendees present, joined by of course by our new colleagues in ALSAR.

If any member of any MRT other than the usual attending teams are also intrested in coming along to this well established course (with a history going back to the MPSRO courses which started in 1982 and a format which has been constantly developed since) then please contact Bolton MRT Team Leader Garry Rhodes at vgr@boltonmrt.org.uk for details of booking onto the 2008 course.

The following comments are just some of the many made at the end of course debrief by the trainees present;

  • ” How ’ realistic ’ the last exercise was on Sunday ! ”
  • ” The course was well thought out and structured, ( you ’winged’ it well ! )”
  • ” The camaraderie between teams was great.”
  • ” Great fun weekend, I learnt a lot which will also help in my day to day job.”
  • ” A real appreciation of how MR teams work and the ideas the course has given us into how ALSAR can improve.”
  • ” Lovely as an ALSAR member to be accepted by all the MR members.”
  • ” Intensive, exhausting, rewarding and enjoyable.”
  • ” A good opportunity to integrate lowland and highland experiences.”
  • ” Everyone was very helpful.”
  • ” Acceptance and inclusion of the ALSAR team members present by the MR team members present.”
  • ” Speakers and lecture content was exceptionally interesting so I stayed awake ! ”
  • ” Thank you all, including the Support Group, food was great.”
  • ” I now feel part of an excellent organisation.”
  • ” Late nights ! ”
  • ” Long days and even longer nights! ”
  • ” Never trust the weekend photographers ! ”
  • ” All teams shared the same sense of humour, appreciated the importance of ’ milling ’ ( and alcohol consumption ! ) ”
  • ” Couldn’t not mention the company, great laugh.”
  • ” Being utterly knackered on Sunday following two late nights.”
  • ” Great pea and ham soup ! ”
  • ” As usual with Bolton MRT, we were well looked after.”

and the final ( and I think the best ) comment goes to the wag who reported……………….

  • ” Even if you do not quite know what to do in certain situations, smile , it looks better ! ”