The group of 18 members and 6 Instructors met at the Duncan Flying Club on Saturday morning. At the pre-briefing the group was treated to a comprehensive presentation given by Shaun Glass, a retired Canadian Forces Search and Rescue Technician and current volunteer member of the Central Fraser Valley Search & Rescue Team.
We were also fortunate to have the support of Dave and Theresa from CASARA as well as Dewi and Jamie from Cowichan Search & Rescue.
The weather was perfect for the exercise. It wasn't perfect for the beach but when it comes to a survival exercise we call a little rain perfect. As they say, if it ain't raining it ain't training! The course participants endured some rain as they arrived at their simulated crash sites. Luckily it let up as they were completing their shelters but it was just enough to make everything wet and add a layer of realism to the scenario.
Throughout the exercise the instructors made rounds to check on the participants' well being and to give hints and tips as to how to improve their set-up. Instructors worked in shifts throughout the night. The majority of the participants slept with little more than the clothes on their back and an emergency space blanket. The value of the Survival Shakedown is really what you make of it and we were impressed by the number of participants that held true to the minimalist approach.
While the temperatures overnight dropped to a damp 6C and the participants were a bit chilly, they all found warmth and comfort around their fires which most kept going all night.
One thing that the participants from the Mainland learned about was the woes of having to deal with Salal, an invasive ground cover that is thick and endless on the forrest floor. It also made life interesting for the instructors who had to bush whack through knee deep Salal to check on the participants in the darkness.
This exercise was meant to introduce pilots to the contents of their survival kit and to have them put some thought into the contents of the kit. It was not an episode of survivor man where we withhold, starve and torture the attendees. It is for this reason that as the pilots emerged shortly before sunrise they gathered at the instructor camp to enjoy a snack and hot chocolate in order to warm up some chilly and weary bones.
After a warm drink and a snack the participants were lead in a walk through, where all the attendees as a group visited each and every camp to learn and discuss what went right and what didn't for each individual pilot.
Once the walk through was complete, the group cleaned up and returned the forest to its original state ensuring that all fires were completely extinguished and all shelters were taken down. The group then gathered for a signal fire demonstration, fire extinguisher demonsration and prizes were awarded for best camp, and most ingenuity followed by the issuing of completion certificates.
The BCGA is very proud and grateful to have had the support of Cowichan Search & Rescue, the Duncan Flying Club and CASARA. As a small token of our appreciation, the BCGA donated $600 from the course fees the volunteer Cowichan Search and Rescue Team.
Lastly, we are very proud of our members that came to the event. Despite pushing their comfort levels not one person complained and every single participant embraced the exercise and truly brought nothing more than their typical survival kit.
The next exercise is being planned for the Fall and will be held somewhere else in the province.
We are also toying with the idea of having an Advanced course where select participants that have already completed and excelled at their first Survival Shakedown will be invited but will be left further afield in isolation and will have only the bare necessities after having much of their kit confiscated by the instructors.