It was all for practice, but members of 19 Wing Comox’s 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron invaded the west coast of Vancouver Island last week as part of the squadron’s annual training.
From Feb. 26 to March 1, members participated in SAREX 18 – the squadron’s annual exercise, which varies the location annually, but aims to practise in areas which are frequented by the squadron for actual search and rescue operations.
The exercise involved approximately 70 personnel from the squadron, two CC-115 Buffalo fixed-wing aircraft, two CH-149 Cormorant helicopters and one CC-130H Hercules.
“One of the benefits of conducting SAREX is that it provides us the opportunity to train and build working relationships with our SAR partners, those professionals and volunteers in communities across B.C. that are trained and always ready to respond when people find themselves in trouble,” explained Capt. Adam Kusch, exercise director.
442 Squadron is responsible for search and rescue for all of B.C. and the Yukon, and about 600 kilometres offshore in the Pacific Ocean.
435 Transport and Rescue Squadron – also a 19 Wing unit but based in Winnipeg – also participated with the addition of a CC-130H Hercules and crew.
Numerous training scenarios during the day and night were based on actual events, including a vessel in distress taking on water that required a pump, dropped by air from a Buffalo (which becomes a joint response involving the Canadian Coast Guard), an injured windsurfer stranded on a remote beach, and passengers and crew of an overturned vessel in the water.
In addition to military SAR personnel, the exercise included partners from the RCMP, coast guard, Parks Canada, BC Parks, RCM SAR, Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, and the Tofino Airport Authority.