Mike Neilson, a former Port Coquitlam firefighter and member of Coquitlam SAR has been accepted into the SAR Technician training course! Mike was one of the 6 people selected from across Canada to compete with 18 military personnel for 12 Search and Rescue Technician jobs with the Canadian Military.
Mike writes to the team about the last 6 months:
I found out the Canadian Forces were accepting applications for civilian direct entry SAR Techs from qualified paramedics and EMT‘s. I contacted recruiting and told them I had a lot of what they were looking for, except the paramedic training. My resume was pushed up the chain of command and I was allowed to continue in the competition. I went through written tests, 2 fitness tests, an eye exam, several medical exams and an interview. After all that I was selected as one of 6 original candidates out of about 800 applicants.
I attended the Basic Military Qualification (how to shoot and salute) in St. Jean Quebec from October 2006 to February 07. I had a blast. Basic was difficult, but fun. I had some bad luck when I contracted pneumonia in November. The SAR Tech pre selection course was to begin 2 days after our Basic course, and if you missed too many classes they kept you back to make them up.
Mike managed to make it through Basic and goes on the describe the start of SAR training after spending Christmas with his family:
The day after graduation, the other 3 direct entry SAR Techs and I flew to edmonton for SAR pre slection. This is the 2 week “Hell Week”. It is the military aircrew survival course with a lot of “motivational execises” designed to push us to our absolute limits. The SAR Techs taught us all kinds of advanced survival techniques and graded us on how well we performed them. We were also tested physically and mentally. They would get us up every night to perform all kinds of tasks from memory tests and scavenger hunts, to team problem solving and out and out physical efforts. I think once we managed to get 5 hours sleep at a stretch. They also provided all the meals (pre packaged military meals). We figured we were getting about 3000 calories per day and were easily expending twice that. The last 3 days of the course were the “solo” phase where we marched approx 4 km through the woods on snowshoes with a 100 pound pack using a compass to navigate. When we reached our destination we were searched for food, told to eat everything we had and then given 2 days worth of survival candies totalling 1000 calories. We had to make a shelter, build a signal fire and do a few other tasks which we were evaluated on at the end. Needless to say after the course I had lost another 20 pounds.
Mike continues, explaining that after a little bit of difficulty (and much uncertainty) over whether he would make the final cut, he was notified recently that we was in the course.
So in the end Coquitlam SAR is losing a one of our best, but we can only hope that people like Mike make up the SAR Techs, because he is one of the best. Good luck again to Mike in his new career.