Winter survival exercise a valuable experience

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Ten dedicated members of the Brandon Regional Search and Rescue team hunkered down in Cornwallis Park on the weekend for an overnight exercise on winter survival.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/03/2018 (1729 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ten dedicated members of the Brandon Regional Search and Rescue team hunkered down in Cornwallis Park on the weekend for an overnight exercise on winter survival.

From current and former military members, to scout leaders and jail guards, the group spent the night in a wooded area of the park, located approximately two kilometres east of First Street off Veterans Way, sharing knowledge and different survival techniques in order to last the night.

“We have hundreds of years of outdoors experience we can pass on,” said Neil Jordan, training co-ordinator for Brandon Search and Rescue.

Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun Peter Curativo explains some of the various tools he may carry with him, during a Brandon Regional Search and Rescue winter survival exercise in Cornwallis Park on Saturday.

An overnight can be overwhelming, Jordan said, but the aim of the exercise is to increase the confidence of team members.

“Lasting the night is preparation,” he said, adding no one should go out and try to be “the tough guy.”

“If you do get too cold because something happens, either you got wet or the weather changed so much, you’ve got to be able to go, I’ve had enough and I’ve got to go and get warm. You have to remember your safety too.”

The Brandon Regional Search and Rescue is a non-profit volunteer organization created in 2012.

The team has nearly three dozen members and is sometimes called to assist in searches in southwest Manitoba at the request of the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

“They’re doing stuff which is helping other people, and what better hobby to have than to try and help people who may be in distress,” said Maj. Trevor Michelsen from CFB Shilo, who volunteered his time to be with the search and rescue team over the weekend.

His advice to anyone who finds himself in a survival situation is to stay put, find a relatively sheltered spot and make sure there are no surrounding risks, such as overhanging tree branches that may fall or areas where a vehicle may potentially drive through.

Everyone tried their hands at different shelters — some creating walls with logs and branches to shield themselves from the wind, others using a combination of different tarps to trap in heat.

Michelsen decided to go with a tent-like shelter made out of tarp, something he said he hadn’t tried before.

“It’s all good to talk about stuff, but it’s really important to go out and practise these things,” he said.

Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun Brian Fowell, right, helps Marilyn Reimer feed a cord through a knife handle on Saturday during a Brandon Regional Search and Rescue overnight winter survival exercise at Cornwallis Park.

“We live in Manitoba, which is a beautiful place to live and practise outdoor skills, so we should be getting out there, enjoying the beautiful air and experimenting, trying these things out.”

Being in the military, Michelsen is no stranger to overnight exercises, but for some in the group, such as Marilyn Reimer, this was her first.

“You can hope you’re prepared, but each situation is different,” Reimer said. “It depends on what we’re doing, as to what kind of preparedness we have to have.”

The experience was also a first for search and rescue team member Becky Stewart, who with her husband Todd.

“I was really nervous, but I feel pretty good about it now,” she said.

The couple took the approach of being overprepared as opposed to underprepared, to see what they used and didn’t use and to keep that in mind going forward.

Having others in the group with a certain level of experience was a great resource to have, Becky said. “The things that they’ve taught us have been really valuable,” she said, “and we’ve used a few of them today.”

Brian Fowell has been involved in search and rescue since 1973, when he started learning with his dad and a few friends in Carberry.

Fowell works in construction, but that back-to-basics preparedness has become important to him and is something he has passed down to his children and grandchildren.

Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun Becky and Todd Stewart put the finishing touches on the shelter they built Saturday at Cornwallis Park during their first overnight winter survival exercise with Brandon Regional Search and Rescue.

Joined by his son and granddaughter, the three planned to do the overnight together.

“You have to be prepared and you have to do things right,” Fowell said. “You can’t make mistakes.”

With the group working together and trying different things, he said everyone learns something.

“We can get in the vehicle and go home if we had to, but we won’t.”

» mlee@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @mtaylorlee

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